Nilufer Yanya – Interview 2018

With a place on the BBC Sound of 2018 poll to her name, a string of festival and worldwide dates ahead of her, and the promise of a debut album in the near future, 22-year-old Nilufer Yanya is on the cusp of great things. Performing at the open mic scene in London, her ‘Baby Luv’ single of last year propelled her into the limelight. She was in town for The Great Escape, performing two shows. We caught up with her that day to ask a few quick questions.

Your first time here?
No, I played last year. It was on the I-D stage at the Brighthelm Centre. Really good.

Tell us a bit about your musical background
I started writing when I was quite young, started playing guitar and then classical piano.

Can we expect an album soon?
I’m working on an album, that will hopefully come out early next year. I don’t know what it’s going to be, how it’s going to sound, but it’s exciting.

You haven’t written it, yet…
I’m writing it! I write mainly on a guitar. I can’t really produce myself, so I’m working with different producers.

How would you describe what you do?
I don’t think you can really say the right thing. Nobody likes to be put in a box. But we’ve got guitars happening, and an indie-rock vibe, and a bit of a soul vibe too. I like songs that have stories and situations that you can almost catch, but you can’t quite ever catch properly. It’s more a vibe… a feeling.

You do The Pixies’ ’Hey’ in your set. People also talk about Amy Winehouse…
Lots of people say Amy Winehouse. I think she’s obviously amazing, but again I don’t think my music is like her music.

What are you currently listening to at the moment?
There’s a singer called Ravyn Renae, and an Egyptian singer called Marion Sila, who’s really cool.

How do you discover your new music?
Spotify is good. YouTube. My friends. My brothers and sisters. It’s a lot easier to discover music yourself these days.

Do you have a favourite artist that got you into music, into writing?
I really loved The Pixies and The Cure. That guitar-fronted melody.

Tell me about Artists in Transit, the organisation that helps refugees in Athens.
It’s about showing solidarity through art. We like art and people like art, so it’s a good way to get to know people, and show solidarity with displaced refugee people. We’ve been working in Athens at the squats and camps. They’re from all over, although last couple of years they’ve been mainly from Africa and Afghanistan. Although in the past month or so, it’s been mainly Syrians arriving, as we know. It’s taken a turn for the worse.

I can’t go this time around, but went in March. That was our fifth workshop that we did. The others are going back at end of May.

You yourself come from different backgrounds
My dad is Turkish, and my mum is Irish and Caribbean, from Barbados. It’s becoming real, this racism, as you grow up, which is weird. To realise how far behind in development as a country we are.

Jeff Hemmings