Entertainment / Music

A Conversation with Iraqi Music Artist Shébani

Iraqi-born and raised in the UAE, Shébani has quickly captured the hearts of listeners and fans worldwide with her unforced, yet captivating music that shines an introspective light onto our deepest emotions as humans and singing directly to our heart and soul. Vibrant, emotional, and unabashedly honest, Shébani effortlessly dives deep into the aspects of what it is to be human, encompassing all the beauty and flaws of fear, love, regret, bliss, or anxiety within her music. With every note, melody, and vocal nuance, Shébani touches upon themes often subdued, embracing the challenges of modern-day relevance whilst embodying the significance of reflection and truth as a woman for women.

Always gravitated towards expressing her authentic self in music rather than word, Shébani brings forth hidden emotions in just one melodic line. Raised in a creative family yet suppressed by the social stigmas of where she was raised, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Alternative R&B singer-songwriter officially started her music career through YouTube covers and open-mic performances. In 2016, Shébani penned her debut official release; a 6-track EP titled, “Alter Ego.” Shortly thereafter, her career quickly flourished, graduating from The British and Irish Modern Music Institute in 2017, with that same year opening for Pusha T at Sole DXB in December 2017.

Shébani continues to inspire with her music, connecting with fans worldwide with her uninterrupted authenticity and vocal prowess, as well as sparking keen interest and support from high-profile artists, opening for the likes of Jorja Smith and Liam Payne in 2019, performing at The EXPO 2020 in Dubai, and just recently opening for Khalid at Formula 1 Abu Dhabi in December 2021.

With her single, “Burn Me Out,” out now, we took some time to hear more from Shébani. Read below to learn more about Shébani, the story behind her single, and what’s to come.

Hi Shébani! Let’s start with how did you get your artist name?

It’s my family name! My name is Sarah Al-Shaybani, so I used my family name, but with a twist. That’s how “Shébani” was created.

What city are you from and where are you based now?

I’m Iraqi-born, UAE-raised, and UAE-based.

At what point in your life did you decide to pursue a career in music? How did you get started?

I think I’ve always had the inclination to sing and dive deep into the creative fields. I loved music, theatre, film, and photography. That’s everything that I did growing up, constantly creating when I was younger. It wasn’t until I graduated from university that I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in music. That’s when I moved to London to study songwriting, and now here we are!

Has your upbringing played a role in shaping who you are and defining your sound today? If so, how?

Absolutely! I’m the youngest in the family, so I’m heavily influenced by the music and films my sisters listened to growing up. We listened to a lot of boy bands, girl bands, and R&B. I can see how that sound influences my writing and creation today, but I’m also learning a lot about myself along the way. The process of exploring your sound and who you are as an artist is my favorite part.

How would you describe your sound to readers who may not be familiar with you?

I’d say it’s honest, emotional, bright, and nostalgic.

Do you have any hobbies outside of music? What do you do to stay creative?

Plenty! Honestly, the list goes on. I’m really big on living my life outside of music because aside from the transcendent creation process, managing yourself as an independent artist can get really stressful.

I love living my life alongside my loved ones, so I’m constantly looking for new activities to do. I read, I go to the beach a lot, – the ocean is therapeutic for me – swimming and snorkeling as well. I enjoy baking; it’s my go to destress activity.

Who are some of your main musical influences?

I’d say NAO, Jon Bellion, Gallant, and Julia Michaels would be a good start.

Who would be a dream to collaborate with?

Dream collaboration would definitely be NAO. I’m manifesting studio sessions with her in this lifetime!!!!

What are some of your future music career goals?

Tour, tour, and tour. It’s my ultimate dream. I’m ready to travel the world through music.

What is “Burn Me Out” about in your own words?

“Burn Me Out” is a metaphor for a cycle that repeats itself. The emotional trauma, gaslighting, and trust issues collected from one relationship and brought into the next. You know it’ll be different, but there’s still a tug of war taking place inside your mind; hoping for your new love to not see your pain as “crazy,” but, in fact, help you heal and understand that you’ve been hurt. Often, we are stuck in-between healing/succumbing, but “Burn Me Out” emphasizes that we should always choose to heal.

What is your favorite lyric in “Burn Me Out” and why?

Second verse: “Wish I was strong enough back in the day / wish I could say / that I’m done with all the gaslighting.”

This line summarizes the entire song. Like many people who have experienced toxic relationships, I was made to believe that I’m too emotional, too much, too crazy, and have too many trust issues. We always know in the back of our minds that we’re not crazy for sensing an imbalance in a relationship, and when the time comes for us to confront someone, we don’t realize that being called “crazy” or “paranoid” in return is just a way for them to defend the lies and the infidelity. I never trusted my gut feelings, and every time I sensed danger, I turned the other way and chose to ignore it, only to find out that I was right all along.

What message do you hope fans take away from your music and from “Burn Me Out?”

To take your power and strength back from the pain you’ve been through in the past. To turn a terrible situation into a chance for you to heal. And finally, to never let anyone call you paranoid or crazy. If you’re sensing an energy, a lie, or there’s a voice in your head saying there’s something off, then believe it.

What’s one of your proudest moments of your music career so far?

I’m proud of it all. I truly am. Every moment, and every milestone in the past 5 to 6 years has been crucial and necessary for my career. I believe that it’s all playing out for an even brighter future. I can’t wait to see what this life has in store for me.

What would you say are the greatest lessons you’ve learned so far?

To never doubt yourself, never compare yourself to anyone else, and understand/believe that you are very unique and important in your own way. There’s never going to be another you, so relish in that, and don’t focus on your weaknesses. Instead, improve your strengths and believe in what you are capable of doing. You deserve all the incredible things happening to you – imposter syndrome is all made up in your head!

What’s next for you? Are you working on any upcoming projects that we should be on the lookout for?

An album! “Burn Me Out” is part of my debut album titled, “Silver Linings.” No specific dates yet, but it’s definitely going to be a 2022 release. I’ve got a couple more singles to release from the album in the next few months. I can’t wait for those to be out!

Where can we follow you on social media?



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Image provided by Sarah Al-Shaybani

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