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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Iraqi RnB singer Sarah Shébani talks songwriting and growing up in an artistic family

Back from London, the Dubai-based Iraqi artist will perform as part of the Boom Room live music series

Sarah Shébani’ has been fine-tuning her art in London. Courtesy Sarah Shébani’
Sarah Shébani’ has been fine-tuning her art in London. Courtesy Sarah Shébani’

Sarah Shébani’s homecoming gig on Saturday marks a graduation of sorts. The Iraqi RnB singer’s performance at Stereo Arcade, as part of the regional live music series Boom Room, is her first gig since her return from the UK.

After dropping her debut EP Alter Ego last July under her last name, Shebani spent a year in London to study songwriting at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in London (BIMM). Armed with a set full of new songs and a deeper knowledge of her craft, Shebani says she is looking forward to the prospect of debuting her original material in front of a UAE audience.

“When I was in London, no one of the crowd knew me. I had to show them and prove myself and that was comforting in away,” she says. “Now I am back in a place that I consider my country and in front of loved ones. It is a strange feeling but exciting.”

You spent a year studying song-writing at BIMM. Is that something that can actually be taught?

It is a common question that I get. People ask what I really learned and whether it was a case of learning a song word by word. I myself didn’t know what I was really going to learn until I got there. But it was very in-depth. There was up to 10 different classes ranging from music theory and then you go into performance and song-writing workshop. Then there is producing and mixing skills. It teaches how you need to produce your own songs or at least do it to a basic level so that you can show it to a producer to take it to the next level.

Would you have approached Saturday night’s show differently if you didn’t undertake the course?

Absolutely, and not just because of the course. It is because I went abroad for a year and I accumulated so much life experience, besides the music. I performed a lot of London and there I learned how to be on stage, interact with people and generally give me a lot more confidence. I feel very prepared now.

What got you interested in starting a music career?

In a way I had no choice. I was born in to really creative family. Both my sisters sing, another sister is fashion designer and painter, my mum studied theatre and was a radio and TV presenter and my father is novelist. But the biggest inspiration were my sisters, they listened to a lot of old school RnB. I love that era of music, there is a simplicity and purity and music that is missing in today’s RnB, so I wanted to bring that.

You started off as a well-regarded singer of covers. Do you think artists should strive to produce original material?

That is if you are interested in being that kind of artists. If so you should venture out from that cover bubble because you also have your own melodies and things to say. Now some artists are not interested in that, and that’s okay. You have to do what you love. For me personally, I did the covers but I realised that it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted something more and I went out there and studied the craft of song-writing so I can create my own songs and build my career as an artist.

Now that you released your EP, should we look forward to an album soon?

At the moment my strategy is that I would like to keep releasing songs at a more regular basis. I don’t want to take a break and working on ten or eleven songs and release it later. I am ready to release a new song very soon.

Sarah Shébani and Hamza Hawsawi will perform on Saturday (September 9) at Stereo Arcade at Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai. From 7.30pm and entrance is free.

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