Text: Maria Hagström | Photo: Magnus Sandberg
Loreen’s first album will come, Heal is a cleansing of her system, but it is also about acceptance and “forgiveness”. Being healed. We met the artist that talks about spirits, the importance of being quiet and the loss of a father.
It is a storm on Strandvägen. Umbrellas are used as shields, hair get messy and water slips into every hole in your shoes. Me and the photographer shakes hand with Loreen’s press contact, he shivers from the cold. I’m relieved that I succeeded to prevent my text message were I talk about “Poreen”.
The thing is that my phone wants to auto correct “Loreen”. “How will things work with Porren”. “When will I get the interview with Poreen”. But the atmosphere is friendly now. When we wait for the main character we curse about the weather and low price umbrellas, like every Swede does on these kind of days. Then Loreen comes.
– I love this weather, she says. There is no tone of irony. She hangs her jacket over a chair. It is energy. I think it got to do with what body type you are. You can be vata, kapha or pitta. I am pitta, we can’t handle heat, because pitta is so damn much fire.
She sits down in the sofa and puts one leg over the other. She has shoes that has over 10 cm plateau.
– Can we get a feeling here? She asks and looks around.
We sit in what is called the library at Hotel Diplomat. Along side the wall you see whiskey bottles and old books, brown and red.
– Do you understand how much this house is haunted, she says and I ask if she believes in ghosts.
– I believe in spirits. You can’t forget I belong to the Berber. You believe in spirits in Morocco. You believe that if the body dies the soul have a choice to stay or move on.
The ones choosing to move on, where do they go?
– Good question, I will tell you! She says, laughs and then get serious again. You say that you move on to another form, where there is no time. The body is pretty heavy, we go through a lot of heavy stuff, we need to fight with this life. You probably just think “In this life? What kind of shit is this?”
The recorder on the table show 4 minutes of recording time. We have already talked about life after dead. I was thinking more, lets start with the easy questions, like her first album, coming out now in October, and what she has been doing after Eurovision. But Loreen is spiritual and gladly talk about it. She thinks that the big religions are the same story. She believes in a life after death, she believes in the soul. And things that give away good energy. You don’t have to call it God. “Spirituality, spirits, pang, there it is!”
I ask about the upcoming album.
People have heard “My heart is refusing me” and “Euphoria”, I think they will be surprised when they hear the album. It is more grown up and darker, trashier. It is not just dance music, not in the form we are just to hear. It is movie-like and dramatic. And got very personal stories. The texts are about relationships: unhappy love, cheating, separations anxiety, intimacy, things that she or people around her have been through. The album is round up with the song that got the same title as the album – “Heal”.
It is about acceptance, forgiveness and moving on. It is like the whole album is about cleansing, you know… therapy.
Lorine Zeineb Nora Talhaoui was born 16 of October 29 years ago at Danderyds hospital. Her dad and mum came to Sweden from Morocco. They were Berber – “a collective name for North Africa and the Sahara none-arabian population”, according to National Encyclopedia. The father had been political active in Morocco and diplomat. He thought his future family would have a better future somewhere else. This place came to be Åkersberga in Stockholm. Loreen lived here the first 6 years of her life. Pretty rustic – “among bird song, not sirens”. Then her parents separated. My mother was young, she was 16 when Loreen was born. She had seven smaller siblings and became the “little mother” more or less.
– When they separated it was me and my mother against the world, she says. I was pretty content having my mum around me. My dad traveled often when they were living together so it was mostly mum at that time too.
Her father moved to Spain and her mother moved with the kids to Västerås.
Did you have any contact with your father?
– No I didn’t. It was me and mum, she answers considerably quieter than earlier. I was going to meet him but the same year we decided that I was going to Spain we got the news that he had passed away. I was 13.
How has this affected you? Not having contact with you father and that he passed away so early?
– I think a child needs both parts else there is an unbalance and that has consequences. I easily feel with children of separated parents, I know what they are going through. Identity crisis, she says. How has it affected me, that was the question, wasn’t it? When I was little it affected me negatively, today positively. When you go through tough things in you life you got two choices: Either you are bitter about it and get an unbalance in the system or you use the information for something positive, for example to help other people. Looking back at it, I would not change a thing, it has made me who I am today. It’s not for nothing that I am in Azerbaijan and stands for human rights even if I’m shitless scared, the situation was pretty intimidating. I thing it comes from there, somewhat hard-bitten basically.
She says that she grew up earlier than the other kids in her school. She felt like she and her classmates were like oil and water and that the probably thought that she was a freak.
She also thinks that it might have been a kind of cultural crash, she was used to temperament and movement and felt that they did not understand her.
– Sure I had friends but I preferred to be by myself. At school I had my guard up, if you were cocky I was tough back. I was use to things being like this, but of course you thought it was hard in school at that time. It was nice with space, you felt free there. I felt free when I sang.
She says that song work like a sanctuary, sort of. She ran away to church to play with the acoustics instead of being in school. The teachers tried to make her realize that this was no ok, and that you needed to stay in school but she still kept running back to church. The priest got so use to seeing the little girl that he just nodded and closed the door and let her sit by the piano and try her voice under the high roof of the church.
After school she often ran home and locked herself in the bathroom. She loved the acoustics there too, how the sound echoed.
– I still have that technique with me today, when I perform live. A technique that makes effects, the same you get when sound echo.
Loreen could stand for hours and sing in the bathroom. In the dark, she alway turned off the lights.
– I did not understand why I turned off the lights, it just felt more comfortable. Today I understand why. All senses concentrate.
Time passed and her mother became crazy with the situation.
– She came and knocked on the door: “Seriously, we can’t handle this, the toilet downstairs is busy, you need to get out now!”. And I said “Yes, I’m coming.” and kept on going.
To say that the bathroom has been changed to big arenas is not necessary. But how has her life changed since Eurovision?
– Its a challenge. Everything is very new in some way. I will complete an album and find a form in which I perform. It’s very fast, but I can pull the handbrake if I want to. No one is forcing me. Then you can discuss why I want it to go fast and that’s so much, she says. I say then we’ll discuss it.
– The reason there is a lot is because I want to check every bit. It’s so much easier to just let cruel creators control. But it’s not possible, it’s really important to me that it’s real. I ask about expectations, about pressure, it is now she’s going to show Europe that she’s someone to count on in the future.
– Obviously I’m thinking shit wondering how it will go, but it goes a bit as it goes. I’ve never got into anything because people expect it, it would interfere with my entire creative process. When I create, I open up the heart, I do not think maths. What comes out on the other side is what exists. I can not change it. I can never please people that way. I do not think people want to be pleasaded, I think they want to be surprised. On the other hand, I would have a damn anxiety if someone told me that these songs should drive you and that would not work. But you can not tell me what to do, it’s a fucking firewall there.
If it’s so important for you not to be ruled, did not it be hard to join Idol then?
– Well, you think it should be that way. But you get a disc, choose a song and perform, and I changed the tunes all the time. They criticized me for themselves, “you may want to sing the song as it is”. Why should I do it, it already exists? Loreen participated in Idol 2004 and came fourth. Since then, the program has changed and now the jury wants to see that the participants make their own versions.
– Yes, because there is a value in it. People do not buy crap, people buy what’s right. Today it’s easy to get out of music, so it’s a damn competition. All plastic producers, plastic artists realize they need to fix some soul into what they do, otherwise it is run.. She takes the artist Gotye as an example and starts singing: “Didn’t have to cut me out”. He went to the record companies but got no. Instead, he released the material on Youtube and got millions of clicks.
– Then the record companies came back and just “well we’ll work”. There are quite a few who have gone that way, is it good, that’s fine. I like it – more power to the individual. No “little gumy gum you have to do this otherwise you will not be there”.
We are interrupted by someone in the hotel staff asks if she can take a picture at Loreen, to the son, he is crazy about her. She gets her picture and I wonder if there are many who arrive in town.
– Yes it is. There’s nothing wrong with that, people often come up and say very nice stuff. But you know, sometimes you feel that you just want to disappear. And I’m a bit extreme then, I’ll get away, I’ll disappear for a number of days and be quiet. She usually goes to retreat, when he is going to retreat in silence by being quiet for one or more days. I tell you that I have tried a retreat once, but it may not count because it was only half a day.
– Is it true? What was it for retreat, was it yogaretreat? Or live healthy retreat? Or Did you meditate? Or … I tell you what we got to do was to sit quietly in a castle and read poetry or write if we wanted it to be a strange experience, also quite inconvenient to be completely silent among the other people there.
– And so important, says Loreen and pouring more tea in the cups. The first time I was on a retreat, I wondered why I feel uncomfortable sitting down. Then you realize that some of this energy, this feeling and anxiety comes from one’s own. It exists and exists there, just as you saved, and a very easy way to get away is to start talking, do something, touch. You do not want to look at it, but it will not disappear. Then it is better to check out what the hell it is based on, get rid of the shit and move on.
Do you get rid of it by being quiet?
– When you sit quietly, you start to feel your system. First, thoughts go round, back and forth, back and forth: Why did he do that? And I said that? Did I leave the stove? What should I do with my life? Third day on retreat is the worst. Every fucking minute feels like an hour, it crawls in the body. But after a while all the thoughts have been enjoyed. Then you go to bed.
How hard it sounds.
– It is tedious! exclaims Loreen and laughs. People think they are going to retreat and find peace, but it’s not a dance! You have to be prepared, it will hurt so badly, but now we are still driving! Once upon a time she was on a retreat for ten days. Ten days of silence and meditation, and there they did not even have to watch other people in their eyes.
– Yes, if you look in the eyes, you get in touch and then you start thinking. As I look at you, I sit and study you and you study and feel of me. The focus will be different then, it’s about retreat feeling yourself and your own body. And you need space for that. That’s the whole point of being quiet, finding safety in yourself. Then you can distinguish what is your energy and what’s the other’s. And then you can be in your joy or what you know, do you understand what I mean? When Loreen is speaking, she gesticulates quite a bit, but her thick fringe is always in place. It almost conceals the eyes, sometimes forms a slip that will soon be corrected. I say it’s good to have such a pile when you do not want to check people in your eyes.
– There you are!
It’s important, the fringe. When she will later be plastered on Strandvägen, saying that she likes the wind but wants it to come out of the right direction. She is reluctant that fringe’ll blow up in the picture. But still she loves the weather, cool it should be.
– I’m going to Svalbard later this year with Greenpeace and look at the ice that melts,” she says between the camera flashes. It is important for her to engage in any way. She always sets up in well-being shows and is active in the organization Civil Right Defenders.
– For example, we discuss Azerbaijan, how to follow it up, so I do not just let it go. It may not be that I’m in Azerbaijan and then just “bye”.
This summer, Loreen was awarded by Läkerol’s cultural prize “The Voice of the Year”, because she, with her voice, created beautiful music, but also because she used it to highlight important human rights issues during the Schlager-EM. She donated money to work for women’s rights in Azerbaijan.
– I have lived around this kind of problem, women’s discrimination. Not to malign Morocco, they have come a long way in comparison to many countries, but I’ve been involved in it so many times in my family. When I’m in Morocco, I see poverty there and how to marry their daughters, not to be mean but to survive and secure the future. The women are on their side and the men on their side. My mother believed in something else and there was headwind all the way until she arrived. My mother is a real warrior. For me freedom is a matter of course. You have to do whatever fan you want, you’re right to yourself, it’s not rocket science. Even here in Sweden we do not understand what it means to be free. Loreen believes there are other problems in Sweden that make us not completely free, that we are hampered by other means.
– In Morocco, for example, you go to their neighbor and talk about their problems, open the heart and clean their systems. We here in Sweden think “I do not want to share with me, I do not want to be a burden, I will not be well”. That Jante law. Humility is good as well, but you must be able to blossom as a person. Maybe not so over-American, but you need to blossom.
Situation STHLM #182, october 2012
• Original link: http://mariahagstrom.se/onewebmedia/Loreen%20182.pdf
• Translation: Amanda | http://12points-to-loreen.tumblr.com/post/32457649698/the-need-to-blossom-part-one + the rest of interview via Google Translate
• Photogallery: http://gallery.lovely-loreen.com/thumbnails.php?album=153