French-Algerian artist Sabrina Bellaouel talks to us about her personal and musical inspirations for her new EP Libra. With her diverse lyrical themes and sonic experimentation, Sabrina takes us into her world of sultry R&B and gives her listeners a spiritual-like experience whilst listening to her tracks. Her EP embodies the universal feelings of confusion, anger and hope caused by the lockdowns and speaks for the many voices who have felt the same throughout this year.
Your music possesses such an organic, beautiful soul to it. Growing up who were your musical influences and which records motivated this soul sound?
I’m enjoying love songs and artists who talk about it with poetry. When I think about soul, the first artist that comes to my mind is Oum Kalthoum. She was such a strong female artist who had a divine power, it’s undeniable. I think the plants were also fans of her. Stevie Wonder is also a big influence to me. I also have to mention Jill Scott, when I hear her voice, I hear her soul and it’s pure love.
You’ve mentioned previously that your music tends to be a sonic output for your thoughts and feelings towards issues related to sex, gender and society. Was there a particular moment in your life that helped inspire you to write about these themes?
I think these words come from a journalist who wrote about my EP We Don’t Need To Be. I don’t write about sex, gender and society, I experience life and write about how I feel about it. I compose most of my work at home in Paris. When lockdown occurred, we were just all so confused and scared, nobody knew what was really going on. All I can say is that there is confusion, anger, resolution and hope in this EP.
In your recent EP Libra, you include a refreshing experimental approach to the vocal arrangements as you include spoken word as well as sensual vocals, in what ways do you usually go about sonic experimentation?
To me music is like a painting; it’s a vision of forms and colors with subtle nuances in a virgin space. Sometimes I feel like my voice should be in the front telling a story that is legit to say. And sometimes it is in the back like an instrument, to contrast. I also use samples of quotations to contextualize and make a point.
Your music gives a sort of spiritual experience when listened to due to the soothing R&B melodies, and relaxed vocals. What is your relationship with spirituality and astrology and how did it inspire you to call the EP Libra?
I got into astrology a few years ago, spirituality has always been there, in my education. It helps me balancing my ego and think outside the box. Growing up listening to a lot of R&B definitely influenced my way of writing melodies. I want to spread good vibes.
As a French-Algerian artist, in what ways has your cultural background influenced your current music style?
Growing up in France with Algerian parents, I’m like many of my generation: I spent most of my childhood holidays in Algeria. The culture is strongly part of my identity and therefore in my representation. The Parisian music scene is influenced by so many different genres. As a music lover, I was curious about everything from gospel to punk music. So, I think growing up in a multicultural city broaden you view.
Your latest EP Libra contains six beautifully orchestrated tracks. What were the methods you had for recording and did you use the same approach for each song?
There is no real method. I don’t start sessions with a clear number of beats per minute in mind, for example. I tend to experiment a lot with melodies that run though my head or material that I randomly capture with my phone recorder. These are usually the first elements to build the songs. The next layer is finding the right chords and rhythmic patterns to match the colors of the melodies. I write the lyrics on top of this sonic picture when it is necessary. And that’s the reason why not all of my songs have sung melodies.
How do you usually prep for a recording session? Are there any niche routines that you like to follow that others may find odd or humorous?
I warm up my voice making animal sounds and walk around in different rooms to play with the acoustic.
Your love for music is extremely evident in the songs you produce. Was music always the career choice for you, or did you have in mind something else once upon a time?
From a very young age, I pictured myself in the future as a musician. I have a master's degree in Ethnomusicology and Music Management so, working in this industry has always been the plan. I’m willing to create a junction between all of that.
The music industry is becoming more acceptant of artists of all races, genders and sexualities. What are you looking forward to the most as an artist stepping into what some would call a new music industry?
I feel like it’s the right time building a strong body of work that represents who I am and who I want to be in this industry. My personal focus right now is uplifting north African women as well as all women.
What can we expect from you in the future with your music?
A tour is expected next year, hopefully, alongside the album. And a lot of unexpected collaborations, stay tuned!