So chuffed about this fantastic article in the Sydney Morning Herald online. The same article was also published in The Canberra Times and The Brisbane Times.
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Born and bred in Perth to a Chinese-Malaysian father and an Iranian mother, Shameem’s voice is as unique and worldly as her upbringing.
“My first memory of music is Michael Jackson,” she says through a chuckle. “My mum really liked him, she has a love for pop music. Also I have memories of my grandmother chanting prayers around the house.”
The soul singer seamlessly blends modern R&B and 1970s soul with a sprinkling of jazz piano that has seen her compared more than once to one of her childhood idols Alicia Keys.
Growing up in the most isolated city in the world she quickly realised that she was different from most people around her and treated differently as a result. At school she would often hang out with the “loner” Asian kids who she noticed were quite often excluded by some people.
“People look at me and they don’t know where the heck I come from. I look like I could come from anywhere in the world. When I was growing up I noticed that people would be a little cautious around me because of how I looked. They couldn’t pigeonhole me or put me in a box so they were a little confused by me I think.”
Her latest album, The Second City, was written in only a few days while in England working alongside Grammy-winning songwriter James Bryan. Known for his work with Nelly Furtado and Olly Murs, Bryan found Shameem (believe it or not) on Myspace. Sceptical at first about the internet introduction, she embraced his invitation to collaborate and a strong bond between the two was born.
“The whole experience has taught me that if you’re working with the right person it really brings the best out of you. I hadn’t found someone until now that I could work with in that way. He was constantly probing me to come up with parts and stimulating my creativity. Songwriting had been a completely solitary experience for me until then.”
The album is one that Shameem is extremely proud of. One that encapsulates her thoughts, dreams and beliefs into an explosion of soul. Her piano and voice take you on a journey to a world full of positivity, love and understanding.
“The title of the album comes from a very long mystical and flowery Iranian poem by Bahá’u’lláh,” she says keeping her playful bubbly tone, despite the seriousness of her subject matter. “There’s lots of symbolism and it’s a little difficult to understand, but it talks about how the soul travels through seven stages known as valleys or cities. I wrote a song on the album about the second of these cities which is love, so I thought that because it was also my second album it made sense.”
Her first single from the album titled Under One Sun is as inspiring as it is catchy. It doesn’t carry your everyday pop message and is a song very close to her heart and mind.
“All humanity is really essentially all one family,” explains Shameem very matter of factly. “Scientists believe we are all evolved from a small group of people in the Horn of Africa. We are all related. It seems bizarre that if we are all related that we think more highly of some people than we think of others. So the song is about just that and how we should all come together because we are all one.”
Inspired by her upbringing and her life experiences, Shameem is socially conscious, emotional and spiritual in the way she sees and understands the world.
“I’ve had a unique experience being a multiracial person growing up in Australia. I also keep an eye on the news and what’s happening around the world. Sometimes I can’t watch the news too much because it effects me very emotionally, which is probably why I feel I have to write about it. Also I grew up learning about the Bahai teachings which are centred around unity, it’s a concept which inspires me a lot.”
The growing Perth music scene is also an inspiration to Shameem. A city with a long history of rock bands that have conquered the east coast, it is quickly growing into a place of musical diversity. It’s a city transforming with new sounds and new expressions.
“The thing I love about Perth is that it’s gotten more diverse over the last 10 years,” says Shameem. “There are more people from Africa, India and the Middle East living here now, which is quickly adding to the musical landscape. There are some amazing world music bands here at the moment.”
A trained jazz musician, she loves to improvise live and provide each audience with a unique experience and perspective to her music. It was an education that would mix with her love of pop music to create an eclectic artist willing to delve deeper than many of her contemporaries.
“I learned the technical side of jazz and also how to improvise, which I feel is very important. To me jazz is a framework which allows for a lot of freedom. I used to put a solo in every song but these days I only have a couple on the record but live is where we can be in the moment and express ourselves as a band and individuals.”
Since the hype of her self-titled debut album in 2011, Shameem has supported major international artists such as George Benson, Ronan Keating and Belinda Carlisle. She has headlined national tours in Australia, US and Canada, and has expanded her fan base with each northern summer tour. So what will 2015 bring for the talented artist?
“I’ve been invited to Canadian Music Week this year which is amazing. I’m hoping to get back to Europe but we’ll have to see if we can afford the trip home first.”