When I heard Zhala’s voice the first time it was like I heard a message from another time. It was a voice I knew from somewhere, like I was hearing some unreleased song by Rosie Gaines, but also like I was getting an alien signal from the future.
It was bringing news from a more advanced time than the one I was in. What was this new information it was sending to me? When I listen to Zhala it’s like I’m sitting in her mouth. It’s an amazing place, I’m swirled around in her sinuses before being set free into a new world through a glittering cloud coming out of her nose and ears. The information talks about fleeting moments in my emotional life that I maybe never would have thought to describe if she hadn’t put her finger on it first. Great artists do this, they help us verbalise feelings we might have had before, but wouldn’t know how to explain.
Zhala sent me her first album in 2013, it was almost finished, but not mixed and in an email she asked me if I could give her feedback. It hit me right in the gut. We started talking about music and I felt immediately that I wanted to support her to release her music because it’s just so beautiful.
There are of course so many things that shape a person’s experience of the world, the way Zhala interprets it is rich and I would say Baroque at times.
She will approach you from the other side and you have to meet her halfway into the wilderness, but it’s not a cold place you come to. Zhala’s country transcends the regular map, it’s the commute between Western popular culture and Kurdish culture, between being Swedish and growing up in a multinational suburb to Stockholm, between religion and being queer, between raving club kid and studying at Los Angeles Music Academy. I imagine this is a trip that Zhala had to make many times growing up and she is sharing her discoveries in the work she is making.
It’s been five years since “Zhala” was released on Konichiwa Records and she has spent this time digging deeper into herself. After touring with the last album Zhala moved to Berlin and started to make music again. One of the people she began collaborating with was Olof Dreijer, also known as one half of the band The Knife. After a couple of years she moved to Huaröd, a little town in the south of Sweden, she got married and moved to Malmö with her wife, then to Denmark and then back to Stockholm to make her second album.
“Holes” is the first piece of music ready to be released, Zhala reworked a “pornem” written by Amanda Apetrea for the dance perfomance “DEAD by Beauty and the Beast” by Halla Ólafsdóttir and Amanda Apetrea which premiered at MDT (Moderna Dansteatern) in Stockholm in 2017. Olof Dreijer and Zhala then continued to develop the song into what it is now. An unconventional song even for Zhala, but nevertheless with the limpid pop sensibility that defines Zhala´s music. She makes the leap and tells the story about the unruliness of our unconsciousness, our desires and what we might consider to be ugly. Zhala carves out her freedom with her voice. In your ears she chisels out a new home for herself and transforms her being into what she wants it to be.
Zhala was signed to Konichiwa Records in 2014 and has remained the sole artist signed to the label other than Robyn. In addition to releasing her self-titled debut album in 2015, she has released an EP and four singles.