ARTICLE NATASHA STAGG
PHOTOGRAPHY RITCHARD SWAIN
"HABIBI" IS AN ARABIC TERM OF AFFECTION, FITTINGLY—THE LADIES OF NEW YORK'S HABIBI ARE ULTIMATELY SWEETHEARTS, EVEN IF THE BAND CAN GET PRETTY RUTHLESSLY ROCK AND ROLL.
Habibi's songs are heavily influenced by Motown girl groups of the 1960s, but I wouldn't mistake their retro-centricity for nostalgia. The all-female all-business Brooklyn-based band would rather live in a time when music wasn't defined by gender, surely—but their respect for the ladies who paved the way for their Wall-of-Sound sound is epic.
Lead singer and founder Rahill Jamalifard borrows perhaps in equal parts from her Detroit-based adolescence, her Persian background, and her New York experience. She started Habibi last year and has taken the band, which consists of Caroline Partamian (guitar), Erin Campbell (bass) and Karen Isabel (drums) on several short and well-attended U.S. tours.
Habibi gave V the first listen to until-now unreleased track "Persepolis." Says Jamalifard, "'Persepolis' is a song I wrote before I was actually in the band. It's about my grandfather, who lives in Shiraz, Iran, a city just outside the ancient ruins of Persepolis. Habibi means 'my love' in Arabic, specifically the male conjugation. It's one of the more ubiquitous words used in the Arabic dialect. Growing up, although I spoke Farsi, we said 'habibi,' too.
"My influences are directly related to my ancestry: Iran, gyspies, nomads, the inspiration of poets like Hafiz, Saadi and Rumi, my travels within the country, its people, the culture, and the music I grew up listening too. Unlike so many of my friends, my parents didn't have record collections of classic rock, blues and jazz. They instead had countless cassettes of sad songs sung by old Iranian singers, and VHS tapes of music shows filmed pre-1979 Revolution.
"There is definitely a theme of political oppression in the middle east and also a preserved beauty of its people and culture. Music is a newer medium for me, and with it I've been able to explore different subjects of inspiration such as—no, mostly—heartbreak and love." Habibi are recording their debut album, out next year on Burger Records.