Nabiha curates an exclusive playlist for TGA and chats hard work, dreaming big – and the transcendental power of pop.
Multi-platinum selling Danish singer Nabiha dreams big, and has learned that big dreams do pay off. Her debut album More Cracks dropped in 2010, making a big splash in Denmark. 2011 saw the international edit, which included the instant club hit Never Played The Bass. She has since found wide success across Europe and the UK. In 2013, her follow-up album Mind The Gap proved another success, shooting to number ten in the Danish album charts. Upon release, Bang That Drum hurtled straight into the iTunes Top 5, cementing itself as an official urban dance anthem. Her next role was none other than as a judge on 2016’s Denmark’s Got Talent.
She was brought up on a steady diet of R&B, soul and reggae as well as traditional music reflective of her West African heritage – in particular the music of Gambia, Mali and Morocco. Ravenous for any and all varieties, she devoured just about any music she could.
“I listened to rock, pop, indie, world music – anything I could get my hands on,” she tells TGA. “I sang jazz, ska, electronic – you name it! It was important for me to try out all the genres in order to figure out my own sound, and in the end I found that my love for music wasn’t limited to one specific genre.”
This blend of influences saw her being drawn more and more towards the pop music sphere, an area of music that comfortably mixes and matches genres.
“What I love about pop is how it brings people together,” she says. “All my life we’ve listened to the radio, and in my family we sing along even if we don’t know the words. We laugh, dance, eat, sing – I think that’s where my love for music originated. It makes me feel at home.”
Growing up in the Vesterbro area of Copenhagen exposed her to an even wider array of musical styles. “I have always listened to what’s going on in Denmark, and the rest of Scandinavia as well as the UK and the US, which also influences me. I absolutely love living in Denmark, but I always wanted to get my music out everywhere and travel the world. Dreaming big definitely paid off.”
This year saw Nabiha playing the legendary American music festival, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
“The whole energy of the festival is amazing, you can really feel that Austin has a great love for music, and embraces so many different styles and people. We partied and played some cool venues. Thinking about this makes me wanna go back right now,” she says with a grin.
For Nabiha, grand ambitions and working hard are par for the course. A healthy curiosity has also been instrumental in shaping her path: “I was curious, I played in different bands”.
Her inquisitive mind and desire to explore helped develop and expand the scope of her artistic vision. “My sound has always been a mixture of many styles tied together,” she explains. “My musical journey, thoughts and life experiences are reflected in my words as well as my music. That’s what makes it personal to me.”
The young Nabiha Bensouda worked odd jobs in order to pay her way through music school. To get here, where she is today, hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been hard work, of course,” she says. “All day, every day. Sometimes one step forward, sometimes two steps back.”
A huge part of maintaining a career in music involves long periods spent on the road, which can seem glamorous from the outside but the reality is different. That isn’t to say it isn’t rewarding, or that she’s not grateful for everything her career brings – it’s just there are downsides.
“Being on the road can be lonely,” she says. “You tend to miss out on friends and family stuff, but if you do what you love, you find the strength on the hard days because you know it’s worth it. You surround yourself with good, like-minded people, and you work your ass off. The places I go, the people I meet, and the things I get to experience are priceless to me. I often feel blessed and thankful for being able to do what I love. It sounds so cliché, I know, but you can’t beat living your dream.”
Recently, Nabiha has taken her knowledge of the music world, and her inspirational ethos to national television. She was recruited as a judge for the first time on Denmark’s Got Talent this year, where she was able to help others fulfil their own musical aspirations. Of the experience, she says, “It’s been hilarious and nerve-wracking, and such a great experience to also judge different art forms than my own. It gets pretty crazy sometimes, but I like the madness. It’s great entertainment – and really, it’s just good fun.”
Most recently, she has collaborated with Dutch DJ/Producer Moti, providing vocals on the track Turn Me Up.
“It has been a great pleasure working with Moti and his team on Turn Me Up,’ she says. “Actually, we didn’t meet each other until we shot the music video. When I first heard the track, I went in to write the song with Ki Fitzgerald and Duck Blackwell in London. The vibe in the studio was fire! The track is so uplifting, it just makes you want to put your hands up and dance. We really wanted to emphasize that lyrically and melodically. I love the fact that you can work with people from all over the world, but not necessarily be in the same room, it makes it feel like everything is possible.”
A musical globe-trotter from her earliest days, it’s little surprise that her outlook towards musical collaboration and connection is so positive. The world of music isn’t an island, and Nabiha continues to embrace the richly vivid tapestry of the shared soundscapes that colour the globe.
Nowadays, she works on narrowing down her influences.
“The soundscape is more clean, genre-wise, but more gritty in the production,” she explains. “I try to push my songwriting and I like to give people a little something new every time.”
Her expansive sensibilities know no limits. When asked where she would like to take her music in the future, she answers enthusiastically, “Anywhere, everywhere, all over, no limits. I’d like to keep pushing myself, explore, dig deeper, you know? A natural progression in my musical journey, but most of all I just want to have fun with it.”
With an insatiable appetite for creativity and an adventurous spirit, Nabiha is a passionate soul whose gift to the collective pop landscape is one that leaves ample time for fun and freedom, for both the listeners and the artist. Dreaming big, it seems, pays big dividends.
Nabiha has curated an exclusive playlist for TGA. She takes us through the tracks, one by one, below.
Avery Wilson – Change My Mind
“First heard him do a brilliant cover of Adele’s ‘Hello’ on Youtube. Boy can sing! But it was only after Spotify had suggested this song to me and I’d put it on my workout playlist that I found he was both talented and diverse. Keep an eye out for this one!”
Tinie Tempah ft. Zara Larsson – Girls Like
“I love this production and I’m a Tinie fan.”
MOTi ft. Nabiha – Turn Me Up
“Had to put this on the list cause it always gets me dancing and puts a smile on my face. Get ready for the good vibes coming your way.”
Seeb – Breathe
“I’ve loved this since I first heard it. So simple, and it works. Reminds me of summer nights by the ocean, driving in L.A with the top down, heartbreak, you name it.”
Krishane ft. Patoranking – Inconsiderate
“One of my favorite summer tunes this year.”
Major Lazer ft. MOTi, Ty Dolla $ign, Whizkid – Boom
“Big fan of Major Lazer. This one is in collaboration with MOTi whose new single Turn Me Up features yours truly.”
Anne-Marie – Do It Right
“I love her songwriting, her vocals and the way she describes the feeling of new love is spot on.”
Leikeli47 – Heard ‘Em Say
“This song is a couple of years old, but the attitude is still fresh.”
Rihanna ft. Drake – Work
“Epic spring tune, still gets me on the floor. Now let’s get to work.”
Flume ft. Tove Lo – Say It
“I love the little folky Scandinavian melodies she sneaks into this otherwise current pop song. Reminds me of my Viking heritage.”
DNCE – Cake By The Ocean
“One of those songs I can’t seem to get out of my head.”