With her dark good looks and music that is a unique combination of her Algerian heritage and contemporary pop YADi, is definitely one to remember. Her EP, Guillotine (which was released on April 9, this year), includes rhythmic, tribal drum tracks as well as huge marching beats; yet with her angelic vocals, YADi is able to tone down the stomping beats and unearth the emotional side of her songs. Cleverly creating her own genre of pop, there is no doubt that YADi is one of 2012’s most interesting female artists. We caught up with her at last week’s Twenty8Twelve Stylist reader event where she performed her first ever DJ set.
Your music has been described by the The Sonic Reverie as ‘pop with a strong alternative edge’. Would you say that is an accurate description of your music?
Yes, I would say that’s pretty accurate. I’ve grown up listening to a lot of pop, Motown and music that’s considered commercial, mixed with world music, rai music from Algeria, and Malian music. I grew up with a father who would sit me down on weekends and take me through his record collection, so I listened to a lot of rock music from the 60s and 70s. I’ve grown up being a very experimental listener and now I’ve got this amazing opportunity to write music and develop it with interesting producers. I’ve just kind of tried to bring in all of these influences and create something that’s a bit different.
You were brought up in London yet you have a very rich heritage (Algerian, Norwegian and Italian). Which would you say influences your music the most?
Definitely the Algerian side. I love classical Italian music but I haven’t really grown up listening to Norwegian music, as such. My Dad is also very musical and that side of the family is quite musical. I think it’s something that’s part of the culture; it’s like a story-telling culture. It’s the same with our history and my family history. There aren’t many documents or things that were recorded. The way they tell their stories and their history is through music. My Grandma would sing to me quite a lot when I was young and when we get together, we’ll often play drums along to Algerian music and dance together. Some of my cousins are the most insane belly-dancers. That’s how I remember growing up; we would all get together and there’d be dancing and music.
I noticed on your blog, ‘yadiyadiyadi’, you posted a video of Sub Focus’s ‘Out of the Blue’ and Redlight’s ‘Get out of my Head’. Do you enjoy electronic music such as drum and bass and house?
Yes, I do and that’s also something that I try to bring in to my music. I’m most interested in where different sounds are sort of married together, like organic sounds and electronics and even kind of merging the two; like, how to make a synth sound like a guitar and vice versa. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s played on a real instrument or whether it’s a synth, either way I’ll try and make it sound like something else. I love that kind of music. I’ve recently been doing some writing with Redlight.
Would you say these artists have inspired you to become a DJ?
Yes, definitely. I’ve been getting a lot more into that type of music and that’s what made me want to do it. I made a mixtape called ‘Banana Mix’ and I guess that’s what got me into wanting to do this; the satisfaction of merging two songs together really beautifully. That’s the part I enjoy about it, like the actual geeky bits of finding two songs that are the same key and same tempo and merging them into each other. It’s so satisfying.
You have several remixes of your songs and you have also performed a few acoustic sessions of them, too. Is there a particular alternative version which you prefer?
I love the Doc McKinney remix of ‘Guillotine’; he’s the producer of The Weeknd. That’s not to say the other ones aren’t good but that one I was like ‘Ooo I might prefer yours a little bit’. I still love the original, but it’s just got a really cool feel to it that takes me somewhere different and it’s really nice if someone can do that to your tune.
Due to all these different versions of your songs, as well as being a singer and now a DJ you must have quite a mixed fan base?
Yes, I guess so. I toured with Marina and the Diamonds two years ago – just as I signed my record deal – which brought in some incredible fans that are still with me every day. I played an Algerian culture festival recently and it was amazing to see the Algerian community lapping it up. I made a video in Casablanca last week, which is coming out probably early next week year, and now I’ve got these Moroccan kids with really cool fashion blogs following me. It’s definitely varied.
Your video ‘Guillotine’ features some quite obscure fashion; you also attended a few shows during London Fashion Week. Would you say you have a strong interest in fashion?
Yes, definitely. I’ve only started getting into the fashion industry recently but I’ve always been a fan of beautiful clothes and beautifully-tailored clothes. That’s the side of it that I really enjoy and the shows are really fun.
Lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I remember when I first started Jack Penate told me that music is obviously important these days but nowadays you have to try and make yourself a brand. I almost hate to believe in it and I’m constantly fighting it a little bit but I know that it is true and it seems more important than ever. Because music is so disposable in the sense that people can put it out so easily themselves and it can disappear so fast; it really has become more than just music and if you have a great voice or great beats, whatever, you really have to make people believe in you as an artist and as a kind of brand. As much as I hate to admit it, Jessie J’s haircut probably did so much for her. I’m still kind of finding that thing. I don’t really want to commit to one thing, either. Hopefully, it will just be a combination of my music and my style and I won’t have to define myself by a haircut.
- Amy Barlow