The pop artist shares how her family heritage inspired her hit single ‘Bodies’
“Out of all the songs I’ve written, ‘Bodies’ felt the hardest to write because it meant putting my self out there in a way I had never done before,” shares Wafia, the alt-pop artist making waves with her slick and confessional songs. “I felt it necessary to share my family’s story because war and the trauma that comes with it is something we’ve quietly been dealing with for years, and not writing about it always felt like lying by omission.”
Wafia is of Syrian and Iraqi heritage and in the political climate of the past decade and a half, war has become a very real threat for her family. Most recently, her family were denied permission to enter Australia – the country that she now calls home – as refugees. With the ominous hum of Donald Trump threatening to “ban” Muslims from entering the U.S, it spurred an understandable sense of hopelessness.
“[‘Bodies’] felt somber at first because the song’s subject matter lends it self to be moody, but then my co-writer (Ben Abraham, who’s credits also include Kesha’s ‘Praying’) showed me Lionel Ritchie’s ‘All Night Long’ and that changed the whole mood of the session and we knew we had to write something that felt fun on surface level.”
Given her Arabic background, pursuing a career in music was not something that felt immediately accessible to Wafia, who was born in the Netherlands before relocating Down Under. “Pursuing music as a career isn’t very common in my culture or faith even. Growing up I was expected to do something more ‘academic’. I think in the beginning I was even driven by my parents expectations of me in music.” However, she is quick to stress how much her family wanted her to succeed. “It’s very different now and it’s worth mentioning that my parents wholeheartedly supported me from day one but I understand my Arab parents concern about this line of work.”
With such a variety of culture that she has experienced in her life to date, there is no doubt that this has had a lasting influence that seeps into her sound, which brings a more thoughtful slant to glitchy pop. But who is Wafia herself inspired by?
“I’d have to say Robyn’s Body Talk [is the album that has had the most influence on me as a songwriter]. The concepts and songwriting work so perfectly with the production. You can hear every deliberate decision she made on that album. Plus, it’s timeless, fun and heartfelt. That album has only ever grown on me more and more.”
Wafia’s latest single ‘Bodies’ is available now.
Is creating music a cathartic activity for you?
Most definitely. I wouldn’t be a songwriter if it didn’t feel some sort of of release or freedom after writing a song.
What is your first musical memory? Was there a specific moment that made you want to pursue music as a career?
It’d have to be watching Lauryn Hill in Sister Act 2. Since then I’ve always looked up to Ms. Hill.
Do you have an EP or album in the works currently that you can tease us with?
I’m about to put out my second solo EP titled VIII in January of 2018. It’s about intangibility, necessity, and transparency.
You’re about to head out on tour with BØRNS in November! What can fans expect from your live show?
I’m so excited! It’s going to be really fun. My live set up for these shows is a little more stripped back than what I’ve been doing lately, but it’ll be great introduction to my music for new audiences while still playing old favourites if anyone in the crowd knows my stuff prior to the show.
Will this be your first time heading to the U.S? If so, what are you most excited about?
It’s not the first time, no but it is my first headline run of shows around North America. It’s such an honour to be going to back but also playing in cities that I’ve never even been to.
What can we expect next from you? Do you have big things planned for 2018?
I’m most excited to drop my new EP early 2018 and then keep working on a bigger body of work that I’ve started putting together.