Nabihah Iqbal has mortality on her mind. The NTS Radio regular, formerly known as Throwing Shade, has explored timeless existential questions on her debut album Weighing of the Heart. The title itself references an Ancient Egyptian myth about the afterlife, while its tracks explore themes of monotony, escapism, struggle, pleasure, and the oh-so-familiar feeling of forever wanting more from life. Iqbal’s own desire to move past boundaries has seen her revert to her birth name, a choice inspired by thoughts on representation in the media, as well as exploring a new, soft-focus sound – one indebted to the music she consumed as a teenager. Here, Iqbal takes us through this and more in a snapshot of her characteristically eclectic taste.
A record that had an irreversible impact on me as a teenager
Radiohead’s Kid A (Parlophone, 2000) had a very profound impact on me. It was the first album on which they incorporated a lot of electronic elements. After becoming obsessed with that record, I started exploring more electronic music. The main thing that I took away from it is how emotive electronic music can be.
A record that shocked me
Joanna Newsom’s first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City, 2004) got me into folk music when I was around 17-18, and the whole freak folk scene that was happening around that time. Her voice sounds so weird. Some people hate the sound of her voice, but for me it was just so incredible. She plays the harp in an idiosyncratic way. She’s playing a western classical harp but not in a western classical style, and so that caught my attention and influenced my curiosity about instruments from other parts of the world.
The record that made me appreciate jazz
My Favourite Things by John Coltrane (Atlantic, 1961), and it’s still one of my favourite jazz pieces ever. It’s a cover of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, but it just takes a journey. I used to play it really loud on repeat and all my flatmates were like, “oh my god, can you just turn it off.” Even now, I get goosebumps. It definitely got me interested in this more spiritual side of jazz.
A record I picked up because of the cover
In Japan a couple of weeks ago, one record that stood out from the others was First by Nachiko (1980, Epic). She’s like the Japanese version of Kate Bush or something. It has this really cool painting on the front of like, a sexy female robot in outer space.
A track from this year with lyrics that speak to me
SOPHIE, It’s Okay to Cry (MSMSMSM INC., 2017). I’m friends with SOPHIE and so it’s interesting to see her trajectory now. For us, the way that I’ve decided to do more vocals and be more upfront in my music, she’s decided to do the same. She’s started identifying as female, and it’s like the first time that she’s visible, I guess, in the music. And she’s really good at writing lyrics. They capture an idea and a feeling so perfectly. It doesn’t have to be like complex language, it just sets the scene so vividly.
A record with deep significance to me
My new album (Ninja Tune, 2017). I’ve never put so much energy into anything before. I didn’t make a conscious departure from my previous records but it’s mostly influenced by music I listened to as a teenager. The name change marks my development as an artist. I’ve also been thinking a lot about identity and representation. There’s not a lot of Asian British Pakistani girls doing what I’m doing. I get messages from ethnic minority people from all over saying it’s inspiring for them to see what I’m doing. Even in popular culture, brown people are really, really underrepresented. So I wanted to be transparent and let people know exactly who I am and what I’m doing. Maybe that will inspire more people to feel like they can do it too.
Weighing of the Heart is out now via Ninja Tune