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Photos / Katy Pritchett
Styling / Megan Kelley
Hair / Tiffany Dougherty @ The Celestine Agency
Makeup / Alexis Swain @ The Celestine Agency
Story / Skylar Benton
Don’t be fooled by the catchy up-tempo beats of Wafia’s single, ‘Bodies’, thinking she came to play games. Though you may find yourself dancing around your room singing “We’re just bodies/We’re just bodies in the night”, Wafia came to drop some knowledge on us about the current crisis the Syrian Refugees are facing and how it has affected her own family.
The 24-year-old singer and musician has had a very unique world experience. Born in the Netherlands to Syrian and Iraqi parents, she spent most of her childhood traveling around Europe before finally settling in Brisbane, Australia. Upon settling in Oz, she literally Tumblr’d her way into our playlists and our hearts. “I think covering those songs and posting them online became a very public study of chords, melody, lyrics, and voice. Everything was new to me. I was learning guitar as I was singing these songs and doing that as you go along makes you very comfortable with vulnerability. I think as an artist, I’m chasing a new way to be vulnerable with every song I write,” she says.
As for social media being a new way to break into the music industry Wafia thinks, “It’s evened the playing field a little. I think the labels saw that if you can get a large group of people into your music on the net then you can put [on] a show and a lot of those people will come.” When her cover of Mario’s ‘Let Me Love You’ — her now most listened to song on Soundcloud — reached 5.5 million streams, she grabbed the attention of Australian producers, Ta-Ku and Pharrell Williams. Let’s just say the numbers don’t lie when it comes to talent.
Though Wafia grew up listening to mostly European R&B and pop, her musical influences are very diverse. She finds inspiration from traditional Arabic music that she says “runs through [her] veins”; Ms. Lauryn Hill; who Wafia admits is one of her top three celebrities she would want to have dinner with (can someone please make this happen?!), all the way to 80’s Lionel Richie with her single ‘Bodies’. Thanks to her varied musical landscape, she won’t be limiting her talents to one specific genre, Wafia says having these varieties of influences has made her “more open to letting [a] song be whatever it wants to be. I’m not trying to set the song into any guidelines I’ve set for myself or make an exclusively RnB or even pop album. I want the freedom to explore within each world of a song and hope that the final product will be held together by my voice.”
As a result of Wafia’s nomadic, worldly upbringing she hopes it has given her a unique perspective as an artist where any and all listeners feel welcome. “I think in everything I try to find some sense of togetherness or inclusivity. My favorite songs are the ones that unify and make people feel less alone.” And her personal and political single ‘Bodies’, released in late 2017, does just that.
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Director Alli Coates’s video visually highlights minorities, whilst the young singer brings to light a dark reality in the opening of her song with lyrics like “And even when the night hits/ All of the lights have got us running/ We ain’t gotta be reckless/ But you’ll never stop coming.” Wafia has not been shy about speaking on how this political climate has directly affected her personal life and her mother’s family being denied immigration status. As an artist, she says it has made her want to be more visible. “There was a time I just wanted to hide behind the music and I don’t think that’s okay for me anymore. If I do it for anyone, I’m doing it for my sisters and other little brown girls like them,” she says.
In a world where you can barely have a conversation without anyone bringing up politics, we have seen many artists and entertainers become inspired by the current chaos. Wafia tells us how she sings about meaningful topics but finds a balance between speaking out and still keeping her songs upbeat: “I think music, like any other medium, is reflective of the time we live in. I do think it’s important for artists that are affected to talk about things if they want, but also I think that art doesn’t need to come from a painful place to be valid or to give an artist, from a minority, value.”
Since releasing ‘Bodies,’ this young singer has been making all the right moves. She’s recently performed at the 18th annual music & arts festival, and Splendour in the Grass, which is one of Australia’s most iconic festivals. In late May, Wafia teamed up with Chicago-based DJ duo, Louis the Child, on one of their latest singles ‘Better Not’, joined them onstage at Coachella, and will be jumping on a few of their ‘Dear Sense’ U.S. tour dates along with NoMBe.
As for coming to the U.S., we were curious to know what Wafia would say if she had 10 minutes to speak with Donald Trump, would she perhaps share her family’s story? “It’s hard to reason with a person that thinks they are the smartest in the room. They walk into that room thinking that there is nothing or no one that they are going to learn from today and I think that makes for a very sad existence. What even is the point in talking to a person like that? He’s already made his mind up.”
As for us? We’ve made up our minds about Wafia, too…and we can’t wait to see her live. She begins the last leg of her ‘I’m Good’ world tour in North America on November 19th in New York. For any curious and new listeners, she describes her music as, “sometimes it’ll make you feel good, other times it might make you wallow in sadness — but at least we’ll be in it together.”
What’s next for Wafia? She recently just dropped the single ‘I’m Good’. And this one goes out to all the ones that just ended that summer fling; welcome to your new favorite pop break-up anthem. It’s time to grab your bottle of rose, update that Spotify playlist, and head over to Wafia’s website to grab your tickets for her upcoming tour.
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