Dubai singer Layla Kardan has re­sisted the blues of fam­ily op­pres­sion and in­stead made joy­ous jazz mu­sic. This is her story

Grazia Middle East - - THE HOT STORIES -

NOT SO LONG AGO, Layla Kardan lived with a se­cret: a pri­vate pas­sion for mu­sic and singing but with no op­tion to take to the stage. She was wor­ried her fam­ily – of Ira­nian de­scent – would ob­ject to her am­bi­tions, and so she con­tin­ued to work as a cor­po­rate strate­gist in the fam­ily busi­ness. Even­tu­ally Layla de­cided to pur­sue her dreams and use her voice – which lends it­self to the jazz genre – to re­de­fine beauty and fight against stereo­typ­ing in the Mid­dle East. Here, the star, who grew up in Syd­ney but moved to Dubai in 1986, de­tails the lyrics of her first al­bum, Saved, and what she be­lieves needs to hap­pen in the re­gion to en­sure in­de­pen­dent artists’ voices are heard…

When did you fall in love with mu­sic?

As for a defin­ing mo­ment, it was at the age of four, watch­ing The Jun­gle Book. That made me fall in love with jazz mu­sic.

Did you draw on your Ira­nian her­itage when de­vel­op­ing your sound?

Ab­so­lutely. I grew up lis­ten­ing to Ira­nian mu­sic so it comes through in my melodies and also my rhythms.

Was the con­cept of Saved born out of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence?

Yes, Saved is a per­sonal di­ary, an in­sight into my deep­est and in­ner thoughts and my jour­ney to come out of the dark and find my voice. It’s about the strug­gles of be­ing a Mid­dle Eastern woman hav­ing so many ex­pec­ta­tions and pres­sure to be a cer­tain way, but hav­ing a wild and free spirit and fi­nally hav­ing the courage to go up against those ex­pec­ta­tions. It’s also about love and

heart­break, but with a lit­tle tongue-in-cheek hu­mour when it comes to deal­ing with Mid­dle Eastern men.

What was it about Sade, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and Nina Simone that in­spired you as you were find­ing your voice?

I love the au­then­tic­ity of these artists. They are true to who they are. Also, they are fem­i­nists, and I ap­pre­ci­ate that. Their voices are deep and husky and filled with pain, and that re­ally res­onates with me.

Why is the Khalil Gi­bran quote: “Out of suf­fer­ing have emerged the strong­est souls; the most mas­sive char­ac­ters are seared with scars,” im­por­tant to you to share with the re­lease of your new al­bum? I feel that through suf­fer­ing you have the op­por­tu­nity to be re­born, an op­por­tu­nity to al­low the light shine through your wounds, and an op­por­tu­nity to see the world through a fresh per­spec­tive.

Why did you choose to use the Ja­panese art of kintsugi on your al­bum art­work? I love Ja­panese tra­di­tions and this no­tion of wabi-sabi and kintsugi re­ally in­spires me, as it cel­e­brates the idea of per­fect im­per­fec­tions.

Why is it im­por­tant for us as women to em­brace our “per­fect im­per­fec­tions”? The def­i­ni­tion of beauty is so much more than a man­u­fac­tured and in­dus­try-forced mea­sure of per­fect aes­thetic. I see some women who have scars but their beauty is so ra­di­ant from the in­side that you’re blown away by their pres­ence. As nur­tur­ers of gen­der equal­ity, it’s time we shed some of the pres­sure to be per­fect and be our truest selves.

Well said. How have you fought against the stereo­typ­ing of Mid­dle Eastern women through mu­sic? I have gone up against my fam­ily and con­sis­tently tried to change the opin­ions of peo­ple through dis­cus­sion. I have also worked on men­tor­ing younger tal­ent to al­low them to be­lieve their worth.

De­scribe to us the mu­si­cal land­scape in our re­gion for record­ing artists… The op­por­tu­ni­ties are still lim­ited. Orig­i­nal artists need more sup­port from the la­bels in or­der to blos­som.

What’s the mes­sage you have for women of the Mid­dle East through your al­bum? Be your most au­then­tic self; be strong and bold yet also vul­ner­a­ble and open. Raise your voice.

You can down­load Saved now from iTunes, Ap­ple Mu­sic, Spo­tify and Ang­hami

Layla wants to see more cel­e­bra­tion of per­fect im­per­fec­tions

The Dubai star’s first al­bum is a “per­sonal di­ary”

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