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Fatima Al Qadiri
Shaneera Ollie Zhang , October 10th, 2017 16:12

Al Qadiri sticks to her political commitments, but this time she's having a lot more fun doing it

“Shaneera” is a mispronunciation of shanee’a, or شنيعة - an Arabic word synonymous with “outrageous,” “nefarious,” “hideous,” and “foul”. In certain Arab countries, the term has been adopted as queer slang; “shanee’a” has been reclaimed for its gender-warping, stereotype-defying capacities.

Shaneera the EP sees Al Qadiri expand into what for her is new musical territory. Her last release Brute at times began to feel tiresome in its over-reliance on musical staples heard in Al Qadiri’s previous work - slightly worn melodies and timbres too closely related to those heard on Asiatisch, Genre-Specific Xperience, and even 2012’s Desert Strike. Brute also felt somewhat tired in how Al Qadiri hammered home her conceptual and political intents behind the record, stifling the music in the process.

In Shaneera, on the other hand, Al Qadiri has fun with the material, and the EP marks a step towards dancefloor-geared rhythms and tempos. Though Asiatisch at times had a dry humour about it, this release evidences a different sense of pleasure. These are tracks you can dance to, with a wider sprawl of influences. Al Qadiri takes the UK bass influence beyond Kode9’s halftime sinogrime, with rhythms that mimic the hard-drum sounds of south-London staple Her Records. Certain kick patterns also reference contemporary ballroom, and the sounds of Qween Beat.

Arabesque melodies paired with dance drum arrangements and warped vocals come together in a way that is distinctively Al Qadiri. She maintains her political commitments, but also maintains a sense of joy beyond the dance-able rhythms. The collaborators and vocalists on the record are well suited to this kind of cultural play and sonic drag; the caricature-like leer in “shaneeeeeera” is delightful. Lama3an is a “Kuwaiti/Iraqi architect who moonlights as an artist and fashion designer.” Bobo Secret “works in finance” but also has an “uncanny ability [to project] an evil femme queen voice,” as heard on four of the five tracks. Chaltham, like Al Qadiri, is a member of artist collective GCC. Naygow remains anonymous, but supplies delicate vocals to closing track ‘Galby’ - one of the highlights of the release.

The Arabesque melodic ornamentation in ‘Galby’ pairs well with Al Qadiri’s percussion arrangements. It is in-keeping with the rest of the record in its dark tones, but also shows that Al Qadiri is trying to push outside her melodic comfort zone, and this is rewarding. On ‘Alkahaf’, vocals translate incredibly well with an uncompromising kick pattern and foreboding synth arrangements.

The fun of Shaneera is one of its strengths. Its lyrics are comprised of material from Grindr chats, drag skits, as well as an Iraqi proverb - the language itself is a hybrid of Kwaiti and Egyptian Arabic. Al Qadiri subtly steps into a pop-star role in record’s cover art, though at first glance, she isn’t recognisable. She ventures further into kitsch, with makeup inspired by a noughties Kuwaiti trend, which is cleverly paired with an unyielding glance and a hint of a wry smile. This isn’t the only form of drag shaping the record, which is what makes it an exciting hybrid - playing with culture’s malleability is what Al Qadiri does best. Shaneera is a powerful embodiment of gender and genre defiance.