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Style, innovation & equality

Nadia Tehran: ”I am the category”

The Swedish artist talks about her debut album ”Dozakh: All Lovers Hell”, obsessions and the future of Scandinavian music.

Words Stefanie Ravelli Photography: Sahar Jamili

Hi Nadia! What are you doing at the moment?

— I’ve just moved to Copenhagen after living in Stockholm for eleven years. After releasing ”Dozakh”, somehow my whole life changed. Dropping that record also meant that I could let go of the past. I’m taking my time to retreat and start over and to find out what I want to do next. I’ve started to paint again and got a job at a bakery where I’m baking bread before sunrise.

Your debut album has been a success! Critics have hailed it as: ”bringing the music to life” and that you bring life to the dying pop music scene. When you first started working with the album, what was your goal? What did you want to achieve?

— I wanted to explore my own expression and I wanted to play with sound. When I started working on the album I had never composed music that was only mine before. I used to sing in punk bands and other collaborations and we had a certain sound and style that I had to relate to. This record was the first time I had to try and find my own expression, what I wanted to say, what’s ME?

How come you’ve been genre-hopping? Why do you think our generation don’t like to categorise?

— I was attempting to find out who I am as an artist, so I tried everything that spoke to me. When you are searching for something you have to be limitless and open. I only care about what feels right, I’m not thinking about how it should fit in any category. I am the category.

You’ve been compared to David Bowie, Björk and The Knife. How did that make you feel and who do you identify the most with?

— I mean, it’s surreal to be compared to some of the greatest artists in history! I’m extremely flattered by that. All three of them are some of my biggest inspirations, I grew up on their music, it’s a part of me. I don’t compare myself to other artists, but I relate to all of them on different levels.

You’ve said that ancient Persian clothing has a lot of sound to it – can you tell me about that?

— I’ve recently started to collect some really beautiful pieces of traditional Middle Eastern fashion. A lot of them have small bells and coins and other small metallic bits. I think it’s fun to incorporate sound, it kind of changes your movement and also demands more space.

What are you obsessed with right now?

— I’m completely obsessed with my beautiful and talented friends around the world who bless me with good energy and inspire me to grow and be better. Like Sahar for example, who’s installation I’m wearing in the pictures. I’m endlessly obsessed with her.

Thom Yorke has called himself a ”hypocrite” for flying around the world on tour while campaigning against climate change. What are your innermost hypocritical traits?

— I’m a big advocate of hiring and collaborating with women and BPOC’s. Although, on this record I’ve mainly worked with men who are white. I think this reflects the environment that I’ve been in. I love every single person who worked on the record with me, and we did it because we are friends and adore each others work, and it’s all about the love and energy that we share together. Growing up in Sweden and Stockholm, the majority of people around me have been white. Now, my art has connected me with people who share the same experiences of being a diaspora child. I’m looking forward to further broadening this network and connecting with the amazing people in this movement.

In your opinion, what does the future hold for Scandinavian music?

— Queer, women of colour are on the rise. We are the future.