SHAMEEM’S SOCIAL CONSCIENCE
FROM domestic violence and its connection to inequality, to saving the economy versus protecting the environment, Perth soul songstress Shameem Taheri-Lee pens lyrics with a social conscience.
The overarching topic at play in her music is the need to eliminate prejudice.
A subject close to her heart, the bi-racial beauty, raised in Nedlands, has had some experience with the issue.
“My mum is Iranian and my dad ChineseMalaysian,” Taheri-Lee said. “I feel that when you are bi-racial, you don’t belong to a particular group and are brought up with this feeling that you belong to the whole world, not just to one country.
“And then because of that you start to see how people compartmentalise themselves according to their race or religion. Because people look at me and can’t tell what my heritage is, they can’t put me in a box, so I don’t get boxed as an Asian or a Middle Eastern person, but people look at me and see me as an ‘other’.”
The 27-year-old Victoria Park resident said people often asked where she was from.
“I say, ‘Australia’ and they respond with, ‘but where are you actually from?’,” Taheri-Lee said.
“I feel like replying, ‘hang on, I belong here as much as you’.
“Of course, this is nothing compared to what other people have to go through. One thing I’m always grateful to my parents for is that we had Aboriginal friends when I was growing up, which is very unusual for western suburbs people, and just seeing the way they lived definitely broadened my vision of what prejudice is and what it can look like.”
Living her childhood dream, Taheri-Lee admits her career launched quickly but entailed a lot of hard work.
“I remember writing in a time capsule in Year 7 that I would like to be a pop star when I grew up,” she said. “And then I went to high school (St Hilda’s) and was faced with this realism of how I would make money from that.
“I went away from the idea for a while then had a singing teacher who really inspired me. I saw she was making a career out of being a musician and I thought, ‘if she can do it, why can’t I?’.”
It has been a busy year for the self-managed artist, kicking off with the launch of her second album, Second City, followed by a national tour and support shows for Michael Bolton and Anthony Callea. Next year will include a tour of China and time at home song writing.
Shameem Taheri-Lee performs this weekend.