A decade into a career at the confluence of digital music and art, the latest album by New York-based Kuwaiti electronic composer Fatima Al Qadiri is full of echoes. Her 2017 EP, Shaneera, was a party-facing tribute to the “evil queens” in Arab culture, thriving in spite of oppression. More recently, her immersive score for Mati Diop’s contemporary ghost story, Atlantics, helped earn the film the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2019.
Medieval Femme, by contrast, hymns some very different Arab women to Shaneera – those of the medieval period – with the otherworldly delicacy honed on Al Qadiri’s soundtrack work. She has often played with perspective (how the west views the east) as well as place (often hyper-real) and time (juxtapositions, anachronisms), but never quite like this. Sheba sounds like early music laced with sighs of sensual longing and the merest scissor snip of 21st-century percussion. The meditative Tasakuba features sorrowful couplets from the seventh-century elegiac poet Al-Khansa. Apart from the more contemporary dystopian digitals of Golden, the feel throughout is ancient and enigmatic. But these lute tones and classical Arabic music figures are rendered digitally; the cloister garden is an interior dream-space.