Nadine Shah: ‘There’s been a rise in nationalism and a decline in empathy’

She also talks about the honour of the Mercury, and music having a more political voice

Nadine Shah has spoken about the difficulty of being a Muslim woman in the music industry – as well as music having a stronger political voice against nationalism in the current climate. Watch our Mercury Prize red carpet video interview above.

Shah’s acclaimed third album ‘Holiday Destination’ made the shortlist for this year’s prize alongside the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Jorja Smith, Lily Allen, Wolf Alice, Novelist and more. Tackling issues of racism, immigration and integration in the wake of the Brexit referendum, it has been hailed as album to tackle the zeitgeist.

“Not in an arrogant or vanity way, but I’m glad that my album is present because I wanted to see some political artists,” Shah told NME. “I think that part of my job is to document the times that we live in. I wanted to speak about the rise in nationalism and a decline in empathy. Also, as a Muslim female in this industry – there’s not very many of us. I wanted to speak about Islamophobia for one; it scares me and it scares my family.”


She continued: “Through being part of this, hopefully more young, South Asian women will see me and know that they can also be musicians too.”

Asked if the divisive nature of post-Brexit society will encourage other artists to be more political in their music, Shah replied: “I think they will keep speaking out. I’ve got massive faith in humanity and I think that 99% of people are amazing, it’s just the 1% that are just awful. The way that it goes is the ones that hate the most tend to shout the loudest. There have been artists who have made great political albums: IDLES, Life, Shame – everyone thought they were going to get this.

“There are artists that are doing it, and it would be so nice to see bigger, more commercial artists speaking about politics. I think that’s going to come.

“For the first time more than ever we’ve got young people more engaged than they have been. Like, Stormzy speaking about Grenfell at the BRITs. People are angry, and they’re going to start voicing it.”

Watch our video interview at the top of the page as Shah also discusses what the Mercury means to her, who she think will win and who she thought should have been nominated.


The 2018 Mercury Music Prize ceremony will take place on Thursday 20 September at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith.