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It’s 10.30 am, on Kingsland Road, and Fatima Bramme Sey’s ordering a plate of creamy hummus topped with fresh falafel. “I was up ‘til five in the morning,” she grins, ruefully. “Finishing some stuff. I’m really a night person, so now I’m just trying to be alive!”

Fatima fizzes with energy. She speaks in exclamation marks, with a sharp sense of humour, and insists I fact-check everything she tells me: “There’s been so many releases. I’m not the historian!” We’re meeting to discuss her creative process; a new album’s on the way, and in a few days she’s due to perform at the Barbican, supporting legendary Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke, so there’s a post-falafel band rehearsal scheduled at her regular practice space near the Ridley Road market. The Swedish singer is a mainstay of well-loved East London label Eglo, co-founded by Alexander Nut and Floating Points, and Fatima feels like regular royalty in Dalston. During breakfast, she leaps from her chair to hug friends passing by and jabs a finger at the window: “That’s Hercules! I think that’s my bassist!”

In the eight years since her debut EP Mindtravellin’ (2010), Fatima’s collaborated with a wish-list of sought-after producers, and performed with the Eglo Live Band to translate her taut tracks in to more freeform jams. “I’m blessed because my band, they are so skilled,” she says, “I don’t just stick to the song the way it’s sung on record, I do tend to embellish. And you never know, I might trip on a cable! There’s room for flexibility, spontaneity, and possible mistakes. Not that my shows are filled with mistakes!” She laughs, and compares that ‘live’ feel to the nights she’d jump on the mic at a party: “I rarely do it these days unless it’s a really fun party, if I feel really inspired. But that doesn’t really require any preparation. Apart from life experience! I’m not always good at it, but that’s the thing, you’ve got to take the risk, that’s the charm.”

Fatima moved from Stockholm to London in 2006, and found her feet by investigating the scene: “I just kept going out. A drum and bass night? Let me check that out. An open mic night? Let me check that out. It was like a little mystery you gotta solve, what’s going on in club-world?” One night she met Nut, “in one of the little basement clubs down the road”, and he invited her to guest on his Rinse FM show: “At that time it was still pirate, and he invited me via MySpace! Shout out to MySpace.” This twist of fate led to Fatima signing to the newly coined Eglo Records, and her loyal relationship with the eclectic label has seen her experiment with genres, producers and styles. “It’s special to have created something from scratch with someone,” she says. “It’s fun to grow together, to see how far we can take it.”

Combining a golden, old-school talent for buttery soul vocals with a prescient talent for keeping ahead of the curve, Fatima’s tracks reference ‘70s disco, ‘90s R&B, jazz balladry and innovative electronica, taking in London’s streets and LA’s heat. After collaborating with the likes of smooth LA legend Dam Funk, West London’s FunkinEven and ‘Grimey Breakfast’ host turned digital jazz enthusiast Scratcha DVA, a long awaited debut LP Yellow Memories (2014) doubled down on Fatima’s genre-crossing powers. From the cool melancholy and ‘70s brass on Floating Points-produced Do Better, to the spell-binding acapella on Sun Star Solar and the double-punch of screwed R&B hits Family and La Neta (with German-Chilean innovator Flako), Fatima always sounds singularly herself. It’s precisely this quality – an ability to shift and morph genre and sounds, without diluting her distinct identity – that led to Fatima being earmarked as a face of Ace and Tate’s high profile ‘Me Myself and I’ campaign, alongside fellow artistic outliers Lena Willikens and Mona Morssy from hardcore outfit Vile Act. The campaign celebrates creatives and individuals who are proudly made up of many components – a trait of multiplicity which Fatima exudes. How does she do it? “Take a little bit of baking soda, a little bit of cinnamon, mix it up… Nah, It’s just me. I guess that’s the magic! That’s the sauce! I can’t explain it, can’t give it away. Wait, would you come in to this restaurant and ask for the recipe?” She lets rip a booming laugh: “NEXT QUESTION!”

Looking serious for a second, she puts the success of her collaborations down to two ingredients: respect and chemistry. “From the jump, you need to know that I’m in to what you’re creating, and vice versa. Respect is number one. Second, hopefully each person can bounce off each other.”

A new album is looming, but a “master plan” is keeping the details locked down. “I gotta keep it a bit secret!” she laughs, sipping mint tea. “But I can tell you that there’s been so much going on. I have one very fancy guest!” After a long-term relationship “went down the drain” during the writing process, Fatima found that it focused her resolve: “You live through a situation, you make it in to a creation, and now I’ve got to live with it in a different way. But through it all I’ve always been sure of myself. I never let go of that. Everyone should always remember their inner voice. You can twist and turn in so many ways. So the album’s about going through the e-mo-tions, but also having some fun. [It’s] not all miserable!”

Somebody Else, the first cut from the record, with London producer JD Reid, is about “dreaming away”. Sultry and blue, Fatima’s smoky vocals speak to reinvention, finding happiness, rediscovering a “full glory” after a ground-shaking break-up. Reid’s beats are soulful and scratched, dreamy and tough. This kind of duality, a give and take, shows Fatima at full power: “It’s all in your own mind,” she urges. “Take a grime track, a house track – you don’t have to rap, you could growl if you want to. It’s about how open your mind is! What’s your style? What’s your vibe? What does this beat inspire you to do? I just do me. I just flow.”

Photography: Jack Johnstone
Styling: Lisa Dymph Megens
Makeup: Chloe Botting using NARS Cosmetics