A musical force

Sweden’s artist of the year is an outspoken rapper with immigrant parents. No wonder Silvana Imams’ new album is called Force of Nature.

When Silvana Imam won the Grammis award for Artist of the year in her Sweden in February, only a few people in the audience understood what she said on stage. She gave her acceptance speech in not one, but two languages: Lithuanian and Arabic. Both are languages she grew up with.

– I hadn’t planned on doing it that way, but I was sitting there with the Lithuanian and the Syrian flag and I wanted to talk about that. We live in such a divided world, but you can´t just talk about unity and diversity. You have to show it. And why shouldn´t it be possible to speak in a language other than Swedish at the Grammis, she says.

She was four years old when she came to Sweden. Her father is from Syria, her mother from Lithuania, which is where Silvana Imam was born. Her parents met on the subway in Moscow, where her father was a student and her mother was on holiday.

– My parents have always been very politically engaged and have talked a lot about solidarity. But when I was little, I didn’t really understand what they meant. It was kind of boring to listen to. Then I heard rap music for the first time and I finally understood what my parents where saying, just in a different way. It became my way of talking about these things.

Silvana Imam_Naturkraft 4_av Adam Falk
Photo: Adam Falk

The fact that her music – which is performed in Swedish – is both political and powerful has made her one of Sweden’s most popular artists. Not only has she won several Grammy awards, but also Guldmicken for best live performance, a writer’s award from Musikförleggarna and also an honorary award at the Gay Gala in Stockholm. Homophobia, female discrimination and racism are just three sides of the same story, she says. Which is something she talks tirelessly about in both interviews and in her music.

– How can music help to change society?

– I think almost every art form can transform society in some way. Through rap you can reach young people in particular and talk to them in a way that actually appeals to them. When I released my first songs the Swedish media suddenly started talking about a new feminist wave. I don’t really know if that was the case, but I did seem to put the topic back on the agenda.

Silvana Imam_Naturkraft 1_av Adam Falk
Photo: Adam Falk

Her new album which is out now is titled Naturkraft (Force of Nature). It´s her most personal recording so far, after two successful EPs and a “homemade” album from 2013 which she regards as more of an experiment.

– This time I talk more about my childhood, about my mom and dad and I rap in both Lithuanian and Arabic. I also try to show new sides of myself, not just the political Silvana. I sing about being drunk, about having sex and I’ve also written a song for my niece.

One of the songs features the Norwegian rapper Young Ferrari and as of April 5th Imam will tour both in Norway and Sweden. She made her Norwegian concert debut at the Bylarm music festival in Oslo last year.

– I was such a powerful experience, to play in front of a packed venue in another country. The same thing happened in Finland and Denmark. It´s important for me to perform in other countries and the way I see it there are no language barriers. I don´t think there are any limits to what I can do with my music.

Naturkraft is out now. Silvana Imam is on tour in Sweden and Norway from April 5th.


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