Moroccan-American singer Abir is using her voice, musical talents, and bold visuals to smash the ignorant stereotypes and perceptions about Arab culture and women, especially in the west.
Coming off the success of her Gold hit, "Finest Hour", Abir won over hearts with "Inferno", the first single off her upcoming sophomore EP, which was launched on August 7th 2020 via Atlantic records.
Her unique aesthetic depicting Arab culture and women sparked our interest and we’ve been hooked ever since. Abir takes pride in her heritage and strives to positively represent the modern Arab woman and especially relates to the ones with a dual nationality.
Rooted in her Arab Moroccan culture, her new project is stands to disrupt clichés around Arab women in 2020 particularly in the competitive pop music landscape. And so, AboutHer.com caught up with the emerging Arab-American pop star to chat about all-things music and media representation.
Abir, tell us a little about where your passion for music began for you…
My passion for music started in the backseat of my father’s limousine. He used to run a car service company and collected a lot of music for both his personal pleasure and his clientèle. He would always have something playing when he picked me up from school so from there, I became obsessed with learning how to sing and write.
What is it that has shaped your musical style/language? Who are your main musical inspirations?
I was heavily inspired by the music my parents played growing up — Jazz, Soul, and Arabic. When I started to find my own style and preference, I leaned into anything with a powerhouse vocal and good storytelling like Etta James, Sarah Vaughn, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Umm Kulthum, etc.
The video for your latest release "Inferno" seems to be shot in a desert, and there are depictions of veiled Muslim women. What message did you want to convey through the song and video?
The Inferno video is an abstract take on a woman’s love being an “Inferno” and the power she holds in love and relationships. I wanted all the women in the video to be shown in an empowering light. There are so many preconceived notions around Arab women, when the truth is that we are all varied and multifaceted in how we present ourselves and how we practice faith. In all cases, a woman's love is a powerful and fiery inferno - that's the message I wanted to portray in the visuals.
You are continually pushing the envelope when it comes to smashing the stereotypes people in the west may have about Arab women, which is quite a feat! What has the response from the Arab community been like for you in regards to your music and videos?
So far, the response has been amazing. It warms my heart to see messages/comments from other Arabs showing excitement about me owning my identity and culture. It’s moving to know people feel seen through my work. Knowing that I could make even one person feel that makes me feel accomplished and driven to keep going.
You grew up in America, how have you managed to maintain a relationship with your Arab culture and heritage?
My parents did a great job at keeping our heritage present in the household by things like speaking in our native tongue, keeping with family traditions, listening to music from the region, cooking and eating Moroccan food, staying in touch with family, and making summer trips to Morocco. All of which we still do up to this day. I think it all helped create a strong connection to my cultural identity.
What is it about your upbringing, heritage and religion that inspires your music and visuals so much?
My upbringing, my heritage, and my religion all make me who I am. I want to make sure everything I touch always represents that. As a singer/songwriter, creating honest music and truly expressing myself means coming into every song, every video, every conversation, showing every side to me.
Are there any Arab artists you are inspired by?
I love Umm Kulthum! Her lyrics and stories are always sung with such emotion and have inspired me to be more vulnerable with my songwriting and performance.
What can you tell us about your forthcoming EP, "Heat"?
HEAT is the culmination of many years of growth and self-discovery for me. I really wanted the soundscape of this project to embody my identity and experiences as an Arab woman in 2020 and beyond. I’m still talking my shit except this time it’s over a bendir!!!
In your releases from "Mint" to "Inferno" and your social media posts, your Arab heritage seems to be a constant theme - is this something you hope to keep throughout you work going forward?
Yes, 1000000% percent.
What challenges have you faced so far trying to make it in the music industry, even as a Muslim woman, and how have you overcome them?
Some of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in the industry were ones I imposed on myself through self-doubt and fear of being judged. It’s difficult to trust yourself to make decisions when you’re constantly evolving and changing your mind. I think by recognizing that every experience and challenge is a part of the process, I granted myself the freedom to live my life the way I see fit, and the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
What does the rest of 2020 look like for ABIR the artist?
More and more music!
Lastly, what words of wisdom can you share with aspiring Arab female artists who are inspired by your message, presence and your work?
Do the things that make you happy and don’t give anyone the power to define you!