10 Questions With Nabihah Iqbal As She Releases Her Sophomore Album, ‘Dreamer’

Nabihah Iqbal has had her fair share of adversity over the past few years. In early 2020, her studio was burgled, she broke her hand and had to fly to Pakistan after receiving a call that her grandfather had suffered a brain hemorrhage – all the while being haunted by that all-too-familiar, pandemic-shaped ghoul that dominated the first part of the decade.  

Despite all the hardship, she still managed to develop and release her second album, Dreamer, last month; an introspective, intimate and melodic journey that – other than a few tracks with live drums – was all written, recorded and produced by Iqbal herself. The music, which effortlessly dances between a variety of sounds whilst maintaining Iqbal’s left-field, lo-fi twang, goes back to basics and explores themes of personal identity, grief and her Pakistani heritage.  

Starting with the spacy, atmospheric “In Light”, the album flows into more percussive tracks like “Dreamer” and “This World Couldn’t See Us” before continuing onto the string-focused “Lilac Twilight”, trancey wobbler “Gentle Heart” and “Sky River”, a euphoric build-up that’s sure to be a hit in the clubs.  

Much like the diverse elements of the album, the production journey was multifaceted. During her initial months in Pakistan, Iqbal didn’t feel she could express herself properly, so took up learning about herbal remedies and the works of novelist and poet Thomas Hardy to channel her creative energy. Back in the UK, she sketched out the album at Somerset House before embarking on residencies in Suffolk and Scotland, where she did the majority of production. 

Life post album release is going to be exciting for Iqbal. This past November she was announced as a guest director for Brighton Festival, England’s largest multi-arts festival – a position she has stated is her “biggest, most challenging and exciting” curatorial role to date. Having previously written for publications such as Dazed and Vice, along with her various radio shows and festival performances at Glastonbury, Bestival and Sónar (to name only a few), Iqbal is – without a doubt – a sonic force to be reckoned with. 

Here, we sat down with the rising star to talk about Dreamer, her Pakistani heritage and upcoming must-watch live show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts on May 13.

1. Hey Nabihah! Why do you make music?  

“Music is my favourite thing in the world and it is the most spiritual art form. I love it more than anything else – I really enjoy trying to make music and conveying my ideas through sound.”  

2. Can you walk us through the story behind Dreamer 

“I started work on this album in 2018. When I had nearly finished, at the start of 2020, my studio was burgled and my computer was stolen. I hadn’t backed up my work, so I started again from scratch. Then between 2020 and finishing in 2022, there were obstacles, but I’m excited that the record is done. Most of the writing and recording I did on artist residencies in the countryside because I couldn’t concentrate in London. I just immersed myself in the nature, chucked my phone away and focused on the music.”  

3. If you were an A-list celeb’, how would you throw the paparazzi off your scent?  

“I would go somewhere they couldn’t find me. Maybe to the mountains in Pakistan or something like that.”  

4. You have carved such a unique and pioneering space playing indie shoegaze and guitar music. Can you describe your sound in three words?  

“Reverb-y. Emotional. Transcendental.”  

5. How would you say your Pakistani heritage lends itself to your sound?  

“This is the first time I’ve included instruments from my Pakistani heritage in my music. The album starts and ends with the harmonium I bought in Pakistan, and you can hear the sitar on “Lilac Twilight. It was a challenge to incorporate those sounds, but I think I’ve done it in a way which fits my sonic palette. It feels like a new part of my musical journey, embracing those instruments and making them fit with what I do.”  

6. If you could have any designer completely redesign your wardrobe, who would it be?  

“This depends how I’m feeling. I love the brand Japanese label, Toga, by the designer Yasuko Furuta. If she designed my wardrobe, I would happily wear everything.”  

7. What’s your guilty pleasure?  

“I feel like pleasures shouldn’t really be guilty but listening to Justin Bieber. I really like “Cold Water”. But I’m not even guilty about that; he’s really good!”  

8. What artist dominates your playlist?  

“Aldous RH. He’s also a friend and is in my band for the new album. I’ve been listening to his records Respect 4 Devotion and ‘Til Death Do Us Part on repeat.”  

9. If you could play the wedding of anyone dead or alive who would it be?  

“Bruce Lee, although I don’t know if he would be into my music. It would be cool if I could’ve played at his wedding.”  

10. What else have you got in store for 2023?  

“The first live show for the album is taking place in London on May 13 at the Institute of Contemporary Art. My first US tour is in June, and then I’m doing a DJ tour in Australia. I’ll be playing loads of live shows at different festivals in the UK and Europe. I’m going to do a UK tour in September and a European tour in November. I can’t wait to play the new music live!” 

Photography by Joseph Hayes. Listen to Dreamer here or on all major streaming platforms and experience it live at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts on May 13. Tickets available to purchase here. 


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