Fatima Al Qadiri
‘Sinogrime’ is a particularly ‘Asian’ – namely, Chinese-sounding – strand of grime. Pioneered by East London producers in the early 00s, sinogrime was defined by unhinged basslines and dramatic synth-strings, evoking images of the sound removed from its spiritual home of post-industrial London and placed in wildly exotic and whimsically ‘Other’ terrain.
It’s remembered for being a genre that scarcely existed, passed on through early Wiley/Jammer tracks and later attributed the title by Hyperdub boss Kode9. While the sound is experiencing a renaissance of sorts in the UK due to the increasing level of hype surrounding a cluster of instrumental grime producers, this year none have endorsed the sound more than Kuwait-born multidisciplinary artist and musician Fatima Al Qadiri, who similarly channels the genre’s looming-yet-dreamy palette as she explores her own distant Asia.
Following her vocal-led production as Ayshay (for which she twists Sunni and Shiite Muslim worship), the video game inspired gulf-futurism of Fade To Mind EP Desert Storm and the genre-busting Genre Specific Xperience, Al Qadiri presents a new exploration of musical lineage with debut album Asiatisch. Through Asiatisch’s warped orientalisms and distorted, faux-gerontogeous sounds she creates a vast and vivid world. Or, as she puts it, ‘a virtual roadtrip through an imagined China’. Whereas sinogrime arguably places its imagined China in the post-industrial future, Asiatisch nestles right into the clumsy re-appropriation of Asian motifs pervading Western media.
As an album which weaves through the fabric of a fabricated mythology, Al Qadiri dissects the intricate tapestry of the Chinese musical world as seen through the ubiquitous Western lens. Dragon Tattoo, for instance, explores Hollywood’s muddled representation by spinning lyrics from Lady and the Tramp’s We Are Siamese into cooing RnB. Wudang – titled after the region from which the Kung Fu-indebted Wu-Tang Clan got their name – samples classic Chinese poetry, and the glistening Shanghai Freeway drives you through the city’s distant futurism. Haunting opener Shanzai, a cover of Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U that features nonsensical Mandarin lyrics, is as strangely addictive as it sounds. The album is at its very core an album to do with, and comprised of, cultural misrepresentation and sonic assimilation through various falsifications and mishaps. Yet by crafting her own enchanting and worryingly recognisable faux-oriental world, Asiatisch is Al Qadiri’s most insatiable statement yet.
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Words: Anna Tehabsim