Interviewing The Golden Horns, Young Musicians in Hamtramck
With Scott Halitt on the trumpet, Lateefer Khan on tuba, and Logan Hughes on saxophone, the Golden Horns are a band of 14 year olds who attend Ham High.
How did the Golden Horns come together? What brought you three together?
SH: We’ve been friends since 7th grade, all three of us. We’ve played instruments since then. I’ve played an instrument myself since longer than I can remember.
LH: Same here, I played piano too.
SH: I played the bugle before I got a trumpet… I come from a very musical family. This all started the summer before 9th grade. We were thinking we all are getting pretty good at our instruments and we can branch off from our school band and start our thing and do stuff for us, not affiliated with the school.
SH: We chose a song first which was Stand By Me and then we started practicing it. It was just us three and it was just after Lateefer switched from bassoon to tuba. I’ve been on saxophone this whole time. It’s been a trumpet, saxophone and a tuba in the band the entire time — I think that’s how we plan to keep it.
So how long has it been that you’ve been together?
LH: As the golden horns, since September of 2014. In general, all three of us since 7th grade, for me and Scott since before then.
What will you be performing at the festival?
SH: We have a few songs, we have a swing tune by Duke Ellington called It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing, which is really a nice swing tune. We’re doing our first song we started off with, Stand By Me, which is a nice, good feeling tune and I think everybody should know and get into it.
We’re also playing Clint Eastwood by the Gorillaz, which I am doing the rapping in. I know it doesn’t seem like I would be, but I am — I’m pretty good at it if I may say so myself. If we need to have a few solo tunes for us where Lateefer keeps a steady bass line for us in that key for at least one solo or two solos each. So we’re not a certain type of music, we’re not a jazz band, a rock band, we’re just a band that plays any type of music we feel like playing.
LH: As of now. We are planning on making our music soon. He’s writing something right now. Not at this moment, but he started Thursday. I don’t know too much about it.
LK: We’re trusting you [Scott].
LH: Something’s on the way.
“So we’re not a certain type of music, we’re not a jazz band, we’re just a band that plays any type of music we feel like playing.”
Is there any rhyme or reason to why you chose those songs?
LH: We like them!
SH: I would come over and hang out with Logan a lot, listening to the Gorillaz quite a bit, and I said hey, we could play this, you could play the chorus on the saxophone, and I can rap it and [Lateefer] can play the baseline which is like only three notes.
LH: It works though.
SH: The other songs, though, we just found at the music library at the school. Stand By Me was there, but we made our own arrangement for it.
LH: Seven Nation Army, I arranged that one.
What’s your favorite thing about playing music?
LH: In this specific type of music we’re playing, this style we’ve got going, I really like it more than just reading someone else’s notes off the page. It’s so much more open, like during the solos you can just do whatever you want. You can really put whatever you want into it and it makes it more emotional and puts a lot more feeling into it.
SH: I play music because I like having people enjoy your music and feel it. Just giving people something to listen to… I just like making noise a lot too, I get told to shut up a lot because the trumpet is quite loud. I just like giving people a good feel of what type of music is out there that they might not be aware of… A lot of people don’t really listen to jazz anymore, if they hear it they could possibly like it. A lot of jazz songs have a good feel.
LK: I just like playing music, hanging out with friends, playing good music. It’s nothing like playing in a band, waiting, waiting for the conductor. With your friends you know what you’re doing — most of the time — there’s just so much freedom just with that.
Going to school, living and playing music in Hamtramck, do you have any stories about the border between Hamtramck and Detroit?
SH: For a while now I’ve been playing at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the Civic Youth Ensemble Jazz group, I’ve been playing with them since 5th grade. That was my first professional trumpet ‘going-out’. We would rehearse once a week October to May and play three concerts a year. Most of my professional trumpeting was done in Detroit. We’ve only had one show particularly in Hamtramck — at the Hatch building.
LH: That was interesting.
SH: I didn’t even know about the show until the day of the show.
LH: It was very last minute.
SH: He had come to my house that day and said in an hour we’re playing at Hatch tonight, get ready to go.
LH: It wasn’t a great performance, because we weren’t prepared for it.
SH: Honestly it wasn’t too bad…
LH: For the position that we were in. I left my saxophone at school that weekend because I didn’t know about this performance until I got home on Friday. So my saxophone was locked in my locker and I spent Saturday trying to find another one because of this sudden performance. I wanted to make it happen, so I got this saxophone that hadn’t been played in 20 years that my dad’s friend has. (brown and everything) It was a lot of fun playing it. There was this weird green stuff on the cork… it couldn’t really play low notes.
SH: It was an endeavor.
LK: I’m a different thing… I’m on the robotics team, so I had a competition. I came back right away and five minute afterwards I brought home pizza and I just had to head over and meet these guys right away.
LH: Don’t eat pizza before the concert!
How do you think playing music in this context can move beyond borders?
SH: I think it can give a lot of people courage to do something, because when we started we were all nervous to do something in front of people. If people see us this young doing this they can think, well maybe I can do that, maybe I can get enough courage to get up there and show what I’ve got.
LH: It inspires a lot of people. When we play during performances, hopefully they enjoy our music (we still have to find out). Maybe they’ll be inspired to put something out there into the world themselves, try to contribute to the community.
LK: I think playing with your friends — it seems fun to the players. I think when you play in front of people you can show them that you’re having fun. They’ll enjoy it or maybe want to give it a try.
“People think that when they go out and show their music that everyone is going to criticize it and tell you what you did wrong; There are a lot of people who do that, but there are also a lot of people who tell you how good your music was and want to thank you for giving them a show.”
LH: This style is a lot more fun than just a regular band at the high school.
SH: Where the music is chosen for you; this way we can choose what we want to play. People think that when they go out and show their music that everyone is going to criticize it and tell you what you did wrong. There are a lot of people who do that, but there are also a lot of people who tell you how good your music was and want to thank you for giving them a show. I think if people hear about people like that, they would want to show their talents.
— Interview by Levon Kafafian