When reflecting on the ongoing conflict in Syria, it’s hard to imagine that any beauty could possibly come from years of unrelenting devastation.
Australian-Syrian artist Wafia Al-Rikabi, who goes simply by the name Wafia, has channelled her frustrations to fuel her latest EP VIII, a celebration of identity, love, and resilience.
Beneath a glossy veneer and chart-ready craftsmanship, Wafia’s EP VIII is a crucial heart-to-heart tackling the issues she chooses to champion above all else.
The EP features singles 83 Days, Only Love and Bodies, which were all incredibly well received by audiences around the world. When the three tracks are presented in the context of VIII, however, a deeper layer of meanings weaves its way through the lyrics.
Within Wafia’s incredibly powerful vocals is an unwavering sense of strength in the face of adversity. The 24 year old bears her scars with pride, and encourages you to do the same.
At its core, VIII is a collection of cathartic conversations: some are for herself, some are for her family, and the rest are for anyone else who has ever felt alienated in this world. The tracks are sophisticated and well-polished, but more importantly, they open up dialogues that are often left untouched.
On the surface, it’s easy to overlook how politically charged Al-Rikabi’s music is, as she favours euphemisms to shield us from disturbingly harsh truths. The EP is her chance to express her anger over a number of issues, from her family currently stranded in Syria to the unnecessary controversy that still surrounds same-sex love.
Instead of stewing in the ever-tempting negativity of it all, Wafia uses her platform to convey helplessness in a way that is both empowering and inspiring.
This contrast throughout VIII compliments Wafia’s approach to her lyrics. Shining keys and brooding synths delicately carry her emotionally charged vocals, giving her the perfect platform to fully express herself, unencumbered by distractions.
It’s a world that has been perfectly crafted by and for her: one where you can find comfort in the terrifying face of today’s realities. The restrained instrumentals are a necessity as Wafia’s lyrics and vocals are, at the end of the day, the highlight of her work, and she utilises her talent with an admirable confidence nearly unheard of for a 24-year old.
While there are brief moments in the tracks Breathe and Only Love where Al-Rikabi allows herself to show full vulnerability, the EP still feels slightly guarded. There are budding peaks of building tension in the backing synths and vocals for Bodies, as well as layered vocals and strings in The Ending that hint towards pent-up frustrations, but never does Wafia completely let herself go.
Her stoic disposition is an impressive display of composure, but I expect that there is much more to uncover in her highly anticipated debut.
VIII is out January 19th through Future Classic.