Alt-pop sorceress Throwing Shade aka Nabihah Iqbal doesn’t only possess an undying love for music but also an undergrad in Ethnomusicology, a black belt in Karate, and a masters in South African history. Is there anything she can’t do?
These admirable feats saw her spend time working as a barrister, first in South Africa and then in London before turning her sole focus to music.
Her show on London-based radio station NTS Radio seeks to acquaint the listener with weird and wonderful sounds from around the world, but her DJ sets are all about sewing together unlikely tracks, and most importantly getting revelers feet moving.
Next month will mark the release of her EP House of Silk coming out on Ninja Tune and, more importantly for you lucky lot, her debut live show in America. We caught up with her to find out a little bit more about what makes Throwing Shade tick…
You didn’t necessarily have such a linear entrance into music, first doing a masters in African history and then working in human rights law. And you’ve taught Karate, a jack of all trades it seems! When did music become the main focus? Or was it something you’d always done on the side?
Music has always been my favorite thing, and I've always been doing it on the side. I just never imagined I'd be doing it full-time. It really feels like a dream. As Throwing Shade, I've been making music since about 2011 or 2012, and I've been a full-time artist since about the middle of 2013.
Your monthly show on NTS is steadfast and you can tell by the selections that a lot of research and prep must go into each one. Where do you source your music from?
Different places. I gathered a lot of music from the music archive at The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where I studied Ethnomusicology as an Undergrad. I get a lot of stuff from record stores, and from the internet, and through recommendations from friends and listeners. I also make a lot of my own field recordings, especially when I'm abroad and I stumble across some interesting sounds or music.
Does the stuff you play on NTS differ from the kind of tracks you play out when DJing?
Yes, quite a lot. If I played the kind of stuff that I play on NTS out in a club, it would probably kill the dance floor! Not sure how well Innuit throat singing would go down in such an environment... When I do my NTS show, I like to play lots of weird and amazing music from all around the world, including a lot of historic recordings made on phonographs etc. There are no boundaries. When I DJ in a club, there aren't many boundaries either, just so long as I'm playing fun, up-beat music that makes people want to dance. I like playing a big variety of music, and mixing tracks together that you would never normally imagine together, but which work, and really get the crowd going!
What records never leave your bag? Hit us with your top three...
Hmmm, it's a tough one. But if I had to choose three right now, they'd be:
Turning our attentions to your productions and new EP House of Silk, released next month via Ninja Tune - how did your relationship with them come about?
Serendipity! One time when I was presenting my NTS show, there was a guy called Olly who was my producer in the studio for that session. We were chatting and it turned out he worked at Ninja. He said I should send him music if I ever wanted to. So, when I had a bunch of new tracks ready and I was sending them out to different labels, I sent them to him too. It turned out that the head of A&R at the label was already a big Throwing Shade fan, and it all went from there...!
I foresee your sound proving very popular in the states. When’s your global takeover happening? Have you got any plans to hit America this year?
Well that is a promising thing to hear :) I'm playing my debut live show in America at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas this year. The details are: 8pm, Friday 18 March at the British Music Embassy. I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully it'll get a good response and I'll see what happens afterwards as I'd love to be able to play some more shows across the US. Fingers crossed...
House Of Silk will be released via Ninja Tune on 4 March - Preorder your copy here