Recently I wrote about an artist Shaima who released a song ‘Green Eyes’: a track about self-assertiveness and knowing yourself and standing up for who you are in the face of prejudice and hate. I was fascinated by her music and loved the fact she runs her own music label. So who better than to talk to about music, life in London and “Bolly Beat”.
Shaima can you describe your music and tell me more about ‘Bolly Beat’?
“Bolly beat” is a term I have coined which I feel best describes my music. There is a new genre emerging much like “afro beat” a couple years ago which uses African sounds combined with Western pop. As my heritage is half Eastern I’ve used this in terms of combining ethnic sounds (from South Asia primarily) intertwined with western pop music and R’n’ melodies, which represents the London edginess mixed with an ethnic flavour.
‘Outsider’ is a very personal song about your feelings on your own mixed heritage identity. Can you tell me about a bit more about your new single Outsider, and what it means to you?
Outsider for me represents the fact I’ve always felt different growing up in London and whenever I’ve visited Pakistan or Indian I’ve never felt like I’ve completely fitted in there either. I think these days there are so many more young people who identify with more than one culture or country and sometimes we get caught feeling as though we do not fit in anywhere. In this song I want to express to my fans it’s okay to feel like this and it’s okay to be different. In fact, being different is a good thing, it means you have your own unique identity and that’s something I want listeners to embrace more of.
What have your own personal experiences been like growing up in West London?
I grew up in a very white English school and I had people many years older than me in school coming up to me asking “Do you need to get an arranged marriage” initially I was quite surprised by this but I realised later on in life its more due to curiosity and there’s nothing wrong with people asking questions! Whilst I was fasting in school during Ramadan I had some of my friends who would fast with me and kept calling me once we’d got home from school to check what time we could eat which was actually really sweet. Later in University (I went to City University) there was such a variety of students and nationalities all of these things became less significant, it was more about finding people who were similar to you and you connected with.
What/who has inspired your music and career to date?
Bob Marley is definitely a big inspiration of mine lyrically, I think he made such powerful music that brought people of different races together in a time where a lot of racism exists. Similarly, I want to make music that brings people together and makes us focus on our similarities as opposed to our differences. Another big inspiration of mine is Shakira, I’ve always loved her music since I was young and sonically she is amazing and bringing different “worldly” sounds together in an upbeat manner. I really like M.I.A too. I think she has made some big political statements in music in an effort to highlight different issues towards race and freedom which I think is very powerful.
You run your own record label – M Dynasty Records – to unite the East and West through positive lyrics and beats. What made you set this up and do you have any advice for other artists?
I think for me there was no one in my lane of style of music and I wanted the freedom to be able to express myself creatively without having anything dictated to me. It’s also about the future prospect to be able to start signing other artists to my label and growing the “Bolly Beat” genre alongside encouraging other young artists. Absolutely would recommend other artists to create their own label if you are able to. M Dynasty just had its 4 year anniversary so I’m pleased to have done this at 22 years old. It gives you the freedom to do what you want and nowadays there are so many platforms for independent artists to help give you the same reach as the majors. I think more and more the independent sector is definitely growing.
What’s been the highlight of your music career to date?
I’d say probably performing at Guildhall for “Football For Peace,” a charity I’m an international ambassador in front of 2,000 people which are all successful in their own rights. What was so special about this for me was the fact 50 young girls from my old High School NHEHS came to sing and perform alongside me. All wearing football kit to represent the importance of women in football and in sports in general. Seeing their faces and how exciting they were really reminded me about when I was younger and why I work so hard to do what I’m doing every day.
How has lockdown life been like for you?
It has been positive on the whole. I’m always rushing around so it’s been nice to have time to focus on things I’ve been wanting to do for a while. For example, I’ve been making a lot more of my own beats and learning how to produce my own vocals better. From working with Angel I realised being an artist that can do all the process from start to end allows your creativity to know no bounds. I’ve also been spending more time with my piano and guitar learning new songs and writing my own. It’s that saying though the more you learn “the more you realise you don’t know!”
What are your favourite things about living in London?
Can I say everything! I mean the only complaint I have with London is the weather so just about everything else is good. I think musically also the industry here welcomes newer/different sounds and there are so many amazing musicians and producers as an artist we have access to here.
What is your top tip for living your best life?
Life is too short to harbour onto any bad feelings, its best to let things go and be happy within yourself!
What are your ambitions and plans for the future?
Would love to have my first UK number 1, and perform at the 02 arena! Secondly would love to be able to grow my label as mentioned above and help artists who are struggling both in the UK and in South Asia. I’d like to also help to bridge differences between East and West and bring people together in whichever way I can. There is also a lot of Islamophobia globally these days and I would love to be able to change people’s minds to be more accepting of different religions and races.