The Syrian-Iraqi Singer You Need to Know
Meet Wafia, the 25-year-old who’s already performed at Coachella
Sarah Ben Romdane
25-year-old up and coming Australian singer Wafia—who has a Syrian mother and an Iraqi father—decided to pursue a career in music during her second year of college. Within a matter of years, Wafia’s career started catapulting, culminating in the young singer taking to the stage at one of the world’s biggest music festivals: Coachella.
Since then, Wafia’s blissful, sugar-sweet voice and catchy melodies have been captivating crowds all over the world from Australia to America, passing through the Middle East. Last week, she released the video for ‘I’m Good’ – her empowering new anthem that celebrates post-breakup self-love.
Currently in the midst of refining her new record (having already released her first two EPs, XXIX and VII), MILLE caught up with Wafia to find out how she defines herself, the inspiration behind her work and her future plans.
You were born in the Netherlands to Arab parents and you live in Australia. How would you define your identity, and how does it influence your music?
I honestly never know how to describe myself and I find it easier to let other people pick for themselves. My accent is Australian so that’s usually the first thing that people hear and are then confused by. I know Australia is where I live now but I wouldn’t consider it home if my parents didn’t live there. My ancestors on my father’s side were Bedouin so I like to think that it has something to do with my lack of a “home” country.
I think the music is in some way a reflection of that. Shifting in sound but grounded in voice maybe? But the last time I visited Syria was 2006. Unfortunately I’ve yet to visit Iraq.
That’s probably why you refer a lot to identity in your lyrics?
I think I return to identity a lot because for a long time I was very confused. When I’d go to Syria I wouldn’t fit in there and when I’m in Australia I don’t fit in either. I felt like a black sheep for a very long time until I met my best friend Noor. Then, the more Arabs I met that were on a similar wavelength to me, the more I realised this is a pretty universal feeling among us. Which in some kind of way is very uniting and made me feel a lot less alone in it. It just makes sense that it’d all bleed into my music and become a big theme of it.
Musically speaking, what inspires you?
I really love what SZA is doing. Her album has remained really relevant to me, which I think is difficult to do.
You’ve collaborated with Louis The Child already. Who else would you like to work with?
It was a lot of fun working with those guys because everyone was just trying to make something that felt good. I’d like to work with SZA of course, and Kehlani, Stevie Wonder, Brian Eno, I could go on forever.
What’s next for you?
I start my world tour next month! I’m really excited to get into that, I’m going to Australia, Europe, and North America.
Photography by Zoe Lawrence.