Iranian Refugee Singer Shab Turns Pain Into Power

Shab crosses over with an English album.
Shab crosses over with an English album.
Matt Doheny
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Having spent much of her life moving between countries, Persian singer-songwriter Shab has had to learn to adapt to various cultures. Over the past few years, Shab has built a strong Persian fanbase. Now, the Dallas-based mother of two is ready to break into the English market.

This past spring, Shab released her debut English single “Spell on Me,” a fun, sexy dance track with strong Mediterranean influences. With lyrics such as, “The chains broke, I’m finally free, I wanna run away now,” the spiritual singer discovers and pursues newfound love.

“I wanted to empower women,” Shab says of the single. “Not just women, really anybody. When you're in love, you're so powerful and powerless at the same time. We just have to be careful because love is a very strong energy. As soon as you walk into a room, you shift the energy.”

Shab was born in Iran and is one of 13 children. Her father, who ran part of a petroleum company, died when she was 6 months old. Shab moved to Germany by herself when she was 8, as a refugee during the Iranian revolution, and lived with one of her sisters. She moved to America, also by herself, at 14, where her family was waiting for her in Baltimore.

Shab immediately began learning English while working as a waitress and a hostess at her family’s pizza shop.

While the constant moving wasn’t ideal, Shab always managed to quickly adapt. She describes herself as “a sponge” that's perpetually absorbing new ways of life.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Shab says. “I always try to see the good in every situation.”

This April, Shab celebrated her 41 birthday. While many people dread getting older, Shab embraces the wisdom that comes with age.

“Your mind is just so powerful,” Shab says. “I always see age as a level. Like, right now, I’m a level 41. I just try to keep my energy high and just have fun.”

This fall, Shab plans to release her debut English album, on which she collaborated with producer Damon Sharpe, who has produced cuts for Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lopez.

“He just gets my vibe,” Shab says of Sharpe. “He gets my energy. He’s super detail-oriented. If something’s good, and I want to rework, he’ll be like ‘Shab, no, just stop, it’s good.’

"[Sharpe] saw the talent in me, and he saw the fire in my eyes," she says. "Through music and dance, I just want to heal humanity and do good for the world, and he has the same idea.”

Her upcoming album will contain pop ballads and dance tracks imbued with a Mediterranean sound. Many of the album’s songs are inspired by her partner Rob Snyder, founder of the Dallas-based Kynect Energy, as well as her children Raphael and Shiloh.

The upcoming album will contain the songs “Skin and Bones” and “What I Do.” Shab wrote the latter during a period of adversity.

“I was going through some times in my life where I was uncertain about where I stand and where God needs me to be,” Shab says. “There were some sad moments, but I turned it into a song and made it powerful. Instead of being bitter or sad about something that happens to you, you turn that pain into power, right?”

While she doesn't share a name for the album, Shab says infinity symbols will be a recurring motif among its eight tracks (as the infinity symbol looks like a sideways eight).

“There’s no end and no beginning to music,” Shab says. “It just keeps going because music is so healing for so many people. Each song has its own story. There are so many songs that are so personal to me and close to my heart."

Shab hopes to evoke an everlasting feeling with the record.

"I wanted to turn sad songs into happy songs and uplift people’s souls," she says. "When you just listen to it, you feel so good afterward and you just kind of look up and say ‘Wow, there is a higher power. There is a God.’ And I'm not saying it's gospel or anything, but it's very uplifting and energetic.”

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