"At 14 years old I took my first steps in the music industry"
Singer/songwriter Shaima is quickly cementing herself as a fierce, authentic and dynamic artist within the music scene.
The 25-year-old British Pakistani musician has been establishing herself as a thrilling superstar since the tender age of 12.
Shaima’s songs aim to portray the cultural significance of her western upbringing whilst maintaining her admiration towards her South Asian heritage. Coining these tantalising tracks as ‘BollyBeats’.
Fusing her influences from Indian, Pakistani, British and American music emphasises Shaima’s impressive musicality and boundless vision.
Her buoyant voice transcends the soulful yet energetic punch of her RnB and Pop idols such as The Weeknd and Justin Bieber.
However, she delivers these vocals through an ingenious production that includes traditional instruments like the sitar and tabla. Highlighting the significance of Desi culture on Shaima’s music.
In fact, Shaima created her own independent label, M Dynasty Records, in 2017 to nurture artists from underrepresented backgrounds.
Having featured several times on BBC Asian Network, including multiple praises from DJ Bobby Friction, the starlet began to release songs off of her debut EP, ‘UNVEILED’ in 2020.
Showing no signs of slowing down, DESIblitz spoke exclusively with Shaima about her intriguing career and the importance of culture.
Tell us about your background – childhood, family etc.
I grew up in Ealing, West London. Born into a mixed household where my mother is English and my father Pakistani.
After hitting good grades, I ended up at City University Business School where I studied Accounting and Finance whilst running M Dynasty records, my independent label.
“It’s a company I created to grow and support other artists of different mixed heritage backgrounds.”
With two brothers, Ameer and Ozzy, I grew up in a very loving but protective family. So doing music wasn’t always easy.
When did you first develop an interest in music?
I’ve had a love for music ever since I can remember.
Going to my first Shakira concert when I was 10 definitely opened my eyes to how amazing performing can be.
I always loved choir and finally began singing professionally by age 12.
At 14 years old I took my first steps in the music industry and became a recording artist.
What kind of music influences you?
I always say I love all types of music (apart from heavy metal!) but I think you are partly inspired by your household when you’re younger.
My dad would always be playing music from the 70s/80s in my house growing up so artists like Stevie Wonder and Barry White had a massive impression on me from a young age.
“This gave me an inherent love for old school music.”
Bob Marley has definitely influenced me to try and make more positive music that really touches the soul. The beauty of the message he carries in songs is so powerful.
This follows through onto my love of the older Bollywood songs such as ‘Lag Ja Gale’ by Lata Mangeshkar and ‘Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein’.
More recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Qawwali music, in particular, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen.
Qawwali music emphasises the importance of the words in the songs, which emulates through me and inspires my music
How did you come up with the term ‘BollyBeats’?
I just felt it was a perfect term to express my music and represent my background.
‘Bolly’ represents Bollywood and the beauty industry created in India which influences and spreads across all of South Asia and the world.
‘Beats’ represents the western beat rhythm which is predominately inspired by Rnb/Pop/Hip Hop.
Much like Afro Beats: BollyBeats represents Rnb/Pop with a combination of elements of South Asian musical styles such as Bhangra and Ghazal.
What has been the reaction to your music?
Surprisingly good. I think in this day and age while we are just coming out of lockdown, everyone needs some positive upbeat music!
People also generally appreciate both cultures and love the fact the music is being mixed in a way which hasn’t been heard before.
It was great being part of BBC Asian’s Future Sounds selected artists also last year, and to get that reaction from the Asian audience but also to meet other Asian artists and feel the support to one another.
What does your debut EP ‘UNVEILED’ represent?
‘UNVEILED’ represents all the different layers and level to me as an artist.
Each song is in essence unveiling a different side of me and my journey thus far.
What challenges have you faced as a Desi musician?
A lot, in the beginning, was that no one in the A&R/management world seemed to understand quite what I was trying to do.
Admittedly it took me a while to develop and find my sound as it is today.
“For the most part, I came across artists making straight Pop music. This never felt enough for me.”
I always knew I wanted to mix in my Pakistani/Indian heritage (my grandparents were both born in India) and I have always had a love for the South Asian sounds.
My other struggles were mostly around family.
Trying to make my parents realise I was serious about being a recording artist which I think has always been hard for them to fully accept.
What would you say to other budding women artists like you?
Stay focused! There are so many distractions and everybody wanting to push you down where you need them to lift you up.
Stay true to yourself and be unapologetically yourself.
Work hard towards a goal. A goal you really believe in which makes your heart burn and never stop believing the impossible is possible.
What are your ambitions musically?
To be really and truly able to unite people through my music.
There are too many divides in the world at the moment and too many reasons for people to keep hating one another.
I would love for my music to make people forget about that and learn we are all just the same at the end of the day.
Unity and love is the end goal. (Would also be nice to headline at the 02 too!)
Boasting over 8000 followers on Instagram and 665,000 views on YouTube, Shaima’s upward trajectory is outstanding.
It is easy to see the musical passion and creative flair that Shaima exudes, whilst also showcasing her pride in Indian and Pakistani culture.
This appreciation has made Shaima realise the importance of representation and conversation within the music industry.
She plans to include more insightful lyrics than ever before in her upcoming projects in 2021.
Addressing topics of women empowerment and social change in order to bring more positivity towards modern-day society remains a priority for Shaima.
The release of songs off of ‘UNVEILED’ left fans craving for more sumptuous tracks that reveal more of the starlet’s character.
Interestingly, Shaima aims to showcase this through her incorporation of more Urdu into her songs
Not only will this unlock a vast number of new fans, but it illustrates her hunger and attitude towards challenging herself.
Moreover, Shaima’s ruthless nature to explore new sounds is remarkable. Even in tracks such as ‘911’ which have more Afro-Asian tones, listeners are in awe of her evolution as a musician.
As she continues to flourish within the industry, Shaima’s exploration of culture and unique sounds depict her indescribable desire to reach the top.
Listen to Shaima’s potent and compelling music here.