They say when music hits you you feel no pain. Such is a true statement when it comes to the Somali-sister duo known around the globe as Faarrow.
We already shared their new project with you all yesterday, but today, we’re digging deep to find out more about Siham and Iman Hashi. After a few years in hiatus mode, the Mogadishu-born tandem are back and ready to share their stories with the whole world. For those unaware, the Hashi Sisters relocated to Toronto from Mogadishu after civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991. Once there, they discovered their passion for music and begun putting together the pieces of their sound originally as Sweet Rush.
Releasing their eponymous first album in 2010 enabled them to become professional performers, fueled by the pop + soul sound. Transferring their love of music and talented singing around the house into studio successes, the sisters—whose names in Arabic mean “faith” and “arrow”—relied on both as they added philanthropy to their growing list of attributes. In the early 2000s, Siham and Iman created Somalia Lives Again, a nonprofit organization focused on giving back to their country of origin. The work there helped to create inroads to other humanitarian work such as Wish Creatively, UNHCR and they were able to perform for the masses during World Refugee Day in Tunisia.
Now, based in Los Angeles, Siham and Iman have their mojo in motion, been receiving positive feedback from their Afrocentric track, “TK,” and have become a positive role models for those walking in similar shoes. Fresh from the lab, Faarrow have taken their bold flair for fashion, mixed it in with their new project and are ecstatic to unleash some new Afro-pop to the world. We sat down with the first female artists of Somali-descent to sign a major record deal with a major U.S. label about being musicians while raised in a traditional Muslim home, their EP Lost with Elijah Kelley and why Diplo should be looking out for these two songbirds.
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you both are making an impact on both sides of the U.S. What is it that those in Los Angeles are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
Faarrow: We’ve had this music for a while, so a lot of people in Los Angeles were hearing it in small circles because haven’t officially released anything yet. We were getting a lot of great feedback from people we respect so much, [and now] we’re just ready to let the world the final version of the EP on July 15th!
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
F: We have a ton of artists who we love and have been listening to forever. But, as far as influences go, we would have to say The Fugees and The Spice Girls. The Fugees represented the possibility of living the American Dream. They made being a refugee cool and wore it as a badge of honor. The Spice Girls represented “Girl Power” and the freedom to be comfortable being ourselves. They weren’t perfect so everyone could relate to them.
OKP: The song “Lost” is supremely dope and has heightened anticipation for new work from you both by music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry.
F: We are extremely excited about our new music. “Lost” is the first song off of our upcoming EP, which is titled Lost as well. We wrote the entire EP with Elijah Kelley, which he also produced. We decided to release “Lost” track first because it embodies our journey and the feelings we’ve had in our lives and throughout our time in the music industry. Anytime someone is persistently following their dreams, especially in the creative space, and they haven’t “made it,” they’re labeled as being “lost.” We just wanted to create music that made you not give a shit about other people’s negative opinions and to live your life exactly the way you want to.
OKP: Can you talk about how life was for you two while developing as artists in Atlanta, Georgia? How did you guys react to the first bits of press ever received?
F: Honestly, being in Atlanta was a culture shock for us coming from Toronto. People were kind of confused by us. We’re black but had these “weird” Canadian accents that somehow sounded British to everyone. We remember having a meeting with producer Polow Da Don and he just could not understand why we were doing pop music as two black girls. At the time, we didn’t correlate “pop” music with “white” music. Being Canadian, we were exposed to everything.
OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you both have overcome as a group thus far?
F: People have been trying to break us up as a group since the beginning! In fact, we have been offered separate record deals. We are [real life] sisters, so it was a dead end for anybody who has ever tried. You can’t break up sisters [laughs].
OKP: Can you also talk about the social taboos associated with music? Growing up, how was it looked at within Somali culture? How have you both seen the feelings towards music evolve since coming out as professional musicians?
F: Pursuing a career in music as women in our community is basically ensuring that you’re not considered marriage material or even respectable. When we first decided to pursue music, our parents were criticized and talked about so badly. However, as we’ve evolved; our family and our community has become more open. We still get hate messages literally every day, but we see more positive messages from girls and guys who have become more fearless in pursuing their dreams because of us, as well. Honestly, apart from our passion for music, that’s what keeps us going.
OKP: What are some things that you both have learned about yourselves that comes out in the music?
F: You have to be your authentic self. Whether you’re doing an emotional song or something fun and upbeat, it’s gotta be you. We’re in an industry where if you don’t know yourself or the artist you want to be, best believe they will try to make you into something that they think will sell.
OKP: What were some moments from FAARROW’s recent travels that will forever stick with you two? Why?
F: A few years ago, we went to Kenya with VICE to shoot a music video. While we were there, we also went to visit this incredible organization called Heshima Kenya that is a safe haven for young girls who have been through horrific journeys and have lost their families through war. There was a girl who had our pictures on her wall and we couldn’t believe it! This young girl had gone through so much, and for her to tell us [that] we’re her inspiration was literally so emotional. Our mom, who was also with us, could not keep it together. It is a moment in our life that we will never forget.
OKP: What was the first song that you both ever wrote entitled? Can you two talk about what that song has come to symbolize since becoming professional musicians?
F: The first song that we ever wrote and recorded was called, “And No,” which was a dumb title [laughs]. [At the time] we didn’t really think it through. We recorded it in our brother’s closet and he also produced it. We were like 13-and-14-years-old, and it wasn’t even [that] serious. [The song] was pretty terrible, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the message of #GirlPower. Sometimes, we’ll even listen to it just to laugh.
OKP: How can the music you both make speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?
F: We can only hope that we push through all the noise and really connect with people. All we ever talk about is wanting to connect with people through the music and use our platform to change the world.
OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you guys want to work with this year and why?
F: To be honest, Diplo. He’s awesome and we’re gonna make it happen!
OKP: What is the overall message that FAARROW is trying to present in the music?
F: Freedom. Freedom to be whoever the hell you want to be regardless of your circumstance.
OKP: How do you gyals see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?
F: We don’t [really] know about bad or good stuff, yet art is art and people connect with artists for different reasons. We just want to be heard and seen by as many people as possible and through being ourselves. Hopefully, we can create change.
OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Faarrow — what would it be and in what octave would it sound like?
F: Don’t be afraid to live your own life! [It would be] in the same octave as Mariah Carey‘s whistle register in “Heartbreaker,” which we are still struggling to hit.