Dornika talks to us about music and inspiration with her latest single, “Kookoo”
Dornika interacts with us on her journey in music and as an artist yearning for liberation. Follow the interview along below:
1) Your powerful voice is on full display on Kookoo. What was your intention in creating this song, as a musician?
So I wrote this song last winter as I was going through a hard time. The loneliness of life as a migrant in the hyper-individualist west and the antisocial culture of Germany, combined with the weight of the reasons I had to move from Tehran in the first place were things that were taking a toll on me since while and I imagined I was not alone in feeling this way. When I was in Iran I was somehow in survival mode and the idea of migration was something that kept me going but once I was able to move, I got rather disillusioned by the world and learned about the history that got us here and how it linked to my own story. It was both freeing and very heavy.
I feel my inner child had a hard time facing how fucked up the world really is. Every day we are faced with so much violence and greed that is destroying the whole world, and sometimes the only sane response is to go a bit insane. In a way KoOkOo was sung by a part of me that is still shocked by the world and wants to go back to a place of innocence. Musically I was trying to find a way to talk about these topics in a way that can be processed for the listener, especially through dancing and moving as it’s an important part of healing traumas stored in the body.
This is where the amapiano influenced production and the childlike vocals play a big role. The juxtaposition of melancholic lyrics and uplifting music was something I was inspired at the time by Stromae, which is funny because it’s something I always made fun of in Iranian pop music.
Dornika using music as a platform
Your music has been a platform for your full-fledged activism. How natural is it expressing music through this genre you love so much?
To be very honest, I’ve always had a strong sense of justice even as a kid and the dream to change the world is very much kept alive in me despite being aware of the power dynamics and complexities of the systems we live in. I feel there are things I want to talk about and ways I want to shape the world around me and I truly believe in being the change we want to see. My writing process is always coming from a place of intention and authenticity.
If I make something it’s because I either want to tell a truth, truly experience something and experiment or to try to propose a solution to something. If one day I want to make a song about something, I do it, and I don’t force myself. Actually It’s really hard to make myself do something I don’t want to do (very ADHD) which makes some aspects of life very difficult but when it comes to creativity I can fully trust myself, so yeah it comes easy to me to marry art and activism because it’s part of who I am.
Learning from life-Dornika approaching music
Being born from Tehran and based in Berlin, what crucial role has your upbringing played in crafting music so specific to you?
Many people that know me as an artist find this hard to believe that I was not always a confident singer and musician. I would even say finding my voice was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. A big part of this was not being seen for who I was growing up and of course the extreme circumstances of society in Iran. I think the music scene in Iran was almost exclusively cis men that had very strong opinions on how things should be.
I didn’t really feel I had support for my music and space to experiment. The only safe space was my bedroom, where I started composing and writing songs as a teenager. I was quite a lonely kid so I spent a lot of my time making art, and finding connection with my inner world. Though, not being able to study music production or singing and always feeling not enough for classical music felt like a big let-down. I had no support, so I took a long break from music even after moving to Berlin and spent the first years working as a dancer and drag artist.
Music moulding more than melodies
I guess that’s where I got the confidence to get back into music and find my own voice. The years I spent in Tehran having only myself as my true audience, and then the freedom to experiment so broadly in Berlin gives me a solid foundation to work the way I do. I know I always have myself and I know I have the support of my community, and the limitations I faced makes me even more assertive and gives me drive to stay true to my voice.
Dornika filters through politics and controversy
4) About the revolution in Iran, how do you think your art is pushing you to stand for what you believe in? As an artist, do you see creative roadblocks?
To be completely honest, I find this very difficult some times. The situation in Iran is so close to all of our hearts especially for us who grew up there because on the one hand we are completely tied, by family and loved ones, by memory and experience and feel responsible. On the other hand we feel there is only so much we can do and so much energy we can expend but also feel guilty to shut things off when it gets too much and we’re aware that it’s our privilege.
There is so much I want to contribute to and wish I could be more helpful, but feel a bit powerless sometimes as it can feel like screaming into the void or going up against an enemy that has big bully friends (aka a lot of western countries that support them) and no boundaries when it comes to violence. That’s what the islamic republic is. I can try to help how I can, with using my platform and using my art but also question if it really makes a difference. I think hopelessness is one of the biggest hurdles for us but I try to combat that and still believe in change, because that’s the only way we can make it happen.
With Revolution, what is the behemoth you want to be able to address that you think fans will instantly connect with?
Addressing the pain. Healing. Uniting. Change. Hope.
Dornika continues to inspire those who have found language in her music.
Do you get to interact with listeners about the positive impact of your songs like Fatbulous and Nobody?
Yes! And it’s very exciting! I got people telling me they listen to Fatbulous in the mornings to get energy for the day or when they are feeling down. I just saw a video of Nobody being used for a workshop to empower participants and stuff like this makes me feel like hell yeah, that’s exactly what I came to do! People even tell me after my shows how yelling the lyrics to Nobody felt releasing or cathartic. It’s really cool that the intention I had with the tracks is actually going coming to life.
Who are some artists in Iran you have loved working with, being a music producer as well? Any collaborations you see having an incredible output?
Honestly I didn’t have any good experiences working with people in Iran. The music scene I was briefly involved in was extremely sexist and limiting. Although now there are so many amazing female and queer artists coming up and I hope to be able to collaborate with soon.
As your drag persona Many Faced Godx, do you see a visible influence of art inspiring art? Do you see the apprehensions being dissolved?
Absolutely! I started studying art in Berlin at the same time as doing drag and working as a dancer. I can say I saw so much more inspiring art at drag shows and learned more about being an artist than I ever did at uni. There is so much love and creativity in the queer performance and drag community. People work with very little money and resources and make amazing works that are presenting socio-political commentary, and that is fucking wild.
Many Faced Godx allowed me to freely experiment with my looks, gender and art without limitations. I definitely would be where I am today without the drag stages and the amazing community that always cheers the loudest and is so supportive. I truly believe art comes from the underground, from lived experience and from marginalized people that make art as acts of resilience. That’s where I see the most inspiration, as it always has been throughout history.
Hope you enjoyed Dornika in her creative best with Kookoo. Listen to Dornika here and follow more of her songs: