A conversation with Wafia




Located in Brisbane, Australia, Wafia Al-rikabi’s music falls into the Experimental Folk genre: characterized by its acoustic instrumentals and haunting melodies. After falling in love with music at a young age, Wafia pursued her solo career up until recently where she has joined with set musicians to form a band. We eagerly anticipate this shift to see what twist it will bring, highlighting her abilities.

Are you a soloist? If so, do you also do the instrumentals?

Well you caught me in a weird place right now because I used to be very much a solo artist but now I’m sort of making that change into essentially a band like Bon Iver where Justin Vernon is fronting it but all the other musicians are still integral parts of what happens. I guess that’s sort of what we are now and we’re just about to launch that in about a month, so the whole new look and website and everything. It’s such a grey area right now.

How long have you been incorporating other musicians?

Only been about a month and a half right now; I’ve just decided because someone recently asked me where I see myself in five years as a solo artist and that made me so scared! If this does work out for me and I do get to be a solo musician, I’d be so sad all the time, having to just pay musicians that I don’t have a connection to. My current band mates have always been sort of friends/acquaintances and their band dismembered so I went out and picked them all up and made them join mine! They’re all so skilled; they’re way above me. Like I don’t know much about the theory of music but they do; they just surpass everything that I know. It’s really great being in that atmosphere. It’s very inspiring.

How'd you get started?

Essentially I started when I was three when I would sing “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion and that was just my go to song. I was just convinced that I was good at singing. My dad would go around feeding the poor at churches and I would go in with him and sing and that’s how I started. This lady then found me and asked “Do you want to go on this TV show and sing songs?” And I was like “yea!!” This was in the Netherlands by the way, which is where I was born and raised. So I did this singing competition on worldwide television. I was about 7 and I wore these disgusting floral pink shorts, I think my mum has a photo of them it’s disgusting! I remember crying for hours on TV because I came second and I was really upset and distraught about it. After that, I just sang in high school. Because I moved around a lot I didn’t really actively try singing until a year after I finished high school. I was in this biomedicine degree program at the university and it was just so boring that I needed music to retreat to. I’ve been doing it seriously since then.

Which artist has had the most impact on your music?

I guess it depends what stage of life that you catch me at. Right now it’d have to be Joni Mitchell because of her lyrics. For me, music has always been about lyrics and the melody and I think she catches those things perfectly. Its only now that I’m starting to realize that, yes, music incorporates everything even the soundscapes—I’m just becoming familiar with that. And she’ll always be one of my favorites. I don’t think we sound alike but I idolize her, the route that she took towards music and her artistic integrity. [“Woodstock” is her particular favorite by Mitchell].

What does the music mean for you?

First and foremost I write for myself, that’s what I did when I wrote the EP. It was easy it was for me and I didn’t expect there to be an audience I just really wanted something in the world to exist for my family and friends and to see a reaction has been amazing. But that being said, last year, I tried to write, writing for people and it didn’t work. As soon as I started making it about someone else, I couldn’t. Everything that I wrote didn’t feel authentic and genuine. I couldn’t see myself progressing with that. At the end of the day, it’s my feelings that I’m harvesting; if people can connect to that then by all means, that’s awesome. There’s nothing that I love more than that.

What do you want to evoke in your listeners?

I get the word haunting a lot, so that’s always nice because it’s a feeling that I sort of want to evoke. I love happiness, but I think people connect to sadness and intrigue more than they connect with happiness. That’s why I tend to write in that way. I’ve also gotten the word nostalgic. Someone will come up and say to me “oh your song brought up this memory.”

What genre of music do you tend to listen to?

All over the board mainly, but right now I’m in my hip-hop phase. [Do you have any favorite hip-hop artists?] There’s this artist called MF Doom from the 90s and I think that he is wonderful. And of course, I LOVE Kanye West…I don’t care what anyone says about who he is as a person, I love his music. [Well unfortunately he’s getting married soon!] I know I’m so sad!

Any upcoming shows to be on the lookout for?

With the relaunch, we’re timing it because I have a song that’s coming out in a movie called “Wish I Was Here” directed by Zach Braff, which is how we’re sort of launching it. We will probably do a single launch show for the first single that we release but after that I’ll just let the music work for itself and if we get put into shows then that’s awesome. Right now it’s more about focusing on the new EP and writing new material. [“Breath In” is the song being used in the film, which got the attention of Gotye].

What’s the weirdest/craziest fact about you?

I have really really really bad OCD like to the point where it causes anxiety for me, that’s why I’m always so punctual. I have this constant fear of disappointing people and that’s what my OCD stems from, I think?  I find that going to industry meetings, I’ll show up on time or earlier and they’ll be like “What, are you even a musician??”

Check out her music on Bandcamp.

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