Music / Suitless

Michelle LeBlanc



| Suitless #3 |

An Interview with Music Producer Sandhill

Sandhill Music aka Nawar Al-Rufaie


I started making beats with my late brother Nofy Fannan in 2000, after a few years of recording freestyles with Narcy at home on a small tape recorder, over pre-existing instrumentals by some of our favourite artists. We must have recorded countless verses to the “1nce Again” instrumental by A Tribe Called Quest, which was included on the CD single. Around the time we felt we were ready to start creating our own beats, our cousin Hassaan gave us a cracked version of Fruity Loops. That’s how it all began.


Why Sandhill?

There’s actually no real significance to the name. We simply thought it sounded good. It’s short and unpretentious. I think it was also partly a nostalgic thing for me, as it reminds me of my early childhood in Abu-Dhabi.



What were some of your initial inspirations when you began?

My main inspirations in music are obviously hip hop, and classical Arabic music. Specifically, the type of music my parents would play on cassette tapes back in the 80’s. Also, Micheal Jackson, Prince, all the 80’s pop icons that my older siblings listened to. Growing up, the influence of Hip Hop was my passion and was the genre that I ultimately chose to express my various inspirations.

Hip Hop was my passion and was the genre that I ultimately chose to express my various inspirations.

What is sampling?

Sampling predates Hip Hop, it goes back to around the 1950’s or 60’s when people would sample noises or split seconds of sounds, then immerse them within a larger body of work. Today, sampling is taking a piece from an older recording and incorporating it into something new. It’s basically a collage, where you have different elements from different sources that you bring together to build something new. As an art form, contemporary sampling is truly popularized by Hip Hop.



What is your process when it comes to beat making?

The process usually starts with an emotion, something I feel or something that I have gone through that day. I also might feel inspiration after I have a conversation with someone that left me wanting to communicate how I feel.  Another method, is that I might just hear a sample I like. I listen to a ton of music on different formats. Usually, if I hear a track that I want to sample, I will think “Ok this is it, I want to hear this over and over again”. These are some of the ways I will start the process of creating a track.

When it comes to sampling Arabic Hip Hop music, it hasn’t always been done very tastefully.

In a lot of your music we hear Middle Eastern inspiration, why?

There is a certain emotion in the Arabic scale, that isn’t necessarily heard in so called “Western Music”. I am mostly refer to semi tones and quarter notes, and the in-between notes from classical Arabic music. These sounds evoke a very specific emotion, which is why I tend to gravitate towards Arabic samples. Arabic Hip Hop music hasn’t always been sampled tastefully, it is often cliched, or very Orientalist in nature. I think there is a gap for that type of sampling, particularly in Hip Hop.



 The feeling you get that inspires your music, is that for you, or is that what you want to share with the people who listen to your music?

It’s a bit of both, there is definitely a therapeutic aspect for me. I find comfort in making music, it helps me cope with whatever life might present me with. There is also the aspect of wanting to communicate an emotion with people, I want to find that emotion and extend it. It is partly for me personally to express myself, and I also to share with people, at the end of the day we all experience the same range of emotions.

But when you do get those moments of success, on your own terms, without compromise, that is the most rewarding and makes it worth it.


How do you feel about today where Hip Hop has come to, and where it is going?

There are different markets for the various genres in Hip Hop. Hip Hop isn’t a monolithic genre, there will always be local scenes in different cities around the world. Some of the current branches, “Mumble Rap” or various forms of Trap Music are both good and bad, I can’t judge it. I might not be a fan of everything, but a lot of it is genuine, honest music that is created by people who choose to express themselves in that way.



What is the spectrum of emotion you can go through in the process of making a beat?

It depends on the day, I can make more introspective music, more atmospheric music, more moody broody thoughtful music. But there is definitely a range, some days I focus on themes like, loss, identity, diaspora, but sometimes I want to celebrate life. I am blessed to be alive and healthy, the people I love are healthy, and why not celebrate that? I like to make music that I want to, it is about celebrating life and being alive.

I like to make music that I want to dance it, it is about celebrating life and being alive.


You have a gravitation towards political themes in your tracks, why?

That is simply by virtue of being of Iraqi origin. For instance, the fact that I wasn’t born there and grew up in Canada is a direct result of the constant turmoil in Iraq. Iraqis are all politicized in one way or another, we are all been affected by war. That said, I belong to a generation of diaspora. Iraqis/Arabs who have been incredibly privileged compared to what millions of others endure. This self-awareness, within the context of white hegemonic power structures sparks a passion to help make the world a more just and equal place. However small, I believe the contribution it makes you relate to struggles all around the world.



How has being of Arabic origin affected your career?

In terms of being an artist in North America, it has helped me separate myself from others and has allowed me to have a unique perspective on what is an often dauntingly competitive/saturated genre. Not many people can claim to have sampled James Brown and Iraqi Chobi music on the same track. Has it limited potential mainstream opportunities? Perhaps. But I am over trying to seek validation and acceptance from the mainstream. We create our own opportunities.

I choose to work with recording artists who are political, it’s something I can’t separate from my identity.

What do you visualize when making music?

That depends on the mood of the track I am working on. I draw a lot of inspiration from films, I am huge film buff. Sometimes I imagine I scoring one of my favorite movies, or writing a new score for iconic scenes. I think about my brother who passed away 12 years ago, he is always on my mind when I and working on music. And also sometimes the music ends up evoking certain imagery, it works the other way as well.

If you are truly yourself, you will end up reaching people.

Do you have any inspirational words for young beat makers?

Just be yourself, be original, be inspired by your surroundings and artists that you admire. Don’t compromise. If you are truly yourself, you will end up reaching people.

My name is Nawar also known as Sandhill, I am a producer, beat maker and composer.






Video Director – Walid Kafi

Video Producer – Michelle LeBlanc

DOP – Vincent Price

Music Composer – Sandhill


Mustafa Shubbar

July 26, 2017 Reply

Great, wish you all the best…

Your email address will not be published.Field is required

You may use these <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr> tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

More From Metro Creative

You may also like these, or go back to the overview:

Go Back