A post for Omnified by Diana Figueroa
To say Iranian-born, Dutch-raised singer, songwriter and record producer Sevdaliza has only been creating music for the last four years might come as a surprise to those who have seen her command a stage. Back in March of 2014, the singer – whose stage name is a portmanteau of her first and last names, Sevda Alizadeh – released her first single and music video, and her first EP, The Suspended Kid followed less than a year later. Today, she is one of the headliners at Berlin’s Red Bull Music Festival, dazzling the audience with her newest live show, The Great Hope Design, on the main stage of the city’s iconic Volksbühne theater.
Inside the theater, concertgoers circle the foyer, admiring the storied structure that dates back to World War I. DJ Falko Teichmann’s beats are reverberating throughout the hall, warming up guests before they take their seats for the main event.
After some anticipation, Sevdaliza appears on stage, sprouting from a hill of what look like dark black cables and wires, a gangly assortment of ropes and strands twisting together, but not enough to tie the singer down. It only takes a few more songs for her to start twisting and dancing on her own, as though she is shedding skin and ready to emerge anew, showcasing to guests that for the next hour and a half, they’re in for not just any concert, but a performance, with choreography, a story and a stage to match.
What makes Sevdaliza’s performance unique – besides her avant-pop genre, sultry vocals, and raw lyrics – is that she designs everything you see on stage, a testament to her complete immersion in her work which in the past has also extended to directing her own music videos.
Sevdaliza is only one of many up and coming artists that has decided to take the visual element of her live show to the next level. For her, it isn’t solely about the music or the lyrics, but also about everything behind the scenes, elements that are needed to make a concert more than just that alone, but an experience. Sevdaliza’s voice captivates, an unconventional rasp in her vocals that makes it difficult to dislike because it is not the norm or anything within the mainstream. She’s interesting and easy to watch, the kind of artist that needs to be seen, not just heard, which is fitting to the power of her vocals, a low alto throughout one song, belting female falsettos the next. The theatrics in her performance, however, are there to enhance, seeing that she is the kind of artist that plays no games when she’s onstage and can hold her own when it’s just her on a simple stage. Still, for Sevdaliza, a simple stage is not enough for the kind of show she decides to put on, and delivers when it comes to an end.
Though her movements throughout her set are sharp, almost robotic, Sevdaliza’s presence remains mesmerizing as she sings one of her most popular tracks from last year’s debut album, ISON. In the midst of her set, a videographer appears in front of the singer holding a camera that projects her face in real time onto two geometrically-shaped screens toward the back of the stage. Sevdaliza looks into the camera often while she sings, compelling the audience to stare back at her projection.
At other times in Sevdaliza’s performance she is alone on stage, singing without her choreographer delicately moving around her or her videographer intimately hovering close by. These moments even out the set, reminding the audience that this performance is not only a spectacle offering a new picture of Sevdaliza as an artist, but a chance to deepen the connection between viewer and singer.
When she does occasionally address the audience, she speaks softly and is brief. It is during the last 20 minutes of her production that she speaks vibrantly to those inside the Volksbühne, expressing her gratitude for the evening: “Welcome to my new live show. And thank you for being here.” Sevdaliza doesn’t appear to be breaking a sweat in this moment, an impressive feat considering she has just finished an elaborate dance with her choreographer, the two women intertwined and carrying each other on stage while Sevdaliza performed “That Other Girl” from her debut EP.
Applause and shouts echo throughout the hall, fans screaming “We love you, Sevda,” as she takes a moment to introduce her band and continue her thanks to everyone involved in production behind the scenes. She doesn’t hesitate to thank the people in front of her as well, many on their feet and applauding. It’s a domino effect of people standing, and a sight to behold from the mezzanine above.
Her costume changes vary throughout the performance, but she ends the set wearing an all-black one piece and large, assuming hat on her head that sways gently back and forth with her as she strides across her playground.
Before her final song, she stands tall, transparent heels still fixed to her feet, to thank the crowd once more, saying her name proudly: “My name is Sevdaliza,” as if she needed a reason to reintroduce herself to an enamored crowd already standing up with her. “Dance with me.”
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