Rotana is courageous as she is talented. Her music takes us into her own personal journey of exploration of religion, sexuality, national identity and more. I loved getting to know this songstress and I cannot wait for you to get to know her, too. We talked about life and music and she’s definitely going to be on your playlists this year.
Rotana, I saw that you grew up in Saudi Arabia. Did that influence your music in any way?
Of course, my writing voice more than anything. In many ways, I feel like I'm living this delayed adolescence of sorts. I feel like I’m just now as an adult pushing up against the walls of freedom, boys, psychedelics etc. So my writing has both this very young and confused color to it, but it is also very wise because, I have lived lots and lots of life. It’s just been very different than most peoples.
Melodically, I’m very driven by the Eastern scale which is kind of the in between of the western scale. Fairouz is a huge influence of mine. Highly recommend anyone that loves music listens to her!
I’m obsessed with percussion from Saudi Arabia and am really taking the time to collect sounds from home for my upcoming EP.
It's obviously very different living here. What was the experience like? Moving and transitioning to the US?
It's been the most challenging and exciting thing i've ever done. When all of a sudden it's like “ ok, you can do whatever you want, what do you do?” It’s been a journey of me redefining my whole value system you know? What do I believe about my body? My sexuality? My relationship to “god” , who the f is “god” anyways? What’s it like to have a boyfriend in public? . That’s why I saw I feel like I’m a teen. I’m stumbling through all these questions later in life. It can be maddening at times, you grow up in a system where you strictly believe one way of life, then you decide you want to rip all you know from under you and start again. That'll give you a head rush for sure .
Can you discuss what womanhood and being an Arabic woman means to you and what your experience has been with that?
Growing up in Saudi Arabia then moving to America to make music has showed me that women are the most powerful, wild forces on earth and no matter where you are , Saudi Arabia or America, people are afraid of that. Even women are afraid of it. That’s why I make music. I want to get into relationship with my sexuality, with my gut with my wild “unlady like” ways and love the shit out of them.
Is there a reason you chose to do stripped back tracks?
I wanted to bring a lightness to the process. I write so much and I have an EP coming up after this wave of songs. I wanted to just share songs that I love in the form they were in on the day I wrote them. I think there’s something special about sharing things that are raw and unfinished. We don’t really do that anymore in our Instagram age. I guess I wanted to give myself the freedom to do whatever the fuck I wanted to do with my music.
What's the inspiration behind Bad Weather?
My relationship with my ex boyfriend. You get to this place where you’ve tried everything. You’ve talked about it, took space about it, cried about it, prayed about it and it's just so clear that there's nothing else to do but accept that it's over. Kinda like a really shitty weather day, there really is nothing you can do about it. “We can dance in the rain, but can’t make it better”
What else do you have planned for this year?
Im working on my EP and really taking the time to collect sounds and imagery from Saudi Arabia, i'll be going back home later in the year to shoot some visuals and get some live percussion from home on there! I’ve developed this talk/live music experience where I take the audience on my journey of finding my voice and sexuality as a woman, artist and immigrant. It’s kind of like a TED talk with a live set built into it.