Nabihah Iqbal, better known as Throwing Shade, is wearing multiple hats. When she is not djing around the world or working on music in her South-London home studio, she is doing field recordings and digging for new music for her popular NTS Radio show. Her last EP House of Silk was released on Ninja Tune in March.
Just back from a trip to America, Australia and South-Korea, she talks travels, her multicultural influences, parties, and her love for London.
Your NTS radio show is truly refreshing. What is your personal approach to music curation?
Having studied Ethnomusicology at university, I’ve been exposed to music from all around the world, rather than just western music. I was especially interested in understanding the cultural context of music, and its significance for people accross the globe.
I’m always searching for new music, in record stores or online. YouTube, for example, is pretty good for discovering things. Choosing the music takes a long time. I research each track, take a lot of notes and put the show together. This process usually takes me two days of work. My next show will be on Korean music, as I made some good recordings when I was out there. Korean music is amazing.
Do you travel a lot to find more music?
Everytime I go somewhere, I make a point of discovering music and make some recordings. In January, I went to Pakistan and made a lot of different recordings and collected music to play on the show. I did the same when I was in Jamaica. I like being productive, even if I’m just abroad for holiday.
“Being from London and growing up here
really feeds into the music I make.”
How do you get in a creative mood and start producing?
I love working at night. Sometimes the process is very quick, I will find the basis of a track in half an hour. Another time, I will be working for ages and delete everything in the end because I hate it. My weeks are quite busy, but I always put aside a few days where I can just concentrate on music. I need a good chunk of time, I can’t produce anything if I only have a spare couple of hours. It’s quite hard, as I am often away.
You’re immersed in many different musical cultures through your show. What inspired you the most to compose House of Silk ?
My influences are really sub-conscious. Being from London and growing up here feeds into the music I make. People called the EP cosmic hip-hop, and I think it’s a good description.
The first song on your EP is called hashtag IRL. It features your distorted voice, enumerating popular internet acronyms. What is your relation with the digital space?
The internet is so crazy. I’m not one of those people that is constantly on their phone, but I can’t really escape it as an artist now. That’s a domain you have to be a part of. Soundcloud is how I got my first release, so I wouldn’t be here without the internet. I’m just worried about younger people. I remember not having internet and not having a phone. But when I look at my younger brother and sister, they are obsessed with YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. It seems quite stressful.
What do you think about the London music scene?
London is really fun. People are open-minded when it comes to music. When I play in different countries, it is always very interesting to see how the crowd reacts to the different music I play. In London, everyone is really up for dancing and having a good time, but it is totally different in places like Paris or Copenhagen, where people are more narrow-minded with their music choices.
I feel sad, though, about how many clubs are disappearing. Power Lunches has closed down, and I just heard yesterday that Dance Tunnel was closing down too. I just got the bus down to Kingsland Street, and I was looking at all the things that have changed recently. There have been 3 or 4 new places that have emerged since I’ve been away, it’s crazy but I still think London is the best city in the world. You have many different kinds of people, there is a really good energy. There is always something going on, you just have to find it.
What are your go-to places in London?
Dance Tunnel is my favourite club in Dalston. I also love Rhythm Section in Peckham. I put on my own parties from time to time. I did one recently at Servant Jazz Quarters, with a bunch of my friends to Dj, mostly NTS people. I like small places, and I prefer when people are there to dance, rather than standing around.
“Can music just be called music?”
What do you think about the term world music?
I never use it. It comes from Western academics looking at music from everywhere else, and calling it world music. I don’t like that because of the barrier it creates. Can music just be called music? The term also has a very fuzzy reputation and a lot of connotations. When I think about the term world music, I think about some really cheesy African music compilations – and it’s not about that! Music is so limitless, there is so much out there. Let’s just call it music!
What’s your advice to people who want to broaden their musical horizons?
My NTS show had a big impact on a lot of the listeners. I get messages all the time from people saying how much they enjoy listening to the show. They had never heard that kind of music before. The challenge is to spark the interest. People will then go and discover for themselves.
I try to do the same thing when I dj. I never play just one genre of music. A lot of djs will play full sets of house or techno, but I personally find that boring. It’s the easiest kind of music to mix and it’s so linear. You need to build up energy.
I always try to make things up that you wouldn’t normally hear. I was playing Japanese house music the other day when I was in Seoul, with some Portuguese Afro-Beat sounding tracks, and South African music. I also did this mix where I play Rihanna and mix it with Arabic dance music, and it works really well. It’s obviously two things that no one would put together. People have had a good reaction to this. I want people to get into what I play so they can realise they don’t have to just listen to house music.
What are your plans for the coming months?
I’m playing quite a few shows abroad, some festivals and some shows around the UK. I’m also working on a film soundtrack at the moment. I would also like to get some music ready for my next release, which might be an album.
Listen to Throwing Shade’s show on NTS Radio.