“My childhood revolved around me being in a dreamworld most of the time,” Sevdaliza — the Iranian-born, Rotterdam-based artist making avant garde pop tells Billboard. “Music played an enormous role — it’s basically like I’m walking through life and life has a soundtrack.” This romantic creativity and inner richness drives much of the 29-year-old’s art, be it the moody, glitch-ridden music she creates, her boundary-pushing visuals, or her bold personal style.
A political refugee, she first found success as a professional player for the Dutch national basketball team but eventually began to explore writing and performance. “ Music was something that I used to pull myself out of a place where I wasn’t happy.”
Sevdaliza began releasing music in 2014, collaborating frequently with Rotterdam-based producer Mucky on the trip-hop imbued, contorted pop that would become her trademark sound. Accompanying these genre-escaping tracks were artful visuals conceived and executed by Sevdaliza herself alongside creative friends and talented artists — there’s the metallic graphic-heavy “Marilyn Monroe,” the dark and tantalizing “Human,” and the conceptual feminism of “Amandine Insensible” which features the singer as subversive stock footage representing different women’s societal roles.
For Sevdaliza, her art and style are constant explorations of her own body, identity, and how these ideas collide with the world’s definition of female. With “Human,” the artist flips an iconic Debra Paget performance on it’s head. “I thought, wouldn’t that be interesting to play with that preconception and take it from the root?” she explains. “Because I’m not here for the male gaze. If they want that, that’s their choice. But that’s not why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
In fact, bearing her skin is a sartorial statement. “I love to wear my body, I love to wear my skin — it’s so reflective of how you treat yourself, what you are and what you’ve experienced in life.” When it comes to fashion houses and brands, Sevdaliza follows her instincts. “I’m very interested in the process of designing and in designers who design mostly for themselves and not necessarily for sales.” Fashion created by artists like the Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen, Margiela and Raf Simons catch the singer’s attention. Otherwise, she’s wearing neutral colored, form-fitting and sometimes streetwear-informed pieces that confront ideas of sexuality, gender and the body.
Her debut album ISON — surprise-released on April 26 through her own label Twisted Elegance and uploaded on YouTube in full with compelling visuals by digital artist Sarah Sitkin — is a 16-track body of work that wholly encapsulates her feminist existential themes, minimalist style and experimental soundscape. It’s a deeply emotional and complex project that stretches Sevdaliza into all the directions she has so carefully crafted over the years. When asked about the debut, she takes a moment before offering: “[ISON] is the most important thing that has happened to me in my life.”