Snoh Aalegra Talks Cultural Influences, Hybridity and Locating ‘Home’
Snoh Aalegra has won over fans worldwide for her brand of slick R&B that avoids gimmicks in favour of silky-smooth vocals and shimmering production. As an artist with roots incorporating Sweden, Iran and the US, Snoh is well-versed in the powers of adopting a hybrid sensibility in both art and life.
We linked up with Snoh on the London leg of her tour to chat travel essentials, reconceptualising the meaning of ‘home’ and how her dual heritage informs her work.
Snoh’s Travel Essentials:
“Headphones on the daily! I get so mad when I forget them in an Uber”
“A pair of shades is always useful”
From signing with Sony Music at just 13, Snoh has been busy carving an imprint on the scene, nurturing an R&B-focused but soul-inflected sound – dubbed by Snoh herself as a ‘cinematic soul’. The transcendence of cinema, as we discover, aptly describes Snoh’s ability to find inspiration from everywhere she’s lived, without settling for any one singular artistic identity.
Born to Persian-Iranian parents in Uppsala, before settling in Stockholm as a teenager, she maintains that her dual heritage inspires her creative vision. She describes growing up in Sweden with Iranian influences as “very cool – it was a meeting of different worlds”
“Iranian culture is ‘more is more’ and very glam but I also love the ‘less is more’ style of Swedish design”
The essence of both countries informs her music. “Iranian culture is ‘more is more’ and very glam” even “superficial”, she notes, but underpinned by the warmth and friendliness akin to “Southern hospitality”. The rich melodies and deeply evocative nature of her music certainly reflects Iran in this regard. “The Iranian language is so poetic” she beams “I’m so lucky to be able to channel part of that and use it in my own writing” Snoh has also won praise for her lyrical candour. On latest offering -Ugh Those Feels Again, tracks like ‘You’ confront heartbreak unflinchingly and without embellishment. She puts down to her adoption of Scandi-style minimalism: “I also love the ‘less is more’ style of Swedish design. My simplicity definitely comes from Sweden”.
Not content with staying still, Snoh moved to LA in 2012, to both hone her sound and expand her creative imaginary, having felt stifled in Sweden. She says she felt compelled to “dream big [because] no idea is too crazy or big in the States. That’s what I love about America – the cliché American dream”. A childhood spent watching MTV heavyweights such as Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson light up the small-screen encouraged Snoh to take her music across the pond. Moving to the nation that nurtured her musical influences felt natural.
“No idea is too crazy or big in the States – people don’t dream so big in Sweden”
Owing to her busy schedule, Snoh spends a lot of time on the road, in essence, she “feels like she’s always travelling”. Does touring transience and living in different cities around the world impact her artistry? Snoh is assured: “Absolutely. You are definitely a result of your surroundings and environment” She believes every experience has the potential to be absorbed. “Everything affects you. It’s not just your upbringing, your traumas, it’s also everything you see and take in”. In living and creating with multiplicity in mind, Snoh is able to find home in everywhere she drops her anchor, noting that she is always “made welcome by the fans who show me love when I’m performing”.
She’s confident that she “feels the most at home and the most welcome on stage I love the loud energy [from the fans]. That’s my favourite”.
Her ability to draw from Iranian, Swedish and American cultural elements while still maintaining her trademark sultry sound that is definitively and unapologetically her own is what makes Snoh Aalegra one of the most exciting voices in R&B today.