- Words Notion Staff
Afghan-Dutch artist Ferdous opens up to Notion about his introversion, the place of art in crisis, and his often contradictory mix of sounds.
For Ferdous, music is a means of exploration and discovery – both on a personal level and in terms of the art he can create.
He’s honed his sensibilities as part of the pop double-act Klyne, who have occupied prestigious support slots alongside the likes of Christine and the Queens, and struck out on his own last year with the release of his much-praised EP, “For My Own Sake”. His singles have been picked up by Spotify and praised by musical outlets across the web.
Using silky alt-R&B to invite his listeners in, Ferdous’ follow-up EP, “Doors”, takes an ever-more personal approach, highlighting the artist’s identity as Dutch-born and the son of Afghan refugees whilst refusing to let any one side of his identity encompass him.
He has put visual art at the very centre of the exploratory goal of “Doors”, collaborating with photographer Nick van Tiem to help capture Ferdous’ abiding pride in his roots.
This proudly introverted artist is set to go higher and higher in 2022, so Notion sat down with Ferdous to ask him the questions we really wanted to know.
What does it mean to you to take control of your own life story and tell it your own way?
I still remember when I used to go through life trying my best to fit into other people’s narrative. That was kinda soul-crushing but weirdly enough I used to believe that was normal. Breaking away from that old life felt really unnatural, it was really messy, but ultimately it was the best decision I’d ever made. I’m convinced it couldn’t have gone any other way, and it made me the person I am right now, it gave me the freedom to do this project exactly the way I wanted to, and I’ll never take something like that for granted.
Why was alt-R&B the right medium through which to tell your story?
It isn’t the only way that I express myself as an artist, but R&B for sure is a big part of my musical upbringing. My family and I always shared a huge love for contemporary R&B when I was little – now I love going back to that influence in a way that makes sense for me, because I love to do Electronica, Ambient or Hip-Hop as well. I never really felt attracted to just one genre specifically, and it’s the balance between these different styles that kinda define me as an artist.
How do you think your introversion helps with your artistic process?
Lol it’s the only thing where I feel like my introversion ever came in handy. I had lots of stuff to say that I didn’t necessarily know how to express in daily life, it made me eager to have some kind of outlet. It always felt so effortless to use music almost as a communication tool to express certain things or emotions – it kind of intensified my focus on getting my ideas across in my music. For better or worse, it’s been a huge, huge part of my process.
How do you deal with the vulnerability of putting such personal tracks out into the world?
I always feel 100% comfortable when I’m creating in my own space, no matter how weird or personal it gets. The problem always comes afterwards, when I start to realise it’s something I can put out for other people to hear. That’s when I can get insanely self-conscious, and fear that it might be something literally no one can relate or connect to. But that quickly fades away when I remind myself it’s just simply how I felt at the time, I needed to get it out of my system, and if no one gets it that’s fine.
What was the experience like of collaborating with Nick Van Tiem?
I had such a pleasure working with him. He clearly follows his gut feel when it comes to his art and that’s something I really appreciate. He really understood what I was trying to say about the ambiguity of living in between two cultures, about me not necessarily identifying only as Afghani or only as Dutch, and I think he captured that perfectly into the artwork covers we used for this project.
Why is it important for you to include such a variation of sounds and influences on your EPs?
I think that’s because my personality changes a lot and I don’t see any reason not to be honest about that. I can feel all kinds of ways and that immediately translates into the way I approach production or writing during that moment. In a way it’s contradictory for me to have one project where I cycle between R&B, Club, Ambient and Disco, but I’m comfortable with that, and it’s exactly what I want people to know about me.
Why is visual art so crucial to your music?
To me, visual art is a bridge between my music and to people who don’t know anything about me. Just because I understand my own intentions and state of mind in my music doesn’t mean anyone else will. That’s how I try to approach visuals, as a way to cement my mood and thoughts. Ultimately, I want my music to stand on its own, but it would be silly to ignore how visual art pretty much defines the experience you get out of music, it’s been going hand in hand for so long and I’m excited to experiment more in this area.
What role do you think art plays in times of tragedy and crisis?
Firstly, I think in times of tragedy and crisis it’s important to be able to share that with someone else, I believe it helps having some sense of community during difficult times, no matter how lonely you feel in your own thoughts or perspectives. Having said that, I feel like art plays a huge role in that sense of community, it helps us to step outside of our daily worries and see things from other people’s perspectives. I really believe art promotes empathy in a way that can’t be done by logic or reasoning, it helps us to understand our most complex emotions that make us human.
What’s inspiring you creatively at the moment?
Right now, it’s mostly human contact. Before the pandemic I underestimated the importance of how influential it is to my music when I spend time with other people, even if it’s just hanging out or catching up. Even small things like that help me to change up my routine in the studio, and to get a different perspective on my production or writing.
This EP is such a personal project. Is this something you want to pursue more, or will you look for a new approach next?
I definitely want to build on this idea with future projects because I feel like the EP is just a fraction of what I want to say and put out, but I’m really looking forward to experimenting with different ways to make music, I don’t feel like I’ll ever focus on one type of approach. For now, I’m just so stoked this EP is coming out and I can finally share everything I put into this project for the past year ❤️