EXCLUSIVE | SHAB casts a spell on you with her unique blend of Persian and Latin dance-pop
The Iranian refugee and mother of two already has a fanbase among Persian diaspora and is ready to bring her unique sound to America
Love and motherhood, drops of Persian and Latin, and pop and dance rhythms. All of these come together to define the sound of Persian crossover artist SHAB. This Iranian refugee and mother of two has already captured the attention of girls across Iran and its diaspora, and now, she sets her sights on America.
SHAB's new single 'Spell On Me' as well as several songs in her upcoming album 'Infinity' were helmed by Grammy-winning producer Damon Sharpe, known for his work producing Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, and many more. Featuring a steady stream of feel-good hooks, 'Spell On Me' sees SHAB channel her own romantic torment through raw lyrics to her lover and heartfelt reflections on surrendering herself to intimacy. The album is an ode to female wildness and self-discovery all told against the backdrop of energetic dance-pop tunes.
Amidst the bustle of daily life as a mother and recording artist, SHAB spent some time to chat with MEAWW about life, love and channeling her pain into her music.
So 'SHAB', is that from your actual name? Or is it a stage name?
My actual name is 'Shabnam'. It's actually Indian and Persian, and means 'morning dew'.
What got you into making music?
Growing up in Iran, we would listen to a lot of music because it was...it was a place of war. There was a revolution. And the way we kept ourselves happy and in 'the bubble' was through music. We had our own little sanctuary that way. We would just dance to the music and just keep each other happy that way.
You've obviously had quite an eclectic journey, seeing a lot of the world and getting to experience so many different cultures, besides coming from such a rich culture yourself. What has that journey been like for you?
I first went to Germany [from Iran], without my family. I stayed with my sister, she was my guardian, and I was there for almost four years attending boarding school. I learned the language, I played tennis. I was very active and independent. By 11, I was getting around myself.
My family was waiting for me in Baltimore. I got to LaGuardia with a suitcase and a little umbrella, that's all I had with me. My life was in one little tiny bag. But I was just happy to see my family after all these years. My sisters and my brothers, and of course my mom who raised me after my dad passed. They were my lifeline, my motivators. I remember dancing with them. I wanted all that back. I missed them so much.
It appears you've had some very strong female role models that helped you get through some very tough experiences. And you also have the theme of femininity in 'Spell On Me' and running through the album. Is that something you consciously include in your music?
Absolutely. It was a blessing for me just seeing my mom. She was...a father and mother for us. My dad passed away when I was six months. So she raised all of us by herself with so much love. And that's the way I'm built, because of my upbringing.
I love all people from all walks of the world. The love I have is so deeply ingrained in me because I come from a big family. And I share that love because you don't know what people are going through. My mom always taught us to treat people with love and respect. Good thoughts, good words. You just have to be a little kinder. Everybody has a story.
And now you're a mother yourself on top of being a full-time artist. That must be quite the balancing act?
Not at all! My kids bring me so much joy and they actually inspire me to do more music and to write. I love finding new ways of bringing happiness and joy to people's lives through my music. It fulfills me in that way. And my son Rafael, we call him Rafa, and my daughter Shiloh just love dancing to my songs. And they're just beautiful little beings and they just keep inspiring me. The balancing act just comes naturally to me. I was meant to be a mom.
Do your kids have any favorite SHAB songs?
Oh, my god they love all my songs when I play them. They basically clap and say 'YAY!' And I'm like, OK, they like it. That's a good sign.
How about for you, are there any songs you would recommend to people who might not know of your music just yet?
What I do is really special to my heart. And all the songs are kind interconnected in some way. So when you hear the whole album, you realize this is about someone's life. And they're writing about something that's beautiful and important.
My husband-to-be, he was in the hospital after a car accident while I was in LA, recording song number six, 'Music To My Heart', and I just had a knot in my stomach. I felt like something wasn't right and I didn't know why. I got a phone call two hours later, saying he was in an accident and that it was life and death. I was in the hospital with two songs left to write.
When things happen in your life, the way you get through the hardship, as writers, as entertainers, is through writing. And so I started writing. 'Where Do I Go?' is sort of like a hidden message about Jesus, I have a really special connection with him, and 'Skin and Bones' asks "where would I be without you". They're just really beautiful, the sounds, the flavors, all of it.
You seem to channel a lot of your personal experiences and pain into your music. Iran has had its ups and downs over time, and you've obviously been away from the country for a long time. But does that experience of once having been there and the later experiences of being a refugee still impact how you write music?
Absolutely. This is my country, I am an American citizen. When people ask me where I'm from I say, "I'm Persian-American" because I've been here the longest, and that has shaped me as a person and as an adult. But it hurts to see my mother country, such a beautiful country in the hands of people that are oppressing their own people. And it just makes my heart cry because they have so much potential. They're such beautiful people. They're welcoming, they're warm. They love to feed you and make you happy.
My dad passed away during the revolution. They burned his work down and kidnapped my brothers and so many other people, they killed so many people. You don't know the other side of the story, it's not what you see on TV. It just makes me sad when I see the news. There was false information being given to the American people and people around the world. But it's not the Persian people, it's the government. And the Persians were not happy with it either.
But while everything was going on with the whole Trump thing, my nephews, who are still there because the paperwork is taking longer than usual, were just sending videos of them making kebabs, saying "everything is fine here!" Nobody over there is saying anything anti-America.
With all these experiences and the fact that you channel so much of that into your music, how do you manage to balance the heavier subjects with the sound you have created for yourself, which leans more toward dance?
Going back to that bubble... I just take myself to another place and I always think the world is perfect as is. And with just one thought, we can really start shaping it even more. So why would I focus on the problems if I can just be in that bubble and just have good wishes for the world?
And dance is such a beautiful form of art. You just get lost in it. I feel like we get close to Spirit that way. It's almost like a movement of yoga.
Are there any other new projects that you've got lined up in the near future besides the upcoming album?
I'm always working on things because my future hasn't always been clearly laid out for me. But my passion is helping people. It's really important for me to give back. And that's one of the reasons I really wanted to start music. I wanted to put them something out there because people connect to music so much and words resonate.
We also have a charity we started through my husband's company called Kynect. We help first responders, veterans and kids. I'm particularly passionate about homeless children. There's this place called 'Hope to Fly', it's the third-largest diaper bank in the US, but it started out here in Dallas and my goal is to expand that further into other states. So many single moms don't have a way to buy diapers, food, clothes and school supplies for their children. America is such a rich country and you're so blessed. Everybody should have a home and everybody should have everything they need to thrive and to live in this beautiful world.