Wonderland pay a visit to the Ninja Tune HQ to catch some time with Nabihah Iqbal.
Once analogue completely switches over to digital, we’re gonna lose all of our beloved local pirate radio stations. No more wideboy accents over break beats between static as you sift through stations… i.e. seriously dire times. No alternative to commercial DAB radio is a hideous thought. It’s probably best left for the phlegmatic early-hours Uber driver; blasting out a selection of mid nineties ballads like My Heart Will Go On, as you slump in the back seat, cursing every ramp and pothole. But, we do have a solution. As a complete antidote to Celine Dion on repeat, online streaming platforms such as NTS have been turning out some of the Internets most weird, wonderful and conceptual shows out there – our generation’s answer to DIY pirate radio, if you will. One of our favourites is by bona-fide crate digger Nabihah Iqbal, who you might know as Throwing Shade.
We first heard one of Throwing Shade’s DJ sets by accident whilst listening to NTS at lunch, and thought; who on earth is this girl playing Afghani jazz on a Sunday afternoon? Nabihah travels the world, collecting sonic artifacts and making field recordings for her work. Every hour long show is an intelligently curated mix of folk, funk and grooves from countries like Cuba, Pakistan and Jamaica; presenting an authentic, unseen side to cultures we may have a skewed perception of from other media channels. Not something you’d find on DAB.
On top of archiving and playing music, Nabihah makes it, too. House of Silk is her 5th release, this time via beat-moguls Ninja Tune, and will be out on 1st March – we highly recommend you get your hands on the vinyl. Based on what you’ve just read, you’ll be expecting the outcome to be an earthy-jazzy fusion, however the lead track Hashtag IRL couldn’t be further from it. The snares and synths are reminiscent of early grime, stripped back and cold, juxtaposed with her chanting feminine vocals layered on top. If her DJ sets are exploring history and far-flung cultures, House of Silk is working out now, the Internet and London – sound mapping closer to home.
We headed down to the Ninjatune headquarters in South London where we chatted to Nabihah about Pakistani-folklore exorcism and gathered a list of London’s best crate-digging spots.
It’s nice to meet you Nabihah. Where did you get your stage name from?
I took the name Throwing Shade from a film called Paris is Burning – do you know it? – about the New York ballroom scene. Seeing it coincided with my first trip to New York, so it has a lot of meaning for me.
We know that film well… So, you must have a pretty vast and varied record collection, huh… Do you go crate digging in other countries, like, when you’re traveling?
Yeah, I make a point of going to find out about the music of wherever it is that I’m going. I find it’s easier to pick up vinyl around Europe and America, but other countries I go to – like, I went to Jamaica last year and I was really excited about finding records, but there are just no record stores there. There are all these people on the street with speaker boxes selling music, but it’s all on CDs…. So… I bought a lot of CDs. It was the same thing when I went to Pakistan as well – I just came back – but I made field recordings and did a lot of research about the local music and stuff and put it all together.
So, no crate digging abroad…Where would you recommend in London?
I really like Zen records in Tottenham, I always end up staying for about three hours, talking to the guy who works in there and listening to music. So yeah, Zen records, that’s one of my favourites. And also El Dica…
We don’t know that one…
It’s kind of behind Gillett Square, behind Dalston Studios. Oh, and Sounds of the Universe! I love Phonica, too.
We heard Blackmarket Records just shut down.
It’s gone, yeah. I just discovered another one in Crystal Palace, I don’t even know what it’s called, it’s just in the basement of this bric-a-brac shop.
Which culture that you researched musically have you found the most interesting, so far?
I’ve been studying so, so much of it for such a long time, it’s really hard to focus on just one. But what I find really interesting is Indonesian music – it relies on oral traditions, there are no notations, the musicians have to learn everything by heart- it’s so skilled. The rhythms are incredible. The melodies, too. It’s just a completely different approach from learning music in a Western context, where you read sheet music. When you look at music from other cultures you start to find all these great, deep meanings that we just miss in modern Western music. For example, on my last NTS show I did a Pakistani special, where I played loads of music I’d collected out there on my trip, and I played some music from Belochistan which is the southwestern province, and it’s this crazy kind of music; they call it trance music. Ha ha – it’s obviously not trance music as we know it, it’s folk, traditional. They use it in these exorcism ceremonies where they believe that music is the only thing that can rid your body of spirits.
When you listen to that music you feel something else. It’s other-worldly. Hypnotic.
You produce music as well as archive and play it, which came first?
Well, I started producing music as Throwing Shade around… 2012… But started DJing just before that, maybe around 2010, and then the two eventually kinda merged into one.
Aside from Hashtag IRL, which has a London bass sound, the rest of your EP is pretty ambient. Like a soundtrack to London; is that what you were going for?
Loads of people feel that it’s very ambient, like a soundtrack! Which is cool; I’m actually working on a soundtrack now. I guess that’s the palette I use for all my music though, the sci-fi, synth-pad sound. I like that I sound like ‘London’ because it’s the best city in the world. It’s hard to pinpoint specific inspirations, I guess it’s just the general inspiration of living life here… Being in a very busy place, surrounded by all different people, going out to parties and clubs and having fun. All the tracks on the EP try to channel different kinds of good feelings… I guess London has to be my main inspiration seeing as I’m a proper Londoner born and bred!
Can you give us some tracks from your collection to go and search for?
Yeah. The first thing that came into my head is this track called Sunshower by Nami Shimada and it’s this eightes Japanese house tune… I’ve been listening to Unseer by Falty DL. Also, Twilight by Maze – that’s really good. But what I’ve actually been listening to on repeat for days is the new Rihanna and Drake song!