I know your story – you’re a dilettante, someone who loves dabbling in art in all its many shifting and glorious forms. You’ve got an eclectic taste in music and listen to as many genres as your artistic heart can take but you still struggle to find new people in the industry who can impress you with what they can do.
But have you listened to Sevdaliza?
If you’re an aspiring artist, you’re most definitely going to want to check her out. The Iranian-born, Netherlands-bred R&B singer-songwriter and producer is renowned for her avant-garde, auteur style of music. Sevda Alizadeh, who goes by the name Sevdaliza, has earned comparisons to Bjork, FKA Twigs and Portishead. While there is a family resemblance, the artist prides herself on staying original and unique through her endless musical transformations, a product of her obsession with identity and the roles we play in the world.
Since Backseat Love, her debut single in 2014, Sevdaliza has been consistently releasing R&B goodness until her debut album ISON dropped in 2017, and had the underground world hooked onto what she could do. The album launched her world tour, which will be landing her right in the middle of Malaysia’s very own underground scene on March 27. The trip-hop musical auteur will be a featured artist in Malaysia’s most prominent platform for the Malaysian hip-hop underground, Raising The Bar, a monthly staple at The Bee, Publika and be opened by local R&B acts like Alextbh and VIKTORIA. So, before you hear about her music from everyone else, why SHOULD you be checking out Sevdaliza?
You’re A Visual Arts Enthusiast
The complex metaphysical concepts in her songs – what it means to be human, performing as the feminine ideal, the simulation of identity and fantasy – can come off as polarising to some listeners. That’s where her self-produced music videos come in and complement the story of each song as smoothly as butter on bread. Sevdaliza’s self-expression is focused down to the very last detail designed into the music’s sound and imagery, attracting worldwide attention since Complex nominated her single Sirens of the Caspian as one of the most stunning and creative videos of 2014.
For many dilettantes, fusing various media together and challenging their form is the dream. ISON does exactly that as a visual album, and each of its 16 tracks adds something new and bold to its visual world. She and her co-producer and long-time collaborator Mucky create a filmic world that is rich and intricate in its details, where her music functions like each video’s score. In Human, we see her put on a performance not as a woman but a purely sexual being, and like the audience that watches her, we marvel at her grandiose movements, slowly figuring out what it all means in the end. As she talks about creating an identity the world loves in Marilyn Monroe, it’s all metallic-heavy imagery of random hands that slowly build and create the android-like creature Sevdaliza claims to be. While her songs are controlled and slowly moving, her videos are rich in transformations and heavy detail that give ISON the weight it deserves.
You Believe Life Should Have A Soundtrack
Life is weirdly magical and atmospheric, at the best and worst of times. In an interview with Billboard, she has stated that music is so important to her that it soundtracks her life. She understands the importance of really fitting music to the right mood, and her sound is perfect for the sometimes strange feelings we go through when we’re sitting alone and contemplating questions of identity and loneliness. It is lo-fi goodness with an attitude, and there’s a depth to the melodies that make you want to lie back on the grass and let her music play to the moment.
In treating each track like a painting, her trip-hop atmospheric songs lull you to sleep until your ears catch on a certain lyric: I’ve never been the truth/All you saw was a broken mirror/. And suddenly you are starteled awake by its poetic vulnerability. Her craft is specific – it is hypnotic but emotional, meditative music that lets you lose yourself in your quietest moments.
You Like Your Music With Magic
The album title ISON is actually a sungrazing comet, a bright ball of frozen matter thought to be from the earliest days of the universe. The magic of comets and of space is a question the artist likes to think about that influences much of her world in this album and her music. The album itself dives into personal emotions and out-of-body experiences – things like vuinerability, being the other woman, the difference between what you need and what you get, the question of creating an identity to just ‘fit’.
While these ideas can be heavy and grounded to some, it is existential and cosmic, the power of being influenced by things like suspense and magic. Her song Shahmaran, alludes to Iranian traditional culture and refers to a hybrid snake-woman creature. It literally translates to ‘queen of snakes’ and much like Sevdaliza’s alter ego throughout this album, is a beautiful, wise and intelligent woman. She has said before that her creative process is coming up with poetry through lyrics and only turning it into songs much later. The artist’s obsession with mysticism and the universe leaks out into the track’s melodies and words, creating an atmosphere that is almost at once spellbinding.
You Enjoy Being Spiritually Enlightened
Sevdaliza is an honest and open artist, who is constantly putting herself through transformations to learn and find
out more about the human identity and what it really means to be a person. For anyone whose ever looked up at the stars and felt insignificant in meaning, you could resonate at least to some degree with the artist’s music. The album ISON itself was regarded as one of the most transformative experiences of her life, taking up to five years to create. An album where an artist has poured five year’s worth of human experience, pain and pleasure in surely has something to say about this condition we call, existence.
Sevdaliza is also an artist that enjoys playing with preconceptions that don’t get asked enough questions in modern society. These are things that can be as subtle as the way you look and dress to major universal truths like making up your own fantasies and adopting your own realities. In songs like Amandine Insensible, she switches into different tropes about who a woman is in society: a sensual muse, a sportswoman, a worker. She sings, ‘There’s a woman/She’s every fantasy/And no reality/In one/’, and tries to answer a nuanced question about who we are as women, in the reality that we are given. Musically, it’s a lot to take in. But for all those moments we quietly contemplate the stars and ask who we are, Sevdaliza is there to hold your hand and ask those questions for you.