Standing in front of a huge marble staircase in the foyer of a central London hotel IMAN smiled as she was reminded of one of her favourite quotes –
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, you just have to take the first step.” – Martin Luther King
That same evening she had responded to an email from a guy she had met in LA asking her to work with him….Little did she know she had turned up to song write for Kanye West’s next album.
IMAN had traveled to LA on a whim. She turned up at the airport with nothing but a passport and determination. Studio sessions had dried up and people had stopped calling but she’d been in this situation before and knew she was the one who created her own opportunities.
Growing up in a household where her love of music was not encouraged, she knew that following her true calling would take guts and a whole lot of grit.
IMAN’s parents viewed the music scene synonymous with sex, drugs, and struggling musicians. They had made sacrifices when they moved to the UK and hadn’t made them so that their daughter would pursue a career in an industry that they just didn’t understand. The only musically gifted person in the whole family meant she didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice on how to go about getting into the industry.
“From a really young age, I just knew I wanted to be a singer I also knew that I couldn’t share my thoughts with my family. All those years I felt an overwhelming desire to be creative. I had the fire in my belly but at the same time, I felt conflicted because I almost felt trapped by it. So badly wanting to get on and take my first step and just go for it – but ultimately I was held back by my parents wishes.”
Aged 16 IMAN faced the toughest of choices. Pursue a burning ambition to write music which would mean leaving the family home or ignore what she wanted for her life and follow a career they deemed more suitable?
Born to an African Father and a Middle Eastern Mother, it was her first trip to her mother’s home country one year earlier that ultimately set the wheels in motion and helped make her decision. With her brother, she was sent to stay for the Summer and experience some of her heritage. It was this trip that tipped the balance in favour of following her dreams.
“Until then I’d kept my need for performing to myself. I loved my time there for so many reasons but I saw a lot of poverty and was hit with the fact that I was blessed enough to have been raised in a Country that gave me the freedom to own what I wanted to be and provided so much opportunity for creatives. I also knew that I was coming to a crossroad and I had to make a decision about my direction in life.”
Fully aware that delving into music was not going to be possible whilst living in the family home IMAN says ‘My dad was afraid of the influence music had on me and would always change the music channel or tell me to quiet down when I’d accidentally burst out into song. He was scared because he knew what I secretly dreamed of being and would often tell me ‘’No daughter of mine is going to be onstage half naked singing!” IMAN says she always understood her parents fear only ever came from wanting to protect her from an industry they’d only ever heard horror stories about.
The only real exposure to music she had as a child was when she’d spend most her time sat in her room listening to the commercial radio with pop songs on repeat.
‘’Perhaps this is why my melodies have always been considered pop heavy – Maybe it was osmosis, who knows, but yeah I’m naturally drawn to pop melodies”
It was decision time and a teenage IMAN said goodbye to her family saying she was going to college and never returned home.
Two months earlier she’d enrolled at a college telling her parents she would be studying A -Levels whilst in reality, she had carefully chosen a college famed for its appetite for music and incredible studio equipment.
“Within weeks I’d met some incredibly creative people, in particular, a girl I made friends with who was such an open and happy person, she was like no one I’d ever met before. One day after college we were walking to the station and it all came out, I told her I couldn’t bear to go back home that I felt stuck and my depression was getting out of hand. I wasn’t expecting her to say what she said next but casually as ever she offered that I come to live with her family and told me they would look after me. I thought about it for weeks and battled with the guilt of how my family would be left feeling. I went to visit the family first to be sure then decided this was a sign and I had to just go for it.”
IMAN took the opportunity she had been given and immersed herself from the go into the music scene which, at this stage, she was completely naive to. All she knew was that to pursue her career she had to make a demo. She met everyone she could, spending endless evenings going to and performing at open mic nights and soaked up information and advice. In the process, she grew tough in the face of a lot of rejection and started to evolve from being a singer into becoming an Artist.
“At that stage, I didn’t know how to control my voice and had no idea how to write a song or if I even could. I had zero musical training, I was learning from scratch and as a result, I guess that’s why no-one wanted to give me the time of day – I had nothing to show, nothing to prove I was worth their time! But I remember I stilI felt relief because I knew that finally, I was on the right path. I had regrets that I’d hurt my family but it was combined with a sense of peace and excitement. Still today I feel that that window was totally made for me, there was a reason and I was meant to take it.”
It took time but IMAN was soon learning her way and making a name for herself as a singer-songwriter and performer. But she says ‘’it was like all of a sudden the phone seemed to stop ringing, people stopped having me in for sessions’
It didn’t take long for IMAN to learn her way and make a name for herself as a singer, songwriter, and performer. And she grew even stronger in the face of rejection. During those moments when the phone rang less or even stopped ringing and she wasn’t doing as many music sessions, IMAN’s background had her equipped to tackle those moments of uncertainty .
While this may have been demoralizing for many people IMAN’s background made her fully equipped for this type of rejection.
“The artist I am, writing the music I do right now is a direct product of my foundations, it’s from those early days were I had to fight myself, that I was somehow able to dig deep and find myself to then go on and write the songs I have and I am so grateful for it. I totally own it and stand by decisions made.”
She says ‘’The hardest thing I had to battle was my own self-doubt and low self-esteem for a long time. I was constantly trying to silence that inner critic that told me I wasn’t good enough or deserving because others were better than me.”
One of the ways she would combat her fears was to always face them. So with sessions drying up IMAN decided to create her own opportunities. She booked a flight to LA …. a place where she’d never been, knew no one and had never traveled that far out on her own before.
Since her writing sessions for Kanye West’s album IMAN has secured tracks on No 1 albums around Europe, written and recorded with Ed Sheeran, recorded and performed with Rudimental and has two songs on Wilkinson’s album.
Never been signed before she decided to start her own record label – SHOPFRONTRECORDS and take matters into her own hands. She has since released two singles with music videos directed and co-edited by her.
Her second single ‘Naive’ soon followed with even more music journalist’s like The 405 to MOBO writing up about her.
“IMAN’s certainly setting the bar high for herself and with her latest offering, it’s clear she can exceed it.” The 405
“It’s always a nice mix when you discover someone with a voice like honey but who can match it with the power of a hammer blow, hitting you right between the ears with deep soulful tones, the UK has a new vocal powerhouse.’’ The most Radicalist
“At first glance you get a sense that IMAN is the type of artist that holds a strong identity and a clear vision for her music. IMAN is an artist that truly has a whole entire career ahead of her and we truly believe she’s already blossoming into a force of nature that might be unstoppable” IX Daily
WISHING is available to stream now on Spotify. While IMAN is proud of the success she has had to date , more importantly, is the feeling that she is no longer unsure of her ability.
WISHING is available to download NOW here:
Itunes : http://apple.co/2lhD0ja
Google Play – http://bit.ly/2ll5moK
Tidal – http://tidal.com/album/69438371
“I took my opportunities, I own it, I deserve it and I’m worthy of it. It’s taken sacrifices but it’s just how it was supposed to be and I’m grateful for the lessons learned. I’m still growing and I have so much more music to bring to the table. Really I’m just getting started”