Alya Al-Sultani is a vocalist and composer based in London, UK. Her first musical experiences were Iraqi folk songs sung by her great grandmother and radio broadcasts of Um Kolthum, Abdel-Halim and Fairouz which she listened to with her family while drinking sweet black tea infused with cardamom. After leaving Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, her family settled in Tottenham, North London where she began to discover the incredible new sounds of the 80s and music from the Caribbean.
Her musical education was entirely classically-focussed, on piano and voice. She learned the importance of technique, tradition, theory, respecting fellow musicians and respecting the music. But she did not learn freedom and it is this she has sought for the last decade. The pursuit of freedom in music is driven by her aesthetic, her immigrant experience and her Eastern feminism.
Apart from working on her own projects, Alya enjoys debuting new music for contemporary composers and experimenting with opera, including the integration of improvisation techniques, microtonal ideas and Eastern influences.
She has a deep love of beats, both for their power to move our bodies in dance but also the way the beat connects with our deepest neurological levels, tapping into our earliest beginnings.
Her most recent projects include an EP with her trio SAWA, a lead soprano role in Purcell’s King Arthur, a collaboration with electronic artist Lossy and debuting a suite of songs for composr Yasmeen Ahmed which will be performed in Bahrain this October.
She is currently writing her next album, Love & Protest, which will be a significant departure from Chai Party (April 2015, Two Rivers Records) and focussed on developing grooves and improvised melodies. Expect pop, funk, experiments with soundscapes and lyrics about the times we live in.
Alya is executive producer at Two Rivers Records (www.tworiversrecords.org) and occasional festival programmer. She is completing a doctorate in psychology, researching the impact of choir participation on refugees with trauma.