Having shaped a musical style centred around bass music which comes from a place of feeling, Brighton-based, Irish-Lebanese artist Bklava has carved a well-deserved niche for herself on the music scene since she released her debut single four years ago. Being proud of her dual heritage and ready to fulfil her dream of going back to Lebanon after 15 years, she is now releasing the music video for her latest single, It's Your Time, which is a collab with Jamie Boy Bassline. This visual piece has been filmed in Beirut, featuring heady late-night club scenes - DJing herself in the motherland - and poignant shots of the city after dark!
“I'd heard of Ballroom blitz from Boiler Room and was so excited to play there. Most of the video was shot within those club walls!” Bklava replies when we ask her about this new release, in which she has worked with a MENA team and has been able to see the reality of the city through their eyes in an experience loaded with great meaning. That's not all, the artist has also announced the title of her forthcoming new EP, Khalas. A project that according to Bklava herself will be more club focused and full of energy.
Bklava, welcome to METAL. How are you, and where do you chat to us from?
Hello! I’m good, thanks. I’ve got a sore throat from screaming and singing at the top of my lungs at Patterns over the weekend, but other than that, I’m doing good and answering you from a coffee shop in Brighton.
Your connection to music began as a child, and from the beginning, you were influenced by different musical genres and styles. From the classic rock and folk that your father introduced you to, to radio-ready pop and 90s house music, your mother’s favourites. What musical artists inspired you as a teenager?
Yeah definitely! I wrote a lot of music on my guitar in my teenage years and was genuinely inspired by many folk music and singer-songwriters. Then from there, I got heavily into rock, metal and emo bands (along with the emo aesthetic I kept going strong for a good few years [laughs]). I’ve also always been inspired by powerful vocalists and intricate songwriters, such as Imogen Heap, Laura Marling, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse, Eva Cassidy, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott and lots more. I love musical theatre too, the storytelling that came from that and the power of acting through song. Growing up, I’d always been into dance music, all the classic soulful house and UKG from the 00s, but my first intro to the underground was probably when I was in my early teens. Three mates and I went to this event in London in 2010 and saw so many amazing artists for £30. We all loved Chase and Status, so we were excited to see them, but I remember being blown away by Skream and Benga. I think they played quite early, but the crowd were feeling it and I remember just loving the energy and thinking, what is this music - I love it. It was my first intro to dub, and I think being really into rock- it just felt like such a natural progression to get into another sound that, at the time, felt like the next big thing.
Did you use to share this passion for music with your friends?
Once I got to college, my desire for dance grew from there, and I was surrounded by friends who shared similar tastes, specifically house and dubstep. I started listening to artists like Mount Kimbie, Karma Kid, Bondax, Annie Mac, Skream, Skrillex, Kaytranada, Disclosure, Dusky, Loco Dice, Joy Orbison, Kerri Chandler, Flava D and Shadow Child. I literally listened to his Rinse FM show religiously every Wednesday for years! Plus, we were in that 2010-2015 era of the house that was just so beautiful. I honestly just loved discovering new music with my friends and made sure I tried to go to as many gigs as possible with the money I saved up from my weekend jobs. I got so wrapped up in the culture; it was a game changer for me.
Unsurprisingly, you have built your own sound due to your distinctive musical heritage, a fusion of all the influences and experiences you’ve had throughout your life. How would you define your current musical style?
It’s definitely centred around bass music and comes from a place of feeling. How the words and the melodies make you feel. Does it make you want to dance? Do you want to smile but also cry at the same time? Yeah, all of that, [laughs].
You released your debut single, CNTRL, in 2019. What comes to mind when you think of the moment when you first stepped onto the music scene four years ago?
I think about the first KIWI x Keep Hush party that I did. I remember telling one of the team on the day I was thinking of singing, and their reply was: maybe not this time. I’d done it before, but only to small crowds, so nobody really knew I could sing. It was being filmed, and I distinctly remember dropping Got it Good and CNTRL and thinking, fuck it, I’m going to sing. The feeling of playing this music, singing to a full crowd, and seeing that amazing reaction was unreal, but seeing the person who suggested I don’t sing skanking out at the back of the crowd made me light up.
Your sound evolves, and you dare to experiment without losing your essence, but there is something that remains intact: strengthening your roots and your love for Lebanon. What does this country mean to you?
It means the world to me! I’m very proud of my dual heritage. It’s meant more to me as I’ve got older because I value my experiences and how they’ve allowed me to be who I am whilst making the connections I’ve made. I was extremely close to my Teta (nan) all my life, she was my second mum, and I honestly feel like I learnt all things Lebanese from her and my uncle. They were always so proud of where they were from. My Teta always made Lebanese and Armenian food, and my uncle taught me the Lebanese national anthem and all keywords and songs in Arabic. I had no one to connect with over where I was from other than family, so I thrived off that as a kid.
Do you travel to Lebanon very often? What do you feel when you get there? Has a lot changed in the last few years?
This year is the first time I’ve been back to Lebanon for about 15 years, I have no idea why it’s taken so long to return, but I won’t wait that long again. I’ll be back again this year. I just felt so grounded and so proud when I was there. It was always my desire to go back with my Teta, but she passed away a few years ago, so even though I was there to film a music video and see some family, I also wanted to feel connected to the place my Teta spent most of her life. I previously only heard about changes in Lebanon through my family that live there and from my own research, but my understanding is that the people are becoming louder and prouder to be seen and heard whilst fighting against the patriarchy which is bringing the people down. However, no matter what goes on there, it must be said that people are living their lives to the fullest, regardless of money or social troubles. There’s always this illusion worldwide that the Middle East is constantly in ruin, and that’s just not true.
The music video that comes along with your latest single, It’s Your Time - a collab with Jamie Boy Bassline - has been filmed in Beirut with heady late-night club scenes and poignant shots of the city after dark. How did you find this experience? Is there any anecdote from the shoot that you want to share with us?
Beautiful energy from everyone involved. It was so amazing to work with a MENA team and really experience the city through their eyes. I hadn’t been to Beirut since I was a child, so I really wanted to be introduced to the city and the nightlife by people who live and breathe it there! I honestly felt like the team did just that. I’d heard of Ballroom blitz from Boiler Room and was so excited to play there. Most of the video was shot within those club walls! It was a really special shoot, and I’m so happy with how it all turned out!
“The older I’ve got, the louder I’ve become to break this mould,” you have commented on the idea that you’ve heard repeatedly in your Lebanese family that women should be nice and quiet. Now you champion freedom and female empowerment, do you feel stronger than ever? And how would you like the audience to feel when they listen to your new release, It’s Your Time?
It’s something that should influence people to do their own thing and completely trust their instincts and their drive to do whatever it is that inspires them! I’ve always felt passionate about equality, and so should everyone! So if there’s ever an opportunity for me to express that through speech or song, I will!
You’ve also recently shared the title of your forthcoming new EP Khalas, meaning “stop/enough” in Arabic. What can you tell us about this project, and when will it be released?
It’s a five track EP that’ll definitely be more club focused and full of energy. I wanted to release songs I’d play in my sets now more than ever, acknowledging my evolving sound and so I made sure to have fun experimenting with that. I’m always serious with my music but I wanted to really do something more playful and an ode to the dance so this was what I did with Khalas. It’s all in the name too! It came at a time of frustration- I felt like I was stuck and feeling the weight of the industry and the damage it can bring to an artist's mental health. I had enough and knew I needed new life in my work. To say enough is positive. It allows a chance to reflect and enforce change to be better.
In the coming months, we will be able to see you perform live. Your tour will stop at various cities in the UK, as well as Country Meath (Ireland) and Avoriaz (France). What do you enjoy most about live shows?
It’s definitely why I do what I do. It drives me, especially during difficult times. I always take a moment to think of the crowd and the feeling you get from being in the dance and hearing a track that resonates with you. It’s why I became passionate about the culture in the first place, and I will keep putting the work in to bring you something to look forward to in my sets and live performances.
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