Maariyah Khan is a nineteen-year-old singer/songwriter and pianist from Derby. She has had some big success with BBC Introducing who have described her as “one of the best singer songwriters in the UK at the moment”. She performed for us at Bath Spa University last Wednesday and Ali Townsend interviewed her to give you the run-down.
After hearing the weight of her jazz-tinged music, it’s hard to believe that Maariyah is only nineteen. It’s as though she has spent her whole life performing to strangers in a smoky bar. She serves you a smooth blend of jazz, raw emotion and plush vocals and intoxicates you with her melancholic sound.
Maariyah’s voice is complimented by her keyboard. Although she can also play the guitar, the “piano is where I feel comfortable playing”. And it shows; her natural talent for the piano garnishes her music; the twist of orange peel, the cherry on top. Her intimacy with her keyboard, which she has been playing since she was six, creates a captivating performance. She humbly admits, “when I’m performing on stage, I feel quite calm; I’m in a really good place”. It sends the audience to a good place too.
Her family have been a huge support, touring with her from university to university for the Coffee House Sessions. It was her uncle who gave her a birthday voucher to record her music for BBC Introducing. Her first recorded song, ‘Down’, was played by BBC Introducing within the same month of its recording and they have since played eight more of her songs.
Her soundscape flirts with the music of the 50s and 60s. Inspired by contemporary and classic funky artists, she acknowledges that her sound is a concoction of all the music she has listened to. In particular, she shares, “growing up, I listened to a lot of The Beautiful South, just because my parents often played it in the car”. The talent of other artists excites her as she then remembers, “Oh! And A LOT of Pet Shop Boys – my dad and I saw them in concert and it was amazing. It was a present for him, but also a present for myself”. She even finds inspiration in less exciting experiences; when living in London, she worked at a jazz café near Camden. She notes, “I was in the cloakroom which was the most frustrating job because you can hear everything but you can’t see it”. These muffled jazz notes are evidently echoed in her music. It’s influences like this that have shaped her sound, adding a dash of funk, a sprinkle of acoustic wit and a pinch of mellow jazz. From them, she has created her own cocktail of sound.
A tipple of melancholy is poured into Maariyah’s sound through her lyrics. She writes about “all the things that keep me up at night”. Chuckling, she tells “from all the songs that have been played on BBC Introducing, you’d think I only write about one person, but it’s not – I got over that, kind of”. It seems to be that music is the elixir to cure the mellow blues in her life. She admits that her favourite song is ‘Spoon Feed’ because “it’s about someone I still like, there’s no bitterness”.
The future for Maariyah is promising and at such a young age, she already wants to start collaborating with other people. We can’t wait to hear what she produces next.
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Words by Ali Townsend
Featured Image: Maariyah Nawab-Khan for YAMM. Courtesy of Coffee House Sessions