By Stephanie Amy Collazo Photo Credit: Marie Taillefer
Born in the south of Morocco, singer-songwriter Hindi Zahra has come a long way from home to bring us her American debut album, Handmade. After moving across the Mediterranean to live with her father in Paris, Zahra began honing her craft working as a backup vocalist for hip-hop flavored soul acts. A Jill of all trades, Zahra not only composed and wrote all of the lyrics/music for her latest album, but also recorded and produced it as well. Before kicking off her first U.S. tour in New York we caught up with Hindi Zahra to get to know a little more about the woman behind the music.
YRB: How did you get your start in music?
Hindi: My uncles were musicians [and] my mother was a singer. When I moved to Paris [I] started to do music with other musicians. Then I started to do hip-hop, jazz and lyric opera. I started to record my first album when I was 28. I rented an apartment and recorded some material there.
YRB: What did you learn from your experience as a backup singer?
Hindi: Essentially how to record in the studio; I think it took me two or three years to learn.
YRB: How would you describe your music style to someone that has never heard it before?
Hindi: That’s a really hard question, to define my music? I think it’s a mix of different styles. I’ve tried to make my music [sound like it’s] from Morocco [mixed with] Western music like jazz [and] blues music. I think it’s essentially based on the blues and jazz with different influences like rock and roll and oriental rhythms.
YRB: What are some of your musical influences?
Hindi: Most of it is black music from America and also from Africa. Also oriental music, Egyptian music [and] Indian music.
YRB: How did working at the Louvre influence your music?
Hindi: I started to paint a lot. It’s [also] a big influence because [I was surrounded by] art and history. I’ve learned that knowledge and art are really close. The first words were drawings so I really link art to knowledge.
YRB: You just dropped the digital release of your American debut Handmade. How has it been received?
Hindi: We had really good reviews from the people that heard the album before it came out on iTunes.
YRB: You composed, produced and arranged Handmade in its entirety, what’s it like having that much control over your music?
Hindi: It’s freedom; that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want to sign before the album was finished because I didn’t want to do just one style of music. I didn’t have people around me to tell me what I was supposed to do. I think people were expecting for me to do a jazz album and it was not. I wanted to break the barriers, so being the producer was a freedom I had with the music.