Introducing Zarif

Usually when an artist talks to us for an Introducing feature, they haven't received that much industry recognition but that's definitely not the case with North Londoner Zarif.

Zarif's brand of quirky retro soul with a modern edge - sounds ridiculous but check out her next single 'Box Of Secrets' for the evidence - has seen her attract critical acclaim from the likes of The Guardian and attention from some musical heavyweights: it's not often that an artist without a debut album released gets asked by Beyonce to support her on her UK tour. Originally signed to RCA, Zarif decided to set up her own 'Bright Pink Records' label to release her debut album Box Of Secrets which has been produced by Fraser T Smith (Tinchy Stryder, Ellie Goulding) and Tommy D (Jay Z, Corinne Bailey Rae). You can listen to a remix of album track 'California' by Danny Byrd here.

With a London gig at Notting Hill Arts Club coming up on August 19th, Zarif took time out of her busy PR schedule to give us a little insight into her world.

What's your earliest musical memory?
Probably making up songs at home, bashing them out on the keyboard. Or maybe discovering Michael Jackson on Top Of The Pops!

If you could hold a recording session with any five artists, who would you choose?
Wow, 5 is a lot! I usually get asked this question about which one artist would I chose and I always say Prince straight away, so now I have to think about this one! OK...Prince, Jamie Lidell, Bjork, Stevie Wonder and Mariah Carey.

You want to describe your music to a stranger on the street, who do you compare yourself to?
This is always a hard one. I usually try and describe the sound I do rather than compare it to other artists, but someone did once describe me as the love child of Kelis and Lauryn Hill, that's probably my favourite of the inevitable comparisons.

You are going to live on a desert island for a year, which three albums do you take with you?
Can't I just take my iPod?! [laughs] OK it would probably be Stevie Wonder's Hotter Than July, Prince's Sign Of The Times, and maybe something fun like Madonna's Immaculate Collection.

Everyone has a defining music moment, one that lives on in the memory, what is yours?
It has to be, with absolutely no contest, touring with Beyonce last year. That was unbelievable!

What is the best gig you've ever been to and why?
Wow, there have been so many amazing gigs it's hard to pick one...the highlights have to be Bjork at the Royal Opera House, Lewis Taylor at some dive in west London (I always love the small sweaty gigs the most!) and Parliament a few years back, for sheer crazy flamboyance. But the best recent gig I've been to has to be when Faith No More reformed last year, as I've always loved them and never got to see them the first time round.

If we were to look at your MP3 player, what is the most embarrassing track or album that we'd find?
Probably my 2 Unlimited greatest hits album! [laughs] But I stand by that, I loved them at the time!

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Just a humble dream of world domination...

How would you describe your debut album, Box Of Secrets, to us?
Eclectic, summery and soulful. It's retro in places but with a modern outlook, lots of live instruments and also more modern electronic production. I hate how everything on the radio sounds the same these days, so I've avoided auto tune and tried to keep some rawness to the album.

What's next for Zarif?
Putting out the single, on 16th August, then the album on the 30th. I can't wait! I hope people like it!

Box Of Secrets is out on August 30th and you can hear more from Zarif at her My Space.

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