Bklava a.k.a. Lara Sweeney is a south-London born artist of Lebanese-Irish descent, and has traversed great lengths in an impressively short span of time. Since the release of her debut single CNTRL – a link-up with UKG figurehead and early supporter Wookie – in 2019, the 27-year-old singer, songwriter, producer and DJ has enamored listeners with a patchworked sound that draws from a vibrant palette of UK-rooted club styles both nostalgic and entirely future-facing.
Their 2021 Autonomy and her 2020-released eponymous debut EP were both released via esteemed UK imprint Ministry of Sound. Where Autonomy functioned as a tribute and candid documentation of a specific time in Bklava’s personal life – veering through introspective themes such as female empowerment, single life and mental health on tracks such as Only For Tonight or Sober.
Anyone who’s caught a Bklava show in real life will know her soulful voice plays an integral role here, too. A proven crowd-reader, Bklava has honed her winning formula during live PA/DJ sets at clubs and festivals worldwide. From Parklife, Lost & Found and Snowbombing through to AVA Festival (where she performed her first ever Boiler Room set) and a debut US tour last year. Bklava’s spent 2022 letting loose with the fans who first discovered her music during the pandemic, while acquiring new ones in the process with plays at The Warehouse Project, Parklife Festival, Love Saves The Day and Amnesia in Ibiza.
Like many artists, Bklava’s love affair with music began during childhood. Her father introduced her to classic rock and folk early on. He was similarly musical; he wrote music, played guitars and performed in a band. Elsewhere, her mother liked to sing, draw and dance. Dancing is a passion she also shared with Bklava’s grandma – or teta, as Bklava calls her. Her mother’s taste veered closer to radio-ready pop and 90s house music, and so her parents’ contrasting interests – plus their respective roots in Ireland and Lebanon – introduced Bklava to a smorgasbord of styles as well as two distinctive musical heritages. Bklava’s alias is inspired by her favourite Lebanese dessert.
She discovered a passion for singing and songwriting way back when too, and cites fellow diaristic storytellers such as FKA twigs, Imogen Heap and Amy Winehouse as early inspirations. Relatably, she fell for dance music during her teenage years, which were spent studying Musical Theatre at the prestigious BRIT School from age 16. It was then that newfound intrigue for south London dubstep and dark electronic sounds intertwined with prior enthusiasm for musical theater and traditional music first heard at family gatherings. She first stumbled across garage house around this time, with the genre’s strong, female vocal-led arrangements and soulful nature a driving force in her own sonic excursions. It’s no wonder, then, that Bklava would describe her sound as “non-stop bops and flava”.
Looking ahead, connection is at the forefront of Bklava’s mind. It’s Your Time was just the start of an exciting new chapter that will see her forging stronger bonds and collective effervescence with her fans. Community projects like Spin Suga – her DJ platform and support network for aspiring female and non-binary producers and DJs – also factors in. More than anything, though, Bklava’s been reconnecting with herself, and the passions that have been fuelling her since the release of CNTRL. “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says with a grin, “especially at this moment in time”. The future’s looking bright for Bklava, and she’s ready to embrace it.