Though she’d been writing songs in her head since she was six, and on the guitar since she was 12, it took a long time for now 23-year-old Londoner Nilüfer Yanya to work up the courage to show anyone her music. When she finally did, “It was horrible. I loved it”.
Nilüfer credits three people with giving her the courage to perform. The first, her Uncle Joe, a record producer and session musician; the second, her guitar teacher at school – The Invisible’s Dave Okumu; and lastly at teacher at her Saturday music school.
When she started performing (her first ever show at The Troubador) she found it in equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. At 18, she uploaded a few demos to SoundCloud, where she began to catch people’s attention. She released 3 EPs on London indie label Blue Flowers, 2016’s Small Crimes EP, and 2017’s Plant Feed and Do You Like Pain?, then signed to independent New York label ATO and earned a place on the BBC Sound of 2018 longlist. She featured on The FADER’s British Artists to Watch list, and supported the likes of The xx, Interpol, Broken Social Scene and Mitski on tour.
Not forgetting those who first encouraged her, she recorded much of her debut album Miss Universe at the very studio she and her uncle would jam in, she wrote a track for the album with Dave Okumu, and her live bandmates are old school friends. Alongside her music, she runs Artists in Transit, a non-profit arts group which runs arts and music classes for displaced people entering Europe, which she set up with her sister Molly.
Nilüfer's music incorporates the city’s urban edge with beautiful wandering guitar lines, downtrodden soulful and jazz flickered melodies, on top of minimalist and atmospheric beats.
Miss Universe is out now, and she’ll be taking it on the road throughout 2019.