“I was looking for an outlet that wasn’t available where I grew up”

Next week Zhala’s highly anticipated album Zhala is set to be released. In 2012 she had her break through with the debut single Slipping Around and became the first artist to sign with Konichiwa Records. Radar had a chat with her about the new album, being “showy” and not having any role models.

How would you describe your sound?
– Growing up I always used to listen to a lot of Kurdish music and watch Bollywood films. I was inspired by Kurdish rave for example, it’s pretty crazy with a fast beat and a lot of things happening at the same time. I discovered the resemblance while I was making my own music. Sometimes I play around with music notes that are a little bit off which is very common in the Middle East.

Has anything changed since you became signed to Konichiwa records?
– Yes a lot, and especially since I’ve started to release material. It’s a huge possibility and I love how I’ve met people that make me evolve and explore new things. I’ve also been performing a lot more and not being so cooped up in the studio. My music is still the same but being signed has definitely helped people to reach my music.

It’s tiring being the best of
the worst all the time

How were you as a child?
– The same as I am now in many ways. As a child I was a very “showy” person. I feel like that’s something that always varies depending on how comfortable you are and a lot of times being that “showy” person is an escape. It becomes a way to deal with certain emotions and problems that you might have. You become social in order to cover up insecurities.


Any role models?
– I’ve never really had any role models even though I’ve always searched for them. Of course I get inspired by other musician’s ability to do their own thing, but inspiration is simply something I get from a lot of things such as my own experiences, my childhood and my world.

If I want to express myself
as a queer person one day
and as a non-queer the next,
it should be okay

Do you think there was a lack of role models
when you were growing up?

– Back then there was a huge lack of Swedish immigrants in the music industry. So music wise my inspiration came from American and Middle Eastern music. I was looking for an outlet that wasn’t available where I grew up and that’s where the American dream was born. It didn’t even have to be the American dream, people simply dreamed of moving away from where we grew up. We felt too excluded to want to continue our lives there, it’s tiring being the best of the worst all the time. But now it’s different, now things are moving in the right direction and I’m happy to be a part of that.


In terms of matters to the heart, what’s the most important thing to you?
– Freedom. If want to be able to have one opinion one day and then another the next, it should be okay. If I want to express myself as a queer person one day and as a non-queer the next, it should be okay. Change of mind is freedom to me. I want to be able explore whatever I want whenever I want. People shouldn’t have to decide what they want to represent and then feel obligated to stick by that the rest of their lives. I don’t have to do anything, we all change for God’s sake.

What do you represent at the moment?
– I don’t know, I think that’s up to others to determine, but I’m trying to be more out there and not be so shy. With other words, being myself without any inhibitions.


Tell us about your debut album Zhala.
– It has been finished for ages now! But in a way I like that, because I’ve been able to focus more on other stuff like shooting videos and performances. But I’m more than ready for it to be released!

How are you going to celebrate the release of your album?
– With the party of my dreams. I have the support of all these amazing people I’m working with. I can’t wait to have champagne, holy bubbles, great music, performances and sins. Let’s get over ourselves and have fun!


Photography by Victoria Sillwell

Watch Zhala’s music video for Holy Bubbles below.

The release party, which is presented by Makode Linde and Grolsch Studios, will take place on May 22nd at Slakthuset in Stockholm. Find the event here!