For our latest mix we’re proud to welcome emerging Saudi Arabian-born, London-based electronic producer and jazz saxophonist Leila Samir.

Growing up in a religious environment, Leila wasn’t exposed to Western music till age of fourteen, her pallet developed rather on the indigenous sounds of her native Saudi Arabia and Middle Eastern rhythm music. ’No Music’ her debut EP released on More Time records is named according to what was reinforced to her growing up, and a sonic realisation of traditional Saudi tropes fused with a new found taste in electronic music.

Since residing in London to study, Leila has further explored music production and landed a monthly residency on NTS, as well as previous residencies on Worldwide FM and Balamii. Through her organic yet uncompromising style, she has quickly gathered acclaim from likes of the legendary late Andrew Weatherhall, Zaltan and Gilles Peterson.

We caught up with Leila to discuss the cultural differences between Saudi Arabia & London, Japanese Architecture, Saudi Artists and the inspirations behind her music.

Stream her entrancing NSMA Mix via Soundcloud and read the interview below.
Artwork by Yuri Tomashevi

Resonance - The Dwarfs of East Agouza
Bardo - Berliner Ring
Inside The Ischemic Synapse - Eiger Drums Propaganda
The Red Tower - Al Chem
Kabriman - Harmonious Thelonious
Elusive Broken Bee - Prinx Hashime
Wutai Tape Mix - Employee
Montiert - Jeff Pils
Guayambame - Toresch
Southern Dub - Clap Clap
Hate Thy Neighbor - An-i Human
Call of the Wild - Onyx
Avesta Khani Reggaeton - Maral 

Hey Leila!  Thanks so much for taking the moment to produce this mix for us - especially during all the craziness that’s happening. 
How are you coping with everything right now?

I am alright thanks! It’s hard not being around family as I worry too much about them, besides that I’ve had a lot of work to do for my degree and also re-watching the sopranos. 

You mentioned over email, your post-grad paper is on Japanese Architecture. Can you tell us any more about that, it sounds fascinating? 

‘Negative Space [Ma]’ stems from the Japanese spatial concept often applied to design, music, art etc. Have you encountered its use much across your studies and is it something you’ve ever considered when making music?

Yes I study Japanese and mostly focus on art and design. Japanese art and architecture emphasises on a more mindful approach to space, and the negative space concept is no different, in Japanese culture it is understood that space have meanings before activity happens within it. The concepts of space is fascinating and useful in both architecture and music also something I definitely encounter when making music. The balance between things.

Do you find there to be any correlation between architecture and music?

Both are really rigorous fields to study and both share patterns, rhythms as well as both being able to trigger an emotional response as an immediate effect because you don’t need to know anything specifically to have an appreciation of both. Nobody said it better than Goethe; ‘architecture is frozen music’ .

Your gorgeous debut EP ‘No Music’ [More Time Records] utilises an abundance of Saudi Arabian sounds to produce four eerie yet melancholic club tracks. 
With titles such as ‘Anxiety’, ‘Beginnings’, ‘Ends’, what was the core inspiration behind the EP?

I think the core of the EP was mostly the sounds I grew up with in Saudi Arabia, and the sort of fusion that happened when I started listening to electronic music by moving to the UK. The titles are definitely also a byproduct of the kind of words and feelings I felt when leaving Saudi to come here. It was a way for me to come in terms with the cultural shift and dealing with it best I can.

Has the cultural switch between living in Saudi Arabia and London had an effect on your music, in relation to what you make but also in what you listen to?
Or have you always considered your tastes to transcend cultures?

Yes of course! I listened to a lot of different music when I came to London around five years ago, there aren’t music venues or music shops or even records stores where I grew up so finding and listening to music in Saudi was really limited, but for example I have always been playing and listening to jazz consistently and it’s partly the reason why I moved here is to be a jazz musician.

Your NTS shows often take less of a “club-ready” approach, rather choosing to blend an eclectic mix of free-jazz, post-punk, art rock and traditional middle eastern music. How much influence do these genres have on your own productions?

The No Music EP there wasn’t much influence of those genres intrinsically but most of the music I make is usually influenced by a specific, if that makes sense, rather than a collection of influences. I can get really frustrated when it comes to making electronic music and not knowing when to stop etc.

Outside of music, how else do you find inspiration?

Inspiration really comes in many forms, for that to happen I try and stay present around me, a lot of influences come from experiences I’ve had. For example, the EP, every track is almost like the culmination of the pressures I’ve felt growing up in Saudi, feelings like being anxious about the future and pressures that come from being a woman in Saudi society and what you’d be expected to do. Most of the music I make comes from a place of confrontation with fears etc. I try and have a sort of narrative through the music and explore the possibility of storytelling.

Athbatun Anti · Mohammad Abdu | ℗ SALNA Production

Saudi Arabian music is something we know very little about, what Saudi artists should we be aware of?

Saudi music is really beautiful, and it quite poetic. I would say to get into Saudi music to start with Mohammad Abdu, and also Talal Madah, both are amazing oud players. There’s also Yemeni-Saudi musician Abdu Bakr Salem, I’ve him sampled in my music.  I am doing a Saudi music special on my next NTS show so maybe tune in!.

Finally, tell us about this mix and what’s next for you?

Before the pandemic I was working with Rupert Clervaux on some music so will hopefully go back to doing that after this blows over. 
In terms of the mix, I usually try to cater to what I am doing the mix for so I’ve played a lot more dance music which I don’t usually do in my mixes.

Leila Samir’s debut EP ‘No Music’ is out now via More Time Records.