Shaima Interview: “Women now have the freedom to say whatever they like”

British artist Shaima has been coming up for a hot minute now, but 2019 seems to have been the year for her.

Championed as BBC Asian Network’s Introducing Artist, Shaima’s banger ‘911’ saw her team up with Nigerian superstar Skales and has since racked up over 120K video views alone. 

The emerging Londoner tells us all about her creative process,  how old Bollywood inspires her and why she feels body image is a major issue for women in music right now.

SheBOPS: Is there a quote you consider to be your life motto?

Shaima: There are actually many, it’s hard to narrow it down, but one of my absolute favourites I always refer to is “never, never give up” and “never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about”, both by the one and only Winston Churchill.

What’s in your Recently Played list on Spotify?

J.Cole – ‘Work Out’ is my last played (love this timeless song, big fan of J.Cole).

Bob Marley – ‘Could You Be Loved?’ (to help me wake up in the mornings).

Amy Winehouse – ‘Back to Black’ (Amy Winehouse can never be replaced for me, she was legendary).

What are your favorite sounds to incorporate into your music?

I love finding random old Bollywood samples or random riffs on Arabic instrumentals that make you feel something or want to move.

What emotions do you hope your music conveys to the listener?

Depending on the song: for the upbeat ones, which is predominantly what I’m doing at the moment, I want people to feel good and happy listening to them and take a positive message from them. The more ‘ballad’ ones, I want people to really feel and relate but then again take some meaning from it which is ultimately positive.

What is the toughest part of creating new music?

I love to have complex meanings to songs or analogies for something happening today that may be serious, but putting it in a more light-hearted relatable way can be challenging.

Was there ever a moment where you felt like giving up on music and doing something else?

Yes! But I swear every time I thought about giving up, there was another door that God magically opened, so I believe you have to go with your gut and go where life takes you and not give up!

Have you ever felt pressured to fit a certain ‘mould’ as an artist?

Never! I think as I started this journey, just me loving music and believing in myself, no one in my family is into any kind of creative industry, so it felt like everything was coming from inside me. I’ve never really looked too much at what other artists are doing; I’ve always tried to stay in my own lane and set my own standards. Mixing East and West musically comes from how I’m mixed (half English, half Pakistani/Indian) so the sound and meaning all comes from who I am and my life experiences.

Have you noticed any double standards when it comes to gender in the music industry?

Generally, luckily no! I feel like I am a pretty strong woman, so people know anyway that I wouldn’t stand for anything being said against the fact I’m a woman or women generally. In fact, for me, I’ve been writing a lot of empowering music geared towards women and the men I’ve worked with have actually been super supportive of that and proud to be involved of sending that message.

How do you feel about the representation and portrayal of female musicians? Is there anything that you’d like to change?

I think a lot has changed in the past twenty years and women now have the freedom to say whatever they like and the freedom to wear whatever they like. I would like women to be viewed less as sexual objects in selling music, for example, you see women degrading themselves around male rappers in the music videos; but then again, a lot of women find that empowering to show themselves in that way, so as long as they are comfortable with that I don’t see anything wrong in it, even though personally that isn’t me.

As a woman, is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you?

A lot of female artists these days are actually working towards female unity and empowerment which I massively respect. In general, it frustrates me that a lot of lyrics being written these days are quite “throw away” and don’t have a positive impact on society as a whole. Seeing the influence we have as artists, I think it’s super important to take time and think about how these lyrics can affect listeners and fans in their everyday lives.

What challenges do you think female musicians are facing today?

Definitely body image, which leads on to social media and building content definitely being one of the biggest challenges. Just to focus on being true to yourself and trying to find ways to keep fans entertained, but also not letting all these perfect images get into your head and make you feel like you’re anything less than perfect is pretty tricky to get the balance.

Are there any up and coming female musicians you have your eye on?

Massive fan of Kehlani, love how she projects a very carefree image but also very accepting of others image, sexuality and gender. Also really like Jorja Smith and the neo-soul vibe she’s bringing internationally right now. H.E.R and SZA are also both artists I’m really into right now.

What advice would you give to young girls and women looking to work in music?

To be really careful and sceptical about the advice that you’re given, especially in the beginning. I know this sounds really negative, but I got into the industry at fourteen and was told a lot of things I know now through experience aren’t true. And it’s really difficult to know what’s right and wrong, as there is no set path to making it in music. I think you should always be enjoying the music you’re making and process, but keep your guard up until you build strong, trustworthy relationships where you know people are looking out for you and have your best interest at heart. It’s also really important to find people who get your vision and the path that you are paving for the future so they can help you to build that vision. Finally, but most importantly, always always believe in yourself and your ability; if you don’t believe in how far you can go and how amazing you are, it’s hard to get other people to share in that vision. It is really about hard work and persistence.

Is there anything in your career that you feel like you are still learning?

ALL THE TIME! Literally been in the industry now for eleven years and I still sometimes feel like the intern at the office. I’ve recently in the past year picked up my piano and guitar again, so I’ve been trying to get that ready for performances (which will hopefully be coming soon in early 2020!) Every studio session is different, I’m constantly meeting new people with different stories and experiences, learning from them how they write and their process. There are so many facets to being an artist these days, from of course the music but that includes writing, singing, performing, producing, playing instruments, then you have all the marketing, branding, creative music videos and visuals and fashion/styling. So I feel there is constantly room for improvement in all these areas.

What’s left to come in 2019?

Sooo… Right now I’m currently working on a new EP which I am super excited about and can’t wait to finish/share! I reckon this will probably come out early 2020. For my latest single ‘911’ featuring Skales we will have some amazing remixes out, so stay tuned for those!

Shaima on Spotify


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