Get Ready for the Brave New World With Shaqdi

The Sweden-born, London-based newcomer talks coping with lockdown, storytelling songwriting and her new EP 'Daydreaming'.

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY Alya Kanibelli

Sweden-born, London-based Shaqdi is an outsider talent changing the rules of the game. Using her Palestinian father’s name as a pseudonym, Shaqdi’s seminal discography is a rich blend of gorgeous future-soul, electronic and R&B. Bringing her lyrics together from scraps of paper, forgotten memories and taboo stories, she has composed intimate songs that instantly create a special bond with listeners. Having spent the last year learning to cope with the lack of creativity brought by the lockdown, Shaqdi is already equipped for the brave new world that 2021 is to bring and preparing for her next big release.

When I first listened to Shaqdi, I felt like I’d known her my whole life; her soothing voice, reflecting an emotional honesty throughout her lyrics that did not appear to me as a total stranger at all. As a young adult living in London for 4 years, I am still trying to find my voice within such a global city. However, whenever I listen to her songs, she somehow manages to become my absent voice. In singing about her own experiences with depression and our new, stressful reality in 2020 via her unique singing style – groovy lo-fi with a dreamy undertone, tailored with a certain realism and transparency – she helps listeners such as myself feel a bit less alone.

Her latest EP ‘Daydreaming’ – which came out earlier this year – is especially personal. Ranging from break-ups to love at unexpected times, from growing-up to growing apart, she manages to demonstrate her unfiltered emotions through her well-written lyrics. I sat down with Shaqdi via Zoom to discuss the music that has supported me through this tumultuous year. 

Curious to hear more about her process in writing such emotive lyrics, she humbly told me, “Whenever I write a song, I don’t think too much. I just write whatever I feel about that day; sometimes it sounds bad, sometimes it sounds good. Sometimes, I write about people in my life; such as my mom in the case of the song ‘Mom’, people in my previous relationships or even my friends’ relationships that they talk about.”, she explains smiling, “Not like I’m stealing their stories, but it influences me to make a story out of it when something happens in someone’s life…”. 

‘5 Days’ is a must-listen song, especially nowadays since it is very relevant to the unprecedented times that we are going through. It is about the lack of creativity caused by spending too much time at home. “Even though you might think I wrote it this year because it’s very accurate, it was actually last year when it got released, just a few weeks before lockdown.”, she confessed. “It was when I stopped my day job and started working from home, which was quite nice. But after some time, just as everyone is experiencing now, I got very isolated. There were days where I didn’t even feel inspired to do anything at all! I felt worthless and did not have any creativity. It’s so easy to get in that spiral of doing nothing when you’re constantly at home. In this case, you just need to snap out of it. Have your designated area at home where you can focus and start to work!”.  It was just what I needed to hear – an uncertified prescription from a certified healer.

It’s so easy to get in that spiral of doing nothing when you’re constantly at home. In this case, you just need to snap out of it.

Shaqdi

One song of particular significance is ‘Lover’, a track written when she still resided in Stockholm. It was when she met her partner, Zagor, that they somehow managed to find the right tone for the song at the right moment, and then instrumentalized it. Apparently, it was the first song that they have produced together. “Before that, I was just doing music by myself and didn’t really feel like at home in my own genre. When I met Zag, we kind of had the same vision and the same idea of what kind of music we wanted to make. It fits perfectly when you develop a sound together.”. Shaqdi has collaborated with a number of producers for her second EP ‘Daydreaming’, but Zagor remains at the helm of constructing her audio aesthetic. . “Also, it takes time for me to feel comfortable working with someone else,” she admits,  “because it’s always so personal when I write music.” It perhaps shouldn’t be surprising to hear the artist requires intimacy within her production team, as undoubtedly lends itself to her uniquely healing music.

Shaqdi is at her most inviting when she’s talking about her musical journey from Stockholm to London: “In Sweden, [the music industry] was very focused on making hit-oriented songs, lacking R&B and soul music. I know that there are a lot more emerging hip-hop artists now, but when I studied music production there, it was always very focused towards commercial music. It was not about finding your own style, making it harder to find like-minded people. London on the other hand, there is more diversity in genres within the music scene, which makes sense because it’s a bigger city and therefore a bigger variety.” While London allowed her personal and professional identity to flourish, her longing penchant for her home country remains. 

Listening to her first EP ‘Colorless’, released back in 2018, it’s easy to hear the creative seeds being sewn throughout, but it’s in ‘Daydreaming’ that these ideas truly flourish . “I feel like I need to change, to evolve and to try something new. The first and second EPs were quite similar in sound. We’ve been talking about using some more organic elements and live instruments, not just programming,” she explains. “You can’t just stay in one place and do the same kind of thing over and over again – you will get bored of it and people supporting it as well. So now we’re definitely trying to do something else, something a bit different from the other EPs.” She gushed with excitement  in reference to her next big project.

Shaqdi’s story is woven throughout each of her music videos to paint a sonic and visual journey. “I always think of visuals when I write a song, just as a music video. It’s also easy to picture it if you get stuck. Sometimes my ideas contain explosions in the background, so I need to tone it down a bit, but it still helps,” she replies while laughing. Always one to try new things, she even confessed that she had to learn how to roller-skate from scratch, for the sake of her ‘Obvious’ music video.

Not one to take things slow, Shadqi shares that she has started writing new songs. Overcoming the ‘bad’ period implied in her song ‘5 Days’, there’s no hiding her enthusiasm for making music:  “My plan is to make another EP, but as a more cohesive project, rather than dropping singles. At the end, I want to make a video for all the final songs.”

It’s OK to take your time and not change your personality or your style just because you think it’s going to fit into the popular music today.

Shaqdi

When I asked her what advice she could give to her generation – those of us seeking courage for the brave new world full of unknowns that lie ahead – she smiled and teased: “Maybe I’m not in the position to give advice because I don’t see myself as super successful – yet.”, with a soft sparkle in her eyes, “But I think, it’s OK to take your time and not change your personality or your style just because you think it’s going to fit into the popular music today. At the end of the day, more successful people are the ones that try something completely new, and who don’t follow the trends. So, I would say take your time, stay true to yourself and then eventually, hopefully, it will go well.”

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