In a year fraught with political turbulence and cultural unease, having a voice has never felt so important. For Habibi this comes at a crucial time. The band, who have been playing music together since 2011, are due to release ‘Cardamom Garden’ their first EP in over four years; significantly, the first one with lyrics recorded in Farsi. This new direction has been a long time coming for the four members who are acutely aware of music as both a natural part of their heritage and a representation of their own identity: “Middle Eastern culture is very heavily influenced by the arts,” explains Iranian-American lead singer Rahill Jamalifard, and the four piece chose to combine its flair with a finely tuned vocabulary of widely appealing tracks structured in a new pop approach: engaging and highly danceable while eschewing typical formulas. Habibi’s willingness to channel their diverse backgrounds into risk-taking and future-forward new material have given the group a crucial part to play on the integral role these influences transpire in shaping modern day music, art, and community.
Both Jamalifard and Habibi guitarist Lenny Lynch originate from Detroit, although neither met until both were living and playing shows in the local Brooklyn scene, where they intuitively fostered a shared connection over their love of Middle Eastern psych music. The two quickly recruited Erin Campbell (guitar/bass) and Karen Isabel (drums), two fellow musicians who were also friendly through the same DIY music hub, though both also had roots as far away as Puerto Rico before all landing in the common ground of New York City.
Nurtured by a new tight-knit Brooklyn family, Habibi were quick to receive critical accolades, with their self-titled 2013 full-length debut heralded by The 405 as “unpretentious, straightforward and pretty wonderful,” full of “crystal harmonies and pop beats” (Interview Magazine). They were dubbed an “all-female crew with sea-mist riffs” by the New Yorker, and V Magazine noted that “these girls can pretty ruthlessly rock and roll.” With an array of positive press and international tours under their belt, the band seemed ready to conquer the world. However, never having been content with a singular creative outlet, the women took a step back to devote more time to exploring their multiple musical side projects. As the group delved more fully into these separate focuses, Campbell moved to Los Angeles; the members were again exploring new geographical terrain. Naturally, however, the four women were drawn back to the place that had brought them together, recognizing the instinctual pull to release music that was an essential component of the complex experiences built both together and apart.
“I see you walkin’, walkin’ down Woodward / tryin’ to catch a ride,” Jamalifard sings in live favorite “Detroit Baby,” a reference to an avenue in the Detroit of their youth that could similarly apply to the place in Ridgewood, New York where she currently resides, or any other street in America or across the globe. Although drawing comparisons to iconic figures from the Smashing Pumpkins to the Supremes, Habibi have proven to be capable of showcasing authentically crafted music that is both uniquely its own yet able to traverse borders in its overarching appeal. Effortlessly combining their own personal narrative with the familiarity of a classic pop song that feels completely at home anywhere, Habibi is as much comfortable within the Brooklyn underground as soundtracking international campaigns for Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney. This ethos is clear even in the band’s chosen name: “Habibi” translated to English means “my love”-a universal language that makes them easy to embrace. With ‘Cardamom Garden’ on its way and more new material in the works for 2018, it’s clear Habibi’s strong bond and unwavering commitment to distinguishing themselves as citizens of the world have set them apart as true purveyors of rock and roll.