Yemeni musician Intibint makes an impact

Intibint, aka Noha Al-Maghafi, takes on a multitude of challenges with her debut record


David Light

Published: Thu 5 Aug 2021, 2:07 AM

"You can do anything you put your mind to.” The Hollywood movie mantra often spoken by an inspirational figure to a younger character, while sentimental, doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Simply listening to stand-up routines from comedians such as Ronny Chieng or Hasan Minhaj, it appears often the children of recent emigrant parents tend to have very definite career expectations mapped out. This is just one of the hurdles Yemeni-British musician Intibint, or Noha Al-Maghafi, had to navigate before even recently putting out her debut EP, What Are You Willing To Do? Available across all platforms in the UAE now, the record also delves into themes of love and acceptance as, through the work, she recounts the experience of falling for a non-Yemeni, Western man and the subsequent fall-out and tolerance that followed - perfectly encapsulated in the track Telling My Mother. With hopes of performing in Dubai soon we caught up with Intibint, (a name meaning ‘you are a girl’ Noha sees as a dismissive title she uses ironically to empower her music) to find out more.

What inspired your first EP?

It tells a story about my experience falling in love with someone I knew my family weren’t going to easily accept. It’s something so many members of the Arab (and other nationalities) diaspora communities experience. As our families want us to hold on to our culture, marrying into a different culture seems like a way of losing it. But from my experience it’s not that at all, I love my culture and take it with me wherever I go. I really try to show this in my music, by incorporating traditional Arabic instruments like the oud and Arabic lyrics too.

The question of loving across cultures is particularly applicable in a multi-ethnic city like Dubai. What does your record add to the conversation?

When I was writing the EP, I kept thinking if I speak my truth then that’s the most valuable thing I can bring to this conversation. Sometimes we’re so used to tradition, and our comfort zone that we let beautiful things pass us by. I wanted this record to provoke those listening to question what they are willing to do to get what they want in love and in life.

How would you describe your genre?

I love Yemeni music and would really like to one day record something in a traditional Yemeni style, but for now I’m really enjoying experimenting with different styles and blending together all the parts that I like.

Do you believe the Arabic language is given enough exposure in ‘mainstream’ music? Are you looking to change this?

In the Western world, not at all! The only language other than English that we hear in mainstream music is Spanish, which of course sounds beautiful but it would be amazing to see something with Arabic in it being a hit! On a very small scale I feel I am already changing things as my friends are singing my Arabic lyrics which is the funniest thing to watch. It would be a dream for this to happen on a bigger scale for sure!

How important is social media to your life? Do you think a musician can have a career without it these days?

I think it’s definitely possible to have a music career without social media, but it would just make it more difficult to reach and connect with your fans. It’s super important for my work and I have been able to form such a great relationship with those who listen to my music, which really makes it all worth it. In terms of negativity, I just block block block!

Have you ever faced any opposition to your music or even you as a performer?

Due to my conservative background, I wasn’t able to pursue music until the first lockdown in London last February when I first recorded. So, my main challenge has been getting my parents to accept what I’m doing. As first generation immigrants to the U.K. they really want the best for me and my siblings, and a career in music isn’t something they’re used to. It’s taken some time, and determination but they’re no longer opposed to it, just getting used to it I guess.

As a musician how do you feel you have dealt with the pandemic and what are your hopes for the future?

I was definitely a little shaken by the whole thing, like everyone else, but it was actually during the first lockdown that I decided to download Logic Pro X (production software) and give it a go. So, I ended up contributing to a lot of the production on the EP, with the songs You & Me and Telling My Mother fully produced by me. In the end I benefited from the time at home. In terms of hopes for the entertainment landscape I hope live performances will open up in more parts of the world like Dubai, as that’s one thing that really isn’t the same online.

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