‘Honeytrap ft. Emily Bee’ - the lead video from Throwing Shade’s ‘Fate Xclusive’ EP - roars with vibrant reds, making a very clear statement.
London-based artist Nabihah Iqbal flips exhausted, stereotypical gender roles found in music videos, instead taking as her subjects as series of half-naked men writhing in pleasure on a plump bed of fruit and flowers cast in glistening rouge.
Remarkably, Nabihah can keep it light and playful, all whilst executing a very poignant message. After studying History and Ethnomusicology, the producer developed a remarkable knowledge of weird and wonderful music from across the globe, which she presents bi-monthly on NTS Radio. As a result her own music production sees no boundaries and has been dubbed as “cosmic RnB”.
New EP 'Fate Xclusive' is due out on May 25th through No Pain in Pop - Clash caught up with the rising producer.
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Talk us through your creative process for the new EP...
Every time I make a track that turns into something I want to use, it comes to me quite quickly. It’s usually quite late at night when I get sporadic bursts of productive creativity and I’d get the skeletal idea down in one go and then build from there. I think ‘Honeytrap’ was quite like that, I wrote the instrumental track before adding the vocals. Then just build it up.
Studying ethnomusicology has clearly pushed your boundaries as an artist.
Definitely, before studying ethnomusicology, I’m not going to lie, I had no idea that there was so much other music around the world that you can listen to other than what is packaged as ‘world music’. There’s a lot more out there, and it really broadened my horizons - not just in terms of sounds, but also rhythms, instruments and what music means to people in different cultures.
It made me realise how important it is across the world. There’s a lot of interesting ideas to think about, like, what music symbolises for different people and how you use it.
And what about your own music background?
Well I’m a Londoner, born and bred. I’ve always loved music and have been involved with it since I was a little kid. At school I played the recorder and was in the orchestra. I used to go to music school every Saturday. I played piano, flute and guitar and the oboe for a little bit but that was a disaster! So it’s just a western musical background.
Was your radio show a natural progression from studying ethnomusicology?
I suppose it was. NTS didn’t exist when I was still studying but the way that I got the show on NTS was definitely from my musical knowledge from a ethnomusicology perspective. The first time I was on NTS I was a guest on Thristian’s show and I played music from around the world and talked about it and that’s how the guys from NTS found out about me. They really liked it and there’s nothing else like that on the station so they offered me my own show and that was two years ago now!
Are you down with being dubbed as 'cosmic R&B'?
I quite like that term. It’s the term I use when people ask me what my music sounds like. It’s a really hard question, “what do you describe your own music?” So I just say, “it’s cosmic R&B!”
Lets talk about the artwork for 'Fate Xclusive', what does the red symbolize to you?
I was very adamant about having red for the release and it’s not just the artwork the vinyl is a transparent red too. The press shots and the video have a strong red theme running throughout. I didn’t realise this was a thing but sometimes when I hear different music I see different colours but I learnt it’s called synesthesia and I think I had that with the music on the record. ‘Honeytrap’ and ‘Mirror’ both make me think of red. I just wanted to use it because you don’t really see the colour around so much anymore. So many people are doing the pastel colour thing and it’s a reaction to that too. I’m trying to bring red back into fashion I guess!
Given your visual background, how did you find the Tate Britain commission?
It was definitely a challenge, I had to create a musical response to a piece of visual art. The piece that I was responding to was a video collage called ‘Rosebud’ by James Richards. He started out as a sound artist so it actually already had a soundtrack to it. Responding to that as well, I based my ideas on censorship and what constitutes being explicit. I sampled loads of sounds from internet pornography! But the version that is out is the censored version which I found incredibly interesting because I had the same debate with the Tate through my creative process.
What James Richards was trying to convey through his own art was questioning ‘what is an explicit piece of art’ and “do we need to censor it?” and then the art that I was making was being censored! I totally understand where they come from as it was for an underage audience but they should have told me that beforehand…! It was a real honor to be asked by the Tate, I was shocked that they even knew who I was.
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Pushing perceptions in your new video by asserting female gaze, what has your experience been so far in the industry?
Well one thing that I’ve realized - that I didn’t realise when I was on the outside of it - is how male dominated it is. It’s crazy and it’s good that I’m speaking to you as a female music journalist as even music journalism is dominated by men. Most of the articles last year were by male journalists, all the promoters I’ve dealt with have been male apart from one, the label managers – all male. These are all the sub-divisions of the music industry that you wouldn’t deal with if you’re just listening to it but once you’re inside it it’s like... wow, there really aren't any females.
There’s been very shocking situations I've found myself in; people see me as a small Asian girl and they can take me for a ride but they don’t know who they’re messing with! I will not let someone get away with it.
It’s not just the music industry. I was in a very shocking scenario where I was in the office of a guy who was in a major label who wanted to manage me and then he started coming on to me. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I instantly cut ties and made it clear I was here to talk about music.
There’s so much sexual objectification of women in the music industry whether it’s on the surface or behind the scenes but it’s something we all need to work against and focus on the music. It’s one of my personal music ambitions to produce a male vocalist because it is just not seen - it's always the other way around.
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Words: Isis O'Regan
'Fate Xclusive' is set to be released on May 25th - pre-order LINK.