Operating From Another World: How Sevdaliza went from basketball player to boundary pusher

“By the time I was 16, I left home. When you get thrown into a big world like that, it’s not simple — you either survive or you don’t.”

Rotterdam’s Sevdaliza made her debut earlier this year with The Suspended Kid. In many ways, the EP is about survival, and the unusual shape her life has taken in the last decade. “The title is how people responded to me in social situations,” she says via Skype. “I realized that those things that deflect me from social situations — not getting along with your coach or your boss or whatever — it made me realize I had to chose a different path.” For most of her life, her path was very different from the one she’s on now.

Born in Iran before her parents moved the family to the Netherlands, Sevdaliza left home at 16 on a basketball scholarship, eventually playing on the Dutch national team. “My world revolved around surviving,” she says. “When you plays sports on a high level it takes a lot of discipline, and because I wasn’t around my parents, it taught me how to survive.” She went to university, received her masters in communication and started working, but it wasn’t a good fit. “Very early on, I realized that it wasn’t the type life I had imagined for myself.”

“Doing professional sports, you’re forcing yourself to do better and to give more, and that becomes your way of doing things, but it doesn’t necessarily make you happy. You’re like a robot and you don’t know how to not do that,” she explains. “With music, I turned it around. I started following my feelings, and I had never felt something like this.” Not trained to read music or play instruments, she spent hours in the studio teaching herself how to sing and how to use Ableton, drawing on the reserve of discipline that drove her time in sports.

“Very early on, I realized that it wasn’t the type life I had imagined for myself.”Sevdaliza

All of Sevdaliza’s work is a product of collaboration, and while it’s difficult not to see parallels between her experiences in sports and art, she finds more differences than similarities. “In a team sport, it’s very hard to bring out the best in each individual,” she says. “This fits me a lot better.”

Sevdaliza makes her music with Rotterdam-based talent Mucky. “He’s an amazing producer and he’s taught me so much about myself and the music I do,” she says. “We’ve become like a family, after spending so many hours to get that creative flow and connection. We don’t force each other — it’s about letting each other breathe. I never force it but I never quit, either. I keep working until the cycle comes around.”

That same spirit also drives her approach to her videos, which range from the hyperreal world craft of ‘That Other Girl’ [above] to the late night eroticism of ‘Backseat Love’. “I just started collaborating with close friends, different people that came into my life and influenced me as a person,” she explains. “It was very intuitive: none of us were professionally schooled about something, we just want to create something.”

Visually, she’s drawn to things that are “a little bit off,” whether that’s the films of David Lynch, cult French thriller La Haine (which she quotes in the intro to ‘Sirens of the Caspian’) or the striking video for Paolo Nutini’s ‘Iron Sky’. “It’s so raw and so distinctive, it’s not made more dramatic or more beautiful,” she says of the latter. “I really appreciate that in imagery.”

Photo by: Zahra Reijs

“This fits me a lot better.”Sevdaliza

The songs of The Suspended Kid bound from the raw, industrial R&B of ‘That Other Girl’ to the straight-ahead dance-grooved ‘Taste’ to the moody, spacious ‘Underneath’. A body of work crafted over a year and a half, the EP charts Sevdaliza’s musical — and personal — evolution. “I just give you my perceptions and my experiences,” she explains. “The new material is going to be different, because I’m not going to be the same person and I reflect that in what I create. I’m not scared to share it.” The recently-shared ‘Marilyn Monroe’ seems to draw from trip-hop, while ‘The Valley’ (due out on November 18 on the Children of Silk EP) continues down the industrial path started by ‘That Other Girl’ into something resembling modern EBM.

Sevdaliza has consistently been hesitance to explain her work in detail, and the comment that accompanies ‘The Valley’ is especially opaque (“she was like a drug, so smooth and overwhelming that she took one up a level in their emotions just by watching and listening to her,” she writes). Similarly, her social media profiles are inscribed with the phrase “I’m everything you want me to be,” leaving interpretation in the hands of the listener.

But unlike some artists, Sevdaliza appreciates the fact that people will see her art in their own way. “Maybe it will teach me something about myself that I didn’t know, or maybe it won’t,” she suggests. “You’ll make of it what you want to make of it. I can’t tell you what to think, I can only say, this is what I do,” and — adding with a laugh — “please listen.”



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