Ultimately no one can help you, you have to put in the hard work yourself. If you think someone is going to hand you a number 1 record, I have to tell you it’s not going to happen! There are so many overnight success stories but in fact it’s the hard work over the long haul which has produced these outcomes.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Shaima.
Shaima is a young, dynamic UK singer-songwriter with a huge creative edge musically uniting her mixed cultural identity via what she playfully calls a ‘Bolly Beat’ — fusing pop, hip-hop and R&B via modern and more traditional instruments such as sitar, Arabic flute and tabla. She released her new single ‘Outsider’ out now.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/befa05f1943204418efb8617c748b068
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in West London with a Pakistani Dad who’s an entrepreneur and an English Mum from Bristol who supported my Dad in his endeavours and two brothers. I went to school in Ealing, West London in a predominately English school, studied hard and then went onto University at CASS Business School to study BSc in Accounting and Finance (at my Dads request!) In the meantime whilst I was 14 years old (by this time knowing what I wanted to do) I ended up going to a music business conference and the people that ran the conference wanted to get me into the studio to write songs, there I started at Tileyard in Kings Cross singing/writing/developing my sound.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I went to a local fair in Ealing called “Party in the Park” circa 2006 when I was 12 years old, one of my friends was performing a Mariah Carey song there and I had this epiphany I can do this too… I’ve always known I wanted to try to change the world into becoming a better way in whatever capacity I can; this was suddenly the moment I realised music was my medium in order to do so. It was the first time I’d be exposed to an intimate music setting (although my family love music they didn’t really encourage it) so after this I decided to go to a singing coach and my journey started from there…
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was asked a couple years ago to become an International Ambassador for “Football For Peace” which is an organisation that helps bring people together through football. For their inaugural ball I got the opportunity to perform to over 2,000 people at the Guildhall in London. What was amazing for me was I managed to get over 50 girls from my old school in Ealing to sing and perform with me whilst all wearing football kits to show their solidarity for women in sports.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I did an impromptu performance once in Soho for a friend’s birthday and had zero monitors or headphones so essentially couldn’t hear myself let’s say it wasn’t the birthday present I had imagined! So it’s really important to be able to hear yourself properly before you start singing!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’ve got three more singles coming out this year, the next one, I’m pleased to announce, is called “Gas Me” which I co-wrote with an artist called Angel who also produced the single.
I’m also working on a new EP at the moment which I want to further explore the East meets West, “Bolly Beats” sound I’ve been developing over the past few years. Also working on someone else album on which I’m featuring on one of their songs. For the most part in this lockdown period I’ve been working a lot on production and writing myself and trying to be able to do the complete end to end process.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
- The world is an extremely diverse place and it’s our job as artists to try and represent different sides of that and to not make anybody feel isolated or unrepresented
- If you are from or aware of different cultures why not educated people on it and demonstrate positive things from foreign cultures (for me for example I love to show through my music and those around me what it’s like having South Asian heritage, the food, the clothes, the language etc
- I believe through the exposure and then acceptance of different cultures we can make the world a more peaceful understanding place!
I think our culture in the UK is already affected by diversity in a positive way. When I walk around in London I see and hear so many different people and languages, I think it’s part of becoming a globalised world. Some people accept it and are encouraged to learn more about other countries and cultures, others resist and turn hateful towards other cultures as perhaps they don’t understand or are uncomfortable with change. Ultimately, we do not need to change our culture or beliefs to accept others culture and beliefs therefore becoming a more diverse industry cannot be a bad thing.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Persistence is key: I started learning how to sing at 12 years old, then got told my coach taught me the wrong technic to by 17 years old had to relearn a whole new technique to stop my vocal cords getting damaged and lost start all over again!
- Ultimately no one can help you, you have to put in the hard work yourself: If you think someone is going to hand you a number 1 record I have to tell you it’s not going to happen! There are so many overnight success stories but in fact it’s the hard work over the long haul which has produced these outcomes.
- As an artist it’s amazing if you can learn instruments and how to produce: recently from working with Angel I realized you can express yourself much better if you can actually produce your beats and learn a great music mapping through organic instruments (even if they’re not in the end result of the single your putting out).
- Performance and dance is crucial to perform your songs with the emotion you wrote it in: After one or two let’s say not so great performances in the beginning I learnt to throw myself into dance at 16 years old to be able to express my music live to the next level.
- A lot of people say and promise things they know nothing about: too many stories! From celebrities to agents to managers they can all promise a lot but ultimately as long as you’re sure of yourself and your own journey you can entertain these people but learn to rely and create an amazing team of people around you who truly understand your vision.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Be true to yourself
- Be dynamic and be able to change with the times and trends of where music is going
- Always push yourself to grow, as an artist there are so many things you could be doing on days you feel “nothing in happening” e.g. dedicate a free day to write a new song
- Stay positive and remember what your reason(s) are for doing what you love
- Only put music out your happy with and proud of that you want to be listening to still in 20 years time or hopefully longer!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are many movements I feel really passionately about especially around women rights and children’s’ education.
At the moment the Human Rights violation in China is really bothering me, I feel like there’s not much we can do from here also which hurts more and is something I really want to change. There has been apparent drone footage showing Uighurs being blindfolded and taken into trains and forces into what the Chinese state defines as “re-education camps” where essentially there are reports of forced sterilization and the harvesting and selling of organs. (Independent, 2020)
According to satellite images the building of these “camps” has started 5 years ago. At least several hundred thousand and possibly over a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities could have been detained in over 150 “camps”. Majority are being held longer now than previous detainees before, and parents children put into state orphanages. Harsh legal penalties have been put in place to curtail any Islamic identity and practise e.g. banning, among other things, long beards and headscarves, religious instruction of children and Islamic sounding names. (Source BBC)
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’d have to say my Mum. Not only is she my manager she’s always inspired me to keep going and tell my truth. In the beginning of my career she made me write down why I’m doing what I’m doing and what I hope to achieve out of it, so I always refer back to that whenever I feel a bit lost.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never, never give up” Winston Churchill
Its taught me no matter what happens in life you have to persevere and keep going! I entered a competition at 15 years old “Live and Unsigned” and got though 3 rounds then had to drop out as the final clashed with my GCSE exams, but none the less I carried on my journey after my exams in other ways.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Bob Geldof as I’d love to arrange a new modern day Live Aid
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!