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Silvana Imam: Change Is Now

Queer feminist Swedish rapper Silvana Imam [1] questions privileges and fights for a global feminist movement. However, the interview shows that her protest is not made out of empty slogans, but out of strong beliefs. From the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here [2]).

The Swedish Rapper Silvana Imam (Photo © by the Artist)

[Theresa Beyer]: What does desire mean to you?
[Silvana Imam]: Desire is everything. It’s a synonym for passion to me. Everything I do is sprung out of passion. I love my work, my art. Through that I have been given a platform to express myself, it’s a blessing to be able to do it. My emotions sometimes get the best of me, which is my gift and my curse.

[TB]: What was your idea behind the song «I•M•A•M»?
[SI]: When I wrote «I•M•A•M» my intention was to grow a seed in people, to have them question our society and make it cool to want to make a difference. I needed to introduce myself with powerful statements and namedrop some of my inspirations, such as Simone de Beauvoir. I also needed to speak to the 15-year-old me who couldn’t identify with her gender stereotype. I wanted to give that person the confidence and voice she never had.

[TB]: So the song has this introspective side, but at the same time you are stirring things up with a really big ladle addressing every woman…
[SI]: I do not only address women, the feminist revolution I’m calling for is about every fucking person living on this planet. Feminism is equality where you are not judged by the color of your skin, your social class, sexuality, age, religion, gender, or whether you have a disability or not. I’m speaking to the white privileged man to take a step back. I’m speaking to teachers to talk with boys and girls (and transgender kids) equally, to not make a difference between the genders and raise our kids equally. I’m trying to set us free from all stereotypes.

[TB]: So you believe you can change the world?
[SI]: Yes, my plan is to change culture from within and to change the habitual structures. Also, I want to recreate the way we view art in general and especially music. When I create, it’s all about energies and relations between people. My producer Nisj won’t send a beat for me to go home and write sixteen bars on it and then come to the studio and record – we create together. We live our lives in symbiosis and create topics together. Everything is about real issues, real lives, real emotions.

[TB]: How often do your identities as musician and political activist intertwine?
[SI]: First and foremost I’m an artist, I make art. I don’t do politics, I believe in people. Nina Simone said «You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.» I’m a conscious rapper with progressive beats.

[TB]: Is it a conflict for you being leftist and making a professional career (and money) in the music business? Often queer feminist and activist rappers lose their credibility as soon they enter a public mainstream – subcultural fans feel betrayed, accuse them of selling out and abandoning their ideals. Could this struggle of authenticity happen to you as well?
[SI]: I am the first artist who said «thank God I’m homo» on primetime TV. I am the first Swedish rapper to address certain issues and give people who feel the same way that I do a voice. This is not about «selling out», this is about revolution. I don’t give a fuck about what privileged people might think of me, all I care about is that fourteen-year-old girl who feels empowered when listening to my music. I want my music to be played on the radio so that more people get with the program. Of course I need to get paid, we live in a capitalist society in which money means freedom, but I’m going to use this society to bring real freedom. Soon there will be thousands of Silvana Imam’s all over the world. Hope you can handle it.

[TB]: What are your dreams for the future?
[SI]: My dreams for the future are simple, I don’t want people to be classified and put into boxes. I want each and every one of us to feel free. Question yourself and the way you talk to people: do you judge people by their gender roles or by their personality? Change is now and it starts with you.

This interview was conducted via email on 1.5.2015. The text was published first in the second Norient book «Seismographic Sounds» [3].