Obsessed with the idea of finding her roots and knowing more about her ancestors, Nadya Shanab tracks down her identity through her music. As she had initially started writing her songs in English, she is now writing more songs in Arabic or songs that include a combination of both languages. Her first album ‘El Mahrousa’, inspired by her longing to Egypt, will be released soon.
One of her first experiences of performing on stage was a school production of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’, where she played the role of Pied Piper and sang many solos. Her interest in music grew towards her last years of studying at school; she picked up the guitar as part of her GCSE studies requirements and started writing songs. After collaborating with several bands she left Egypt to study music at the LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), which helped her gain more understanding with composing music.
“Originally I would write a melody or put a harmony without actually understanding the logistics of it all, I was doing it because it sounded right not because I knew what it was,” Shanab said “the theory part of studying music gave me a better understanding and a wider vocabulary to use enabling me to be more creative.”
Not only that, but studying there also helped her to network with talented musicians coming from all over the world. Currently she’s working with her band ‘The Property of Nadya Shanab’ with guitarist Luke Hodgkinson, bassist James Thorne, violinist Joaqim Lewerin, percussionist Samantha Lubin and drummer James Bernardis. The band plays the music written and composed by Shanab.
“Usually, I write the songs during my own time and then bring it in to rehearsals. I play the new song on my guitar so that the band would understand how it goes and then I provide them with sheets containing the chords and the structure of the song,” she said “we then play through it a couple of times trying to come up with things that work and that I like.”
Due to the diversity of the band members, the influences vary, which adds to the music. “My current Guitarist (Luke Hodgkinson) is English and is very into Rock, the Violinist (Joaqim Lewerin) is Swedish and is very influenced by ABBA and Queen, the Percussionist (Samantha Lubin) is also English but loves Caribbean and Soca music,” said Shanab.
Among Shanab’s major influences are Dave Matthews Band, Omar Khayrat, Om Kalthoum, Souad Massi and Aida El Ayoubi, who inspired Shanab to write in Arabic.
“I started off singing in English and so singing in Arabic is very new to me and I believe I still have quite a way to go. But at the end of the day Arabic is my native language and is a huge part of me,” Shanab said “singing in English and Arabic allows me to present myself in a complete form to the world. I think and dream in both languages and so it only seems appropriate to express myself in both too.”
Her first fully Arabic song is a song about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), called ‘Ana Bint Masreya Soghayara’. The song, initially written in English, was later translated into Arabic for more outreach. “Ana Bint Masreya Soghayara (FGM Song) is probably the closest to my heart most times because of how passionate I feel about the issue,” said Shanab. Ticking Bomb, however, has always been her favourite song.
Not wanting to get through the trouble of finding a record label, she created her own: ‘Hamzet Wasl Records’. “I wasn’t going to wait around for someone to ‘discover’ me, I was going make things happen,” she said “perhaps later on this record label could help out future artists who find themselves in the same position.”
Shanab believes there are some great underground musicians that are unfortunately not crossing over to mainstream. She thinks that the problem lies that music is a hobby for these artists and not a full-time occupation.
As for the mainstream, she feels it’s mocking the people by offering low quality entertainment. “I feel like no one pays enough attention to what makes up a song,” she said “if the melody and music is good then the lyrics are a disaster or the artist can’t sing, and someone with a good voice ends up singing a bad song.”
As for ‘Nadya Shanab Property’, she said it won’t end upon her departure from Liverpool, since all her band members are considered session musicians and not permanent band members. She hopes to find new members to play for her when she’s back.