Silai Estatira – “…it builds up and up until the words fall and the sounds gather around me”. Lyricist Talks Music And Poetry

Silai Estatira is an artist finding herself in a ripple of a world she wishes to document through her music and words.

Words: zakaria Mafa
Photography: Ty Faruki

Spoken word has increased in popularity of late. Who are we kidding? Everything has increased in popularity since the dawn of the internet. But once in a while, we’re taken to new places, new philosophies and new people.

Silai Estatira was detected on our radar some time ago and ever since then, it has been like peeling a fresh flavourful onion full of depth and meaning. We managed to spot some time with the woman herself to dissect her membranous music.

S: So where did your love of the game begin? 


Silai: I can’t pinpoint one specific instance but I guess it was all an eventual, purposeful becoming. The path was paved before I was born: my Ami Jan and Aba Jee were both poets and there’s a rich tradition of poetry embedded deep within my bloodline and collective culture that I inherited. At times I only know words. Rap found me through poetry: it lies at the intersection of a lot of worlds I cross so I traverse with ease – the domain of sounds, rhythms, vibrations, storytelling, technique, flow and transcendence. I value knowledge and feeling and hip hop lets you do that. It lets you play with words to take people on experiential journeys. 

S: What motivates your work?

Silai: Honesty & transformation. 

Honesty because I have to be. My music is sharing a fragment of my soul with the world. I have to polish my soul thru my music so I can also see my reflection clearly staring back at me. In this way, it’s for me.

Transformation because everything we put out there is alchemy, a transformation of energy where we convert the mind world into matter that can be heard, felt and experienced.  Some of my art is a call to arms, so the momentum of the revolution never dies. I feel a lot and see a lot so sometimes my body physically can’t be home to that much. So it builds up and up until the words fall and the sounds gather around me. That transformation has to take place so I can find peace and so I can send it through to others too. There’s a lot of emptiness & darkness circulating through the world, so at times it feels like my role is to teach and spread truth but also be a mirror and show where we’re at, real-time – the darkness, the light, everything. 

S: How would you describe the make-up of your style?

Silai: Lyrical, at times spacey, echoing from the future, distant, at times soft, dreamy, at times harsh, dark, cruel, angry. At times light, spiritual penetrating poetry to the sound of layered & texturised harmonies, travelling between aggressive boom-bap beats with heavy distortions to something more light and playful. 

S: Growing up, what was your main influence of music?

Silai: I grew up mostly on lyrical & conscious rap and neo-soul like Lauryn, Mos Def, Doom, Earl so that definitely comes through but there’s tinges of a lot. Trip-hop, Nujabes, Lo-fi, spoken word, Pashtun folk music, grime, garage, ambient, remixed stuff and chopped and screwed, cloud rap, Fatima Al Qadiri’s Muslim trance, anything that transported me, spoke to me or held me.

S: And the Hip-Hop scene in your area, how has that contributed to the DNA of your music?

Silai: I’ve never really had one area. I’ve always been between places, physically and metaphorically. We moved around a lot so I never really settled anywhere long enough to delve in. So I would carry fragments with me everywhere I went, building homes from fleeting encounters and collected memories. The music from our flat in Peshawar, what kids in Newcastle were listening to while I was there, my mother’s stories, the British conscious underground through Lowkey and Mic, weird sounds I found while I lived online – traversing the home I made for myself in the cyber world and the infinite corners it carried hidden away, music from my Arab friends passed to me through living in the Middle-East. A lot has seeped into the DNA, collecting as I pass. 

S: What do you want people know about your art?

Silai: Let it take you.

S: Lastly, what’s next for you?

Silai: I’m currently working on my debut project. It’s been a long time in the making. I’m not gonna reveal much, but it is beautiful.