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Wafia's 'VIII' EP Explores Her Journey As a Young, Queer, Muslim Woman

Wafia’s electric pop sounds are all the rage right now, and for good reason. The 24-year-old artist uses her honest lyrics and groovy beats to show fans that music can be a place of refuge. Her latest EP, VIII, is a lyrical masterpiece, taking her listeners through her personal journey of self-discovery as a queer Muslim woman, as well as the struggles her family faced as refugees from Syria. As the songs on the EP are extremely personal, Wafia wanted the lyrics to be honest and relatable—and she succeeded.

We sat down with Wafia to talk more about her music and what inspires her; read the full interview below.

Can you give us a briefing about your background as an artist?

I started pursuing music seriously in about 2015 with the release of my first single, “Heartburn”. Prior to that I was just writing and developing my own sound. I’ve been singing since as long as I remember but only picked up the guitar and piano when I began trying to song-write and so I only know enough to get me through writing a song.

You went to school for Biomedicinehow did you make that transition from science to art? Were you able to apply things you learned in university to your career path as an artist?

Honestly, the transition was difficult. Seeing all my friends from university have stable jobs after graduating depressed me to the point of being bed-ridden for about 18 months after. There were a lot of times I felt silly for pursuing music. My father really helped me out of that. He always made sure I’d make any gig appearances or studio time I’d booked. If it wasn’t for my parents support, I don’t think I could have done any of this, especially in the beginning.

You just recently got back from tour. What cities did you travel to? What was your favorite memory?

We visited most of major cities in North America. My favorite memory would have to be laughing/coughing throughout the entire Boston show. I was out in the cold 15 mins prior and never in my life had I experienced a cold like that. No one’s ever told me not to breathe in air that cold before. I know it sounds pretty stupid now but I really didn’t think it through. It made me cough a lot and I felt so sick right after. I went on stage though and coughed my way through the first song and most songs thereafter. The crowd remained so kind and laughed through it all with me. Funnily enough, it was the most comfortable I’d felt on stage before.

What was something you learned about yourself as an artist while touring?

That touring in the US in the winter means learning how to tour with a sick voice. It was actually really fascinating how resilient the voice can be if you sing the right way.

How do you recuperate after being on tour and traveling?

I haven’t figured that out yet! Mostly taking a tonne of showers helps. I find myself taking 2-3 showers a day on show days just to calm me down.

How would you describe your sound?

Honest, I hope.

How do you want fans to identify with your music?

In whatever way they want. At the very least I hope they feel inclusivity at the shows.

Congratulations on your new EP, VIII! Can you talk a little bit about your hit song, “Only Love”? This song has such powerful lyrics,

I’ve been talking a lot , ’cause I think you should know
I want it out in the open, let the insides show
I’ve been thinking of us, I’ve been thinking too much
And I don’t understand it, ‘but it’s only love”

What inspired this song?

The day we wrote this song was the day I told my co-writer about how I’d been falling for my best friend. This song kind of bookmarks that for me.

In general, where do you seek inspiration? Personal experiences? Other artists?

Always personal experiences and if not, experiences of my loved ones. I tend to write a lot of songs for my friends and family in the hopes of making them feel heard and listened to.

When you are writing is there a preference of atmosphere—i.e. do you prefer to be alone? Inside or outside? Describe your writing ritual.

Lately I’ve been writing with other people. I used to only write by myself but over the last few of years I’ve learned the power of collaboration. Having someone there as a sounding board to questions every decision can sometimes lead to a better song.

What is one thing you always have with you?

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Popin’ Cookin’ videos on Youtube.

Who is your dream collaboration?

Ms. Lauryn Hill.

Images courtesy of Andres Norwood; Styling by Alia Al-rasheed; H&M by Chelsea Esquibel

Stay tuned to Milk for more woke musicians we love. 

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