Bashir Malik walks down the sidewalk at Bay View Bash, backpack on, art in hand, to meet some friends at a vendor tent.
Malik grew up in a part of Milwaukee you might not be as familiar with, these days. “Before the expressway was here, I was on Lloyd and 9th,” he says. “Now, the expressway goes right through there.”
It was during that time, at the age of five, when Malik found his first love: music. “My grandmother had a roomin’ house where she would take in the guys who played the jazz and all that downtown. At that time, they couldn’t stay in hotels downtown – but they could go…play the night clubs,” says Malik. “So, I fell in love with doing jazz.”
“It was always around. You know, the music and all, that was always around. So, I was able to listen and see and then, when I went to Riverside, I got to play – before Riverside, junior high school – I got the play string bass.”
“I kind of liked being in an orchestra. It gives you opportunities to go different places, see different people, meet other musicians along with the music. My mama taught ballet and all that so we had all kinds of music, man.”
Malik, who’s an artist, musician and a stonecutter, by trade, says he’s glad he was able to find his passions at such a young age. “You know, when you find out your niche early in age it’s easier, I guess, to do what you want to do later on in life. So, I don’t know, I made that my goal and it worked out; I’m happy with it. You have to be happy with what you do, it’s that simple.”
Stonecutting, which was in the family – his father was a stonecutter, too – seemed to come, as everything else, from Malik’s natural curiosity. “I changed my major when I got to go to UW from Riverside cause they had this partnership, you know, and saw these guys in this room working on this wheel. And the old guy told me that he found this rock, just found it, cut it in half, now he’s polishing it up – it was a nice purple Geode, okay, maybe from Lake Superior or up in Thunder Bay…so, hey man, that hit me right away. Man, you can find something in the ground…so, that intrigued me. Bam. I went off to try to, you know, find different stones and then I loved ‘em and I started cutting ‘em.”
It’s even become somewhat of a family business. “My son and I do, we do jewelry and art and designs.”
“The painting and all that is when I’m not doing that,” he says.
Malik’s belief in creating runs through everything he does. “Yeah, whatever it is. Creating good will to men, to all people, that’s an art, you know? That would be the biggest—that would be a nice picture.”
But Malik also doesn’t look too far ahead. What’s he looking forward to? “Today…you go day by day. You go day by day because we don’t know when we’re gonna get called from this earth, you know? We don’t,” he says. Then, he speaks of his other son. “I mean, my son died at 36 years old but he got to achieve what he wanted to. He went overseas, married and he was happy with that, even with cancer.”
“And then when he got his cancer he came here and then, uh…that’s a long story but he fulfilled his goal. He went out and married, you know, and stayed out there for four months, over there for four months, and then we had to bring him back here and he died.”
Even in tragedy, though, there can be beauty, says Malik. “We don’t know when we’re gonna go but, in that, in that was a blessing anyway; he had a wife, she has a baby after he dies, you know, and I have a grandson.”
Through it all, the 67-year-old has seen a lot and he’s grateful for the lot he’s been given. “There’s all different people, you know. One old guy told me, ‘You’ve got some bad SOB’s and you’ve got some kind of bad SOB’s and then you’ve got some good SOB’s.’…and then there’s happy artists like us, you know, that – we create, we create things… all kinds of things.”
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