Sirens of Lesbos are a group of singers, lyricists, instrumentalists and creatives from Bern, Switzerland who are about the revive and modernize the Worldbeat genre with their eclectic and groove-led approach. They draw on diverse backgrounds and upbringings to create an irresistible melting pot of sound. Releasing on their own self-titled label, their music is fast attracting fans far and wide, from BBC 1Xtra’s Jamz Supernova, to BBC 6 Music’s Nemone, to Worldwide FM’s Gilles Peterson and Beats 1’s Ebro Darden.
The five Swiss-born members of the group all came into contact through Bern’s vibrant musical scene. Co-producers Melvyn Buss and Arci Friede both have backgrounds in dance and electronic music. Buss — who performs on synths, percussion and background vocals — used to produce house music under the name Mercury on labels like Gomma, while Friede — who writes most of the lyrics — spent many years as an owner and booker of some of the city’s best clubs. They began collaborating in the mid-2000s and later met vocalist sisters Jasmina and Nabyla Serag. Jasmina was chosen as an artist for the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in 2018 and also records as NewRa, while Nabyla has a background in choir singing. Denise Häberli completes their extended family, with her position as art director for the group bringing to life their colourful look that matches their vibrant music to a tee.
The group first found fame by accident: the result of a self-imposed challenge to write an Ibiza hit. “All of a sudden we were in talks with almost all major labels and publishers out there” recalls Friede. “In the end we signed with Epic / Sony. But it was like two drunken teenagers getting married in a Las Vegas chapel… once we sobered up, we both realised that we were not meant for each other.” Quickly becoming disillusioned with their situation, they chose to start over and pursue the music they had stronger passions for. One look at their ‘Los mejores Shign McNahgn’ Spotify playlist shows the breadth of their influences: from D’Angelo to Archie Shepp, J.I.D. to Rosalia, Peter Gabriel to Van Morrison and languages and cultures from across the world.
With tracks ranging from the slinky, early-Hercules & Love Affair disco of ‘Zeus’ and ‘Shotgun’ to the skanking dub tinge of ‘We’ll Be Fine’, and the nu soul/swing of ‘Waltz’ and ‘Fairground’, their organic sounds take listeners on journeys across the world and through time, and their next move is never predictable.
As well as their diverse musical inspirations, their sound and lyrics are also the product of their mixed backgrounds and upbringings. The Serag sister’s parents were political refugees and freedom fighters from Sudan and Eritrea, as were Friede’s Czech parents following the Prague Spring uprising in 1968. Buss’ father is English, and Switzerland proved the perfect place for these different cultures to mix and combine with contemporary influences. As a result, their globetrotting sound spans time, space and vibe, and it’s one that keeps getting stronger with each carefully pieced together release.