Sisters Of Sound: Meet Arabia's Music Industry Disruptors

They span genres, capture audiences with their melodic tunes and have garnered the backing of major industry talents. Meet the region’s pioneers of sound, moving to their own stylish beat…

Fatma Al Bakry

26, Omani, DJ Novemberus/photographer

Fatma Al Bakry wears: Jacket and trousers, both Valentino. Shoes, Dhs1,830, Stuart Weitzman. Bag, Dhs4,170, Miu Miu at Matches Fashion. Necklace, Dhs12,000, Celine.

“I grew up in Muscat and I grew up watching MTV and VH1. I used to round up my friends and invite them over so that we could do photoshoots, and I’d curate playlists for them based on their moods, too.

I always imagined myself as somehow involved in the music industry. I ended up learning how to DJ because I wanted to spin at my first photography exhibition for International Women’s Day, and this year I directed my first music video for an Omani-based duo. I think music teaches us so much:

It heals, it empowers, it inspires. All my photoshoots are inspired by a song or a lyric, including my alias Novemberus. There aren’t many female DJs in the Middle East, let alone Arabs, so it’s scary and exciting at the same time. That’s how I know I’m on the right path. If my style was a genre it would be late ’90s and 2000s R&B/Soul. I really appreciate the fashion from that era. It was feminine and boyish at the same time, which is how I dress. It was when the urban scene dominated, and when hip hop artists started shouting out the names of designers in their songs... That’s when these two worlds collided and became one. I love the freedom of expression it represented.”

Aleksandra Krstic

33, Serbian, singer/songwriter/pianist

Fatma wears: Trousers, Dhs1,695, No21; Top, Dhs2,380, Alexander Wang, both at Etoile “La boutique”. Necklace, Dhs5,200, Celine. Belt, Dhs1,420, Dsquared2. Shoes, Dhs1,650, Stuart Weitzman.

Aleksandra Krstic wears: Dress, Dhs13,753; belt, Dhs2,300; shoes, Dhs2,717; earrings,  Dhs6,230, all Givenchy.

“I was born and raised in Pancevo – a small town next to the capital of Serbia. I was always passionate about arts, music and theatre. Luckily my parents and teachers noticed, so they encouraged me. I studied classical piano at elementary school and high school, and then at the University of Belgrade, where I got my Masters Degree in classical piano. I loved playing both Chopin and Rachmaninoff, especially while studying at the Faculty of Music, and I also loved playing Liszt and Scriabin. Recently I have been playing Mozart and Bach more. But my influences as a singer/songwriter are the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Lauren Hill, to name a few.

My style is eclectic. I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but I do like high-end and high street, contemporary and vintage, and I love heels, dresses and flowing fabrics. I also love creating a personal bond with my audience. It’s not always easy to summon that kind of feeling, but it’s so beautiful and rewarding when people understand your work. I deeply believe that quality and hard work pay off in the long run no matter what gender you are. The hustle is the same. Be brave, be ready to go that extra mile to reach your goals and be prepared that some things will not always go the way you want them to. Don’t compromise the quality of your work, do ignore negativity and only listen to constructive criticism. Lastly, know your value and be bold about it.”

Stephanie Farah

27, Lebanese/South African, singer/founder of Empyre Communications PR Agency

Stephanie Farah wears: Skirt, Dhs7,545; jacket, Dhs8,455, both Alaïa. Shoes, Dhs3,700, Bottega Veneta

“As far back as I can remember, my passion for music was always there. At 16, I set up a mini recording studio in my bedroom, which led to me writing and recording my own music. Since then, I’ve sung in a music video with Karl Wolf and 36 Mafia, and was asked to be the opening act for Flo Rida’s concert. I love urban music, and I’ve always loved the street style look – trainers and hoodies.

Music is everything. It compliments life and can change your mood in an instant. When I find a song that hits that emotional spot, I listen to it over and over. I like to think that when people hear my music they feel just as strongly moved as I do making it. Thankfully, my experience as a female singer has been positive. I feel like we’re given the same opportunities, and equally respected. My advice would be to make sure you’re always prepared to show off your own music – you never know where it could take you – and don’t follow the flock, do your own thing. I live by so many songs, but one that stands out is Wild Things by Alessia Cara. It’s so powerful and motivational. It’s a great reminder to never let society dictate what you do and to embrace yourself for who you are.”

Layal Halabi/DD Foxx

32, Saudi Arabian, singer/songwriter

Layal Halabi wears: Coat, Dhs8,630, Alexander Wang at Etoile “La boutique”. Top, Dhs310, Paco Rabanne at Matches Fashion. Trousers, Dhs2,780, Marni. Shoes, Dhs3,700, Bottega Veneta.

“I have always loved music. I sang in the choir at school, and I’ve been singing professionally for about 10 years. Right now, I’m preparing for a US tour. I listen to all types of genres, I don’t restrict myself as it helps my creativity and writing as an artist. Music gives me joy, happiness, sadness and energy. It is the door to your soul. I feel the energy people give me back when I’m performing and it lets me know I’m on the right track. I usually dress according to how I feel.

My style is mostly a little tomboyish. My favourite song is Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time. It’s such a powerful song with powerful lyrics about believing in yourself against all odds. The lyrics really touched me when I first heard it and give me that inner strength. As a woman in the music industry, I speak for myself. Yes, there are challenges, but I have dignity, and I respect myself. I feel that no woman should follow another woman’s footsteps. My advice for women is to believe in your talent. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have mentors, but I feel each woman should create her own path so that she can learn along the way. From the very start it was my teacher, my family, my best friend and my producer/manager who helped me believe in myself and still do."


From February 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

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