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    Layla Kardan on motherhood, wellness and the love of music

    Sophia Dyer

    The performer

    If you’ve been in Dubai long enough, chances are you’ve heard Layla Kardan’s sultry voice. Whether that was at her dinner and show venue Papillon or, if you were lucky enough to be invited, at the opening of the Atlantis The Royal. The singer-songwriter is one of the city’s most well-known. And with a distinct, soulful, yet gently feminine sound, Kardan’s musical prowess has earned her regional respect. 

    Originally from Iran, Kardan, who was born in Belgium, grew up between Sydney and Dubai. “Growing up, I wasn’t really allowed to explore singing,” she explains. “But I always had a natural inclination towards music.” 

    Training as a ballerina for 14 years, the passionate performer, who was keen not to disappoint her parents, set about a career in finance while gigging on the side occasionally. That was until the call of the arts got too strong to ignore.

    “By the time I went into music full-time, I didn’t feel the need to justify it anymore,” says Kardan who has since both received her parents blessings and won numerous awards for her musical aptitude. In addition to performing at some of the biggest venues in the UAE, Kardan is a regular entertainer at fashion events. 

    Song bird: Kardan is wearing a dramatic skirt, bejewelled blazer and corset by Elisabetta Franchi. Shoes are her own. Earrings, B.zero1 earrings; ring, B.zero1 ring, all by Bulgari

    Releasing her debut album Saved in 2018, Kardan’s message is one of female empowerment – but not in the way you might think. Pay attention to her lyrics and you’ll infer that her idea of feminine liberation is the ability to live in authenticity as opposed to achieving quantitative success. “The most beautiful thing about being a woman is the ability for compassion, femininity and sensuality. I feel like, in the fight for equality, sometimes women have to rid themselves of their feminine qualities, whereas I think that those are actually our strength,” explains Kardan. 

    After giving birth to her first child, Rumi, last year, Kardan says becoming a mother has changed her outlook. “He gives me so much purpose. It’s the most amazing journey I’ve ever been on, but it happened at a time in my in life where I had a lot going on,” the singer, who is a multiple-business-owner, explains. 

    Working alongside her husband, Kardan co-owns and runs three restaurants in Abu Dhabi, each with a musical element. “I believe that we are advanced creatures, and we should constantly be evolving,” explains the mogul, who has also recently opened her very first wellness clinic, Contrast. 

    Offering ice baths, saunas and IV drips, the centre might be a departure from Kardan’s performing passion, but she has been going to wellness retreats since she was 16 and knows what works. “I really believe in the concept of ‘wellness from within’, which is how the idea for Contrast came up. It’s all about a holistic approach to longevity,” she says.

    “My greatest passion is still music and the arts,” reassures Kardan, though she needn’t have clarified as she breaks into song at multiple moments during the photoshoot. Her powerful voice echoing out across the studio acts like a melodic metaphor for her compelling entrepreneurial spirit and the resounding mark she has made on the city’s music industry.


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