Wafia’s soulful take on electro-pop has fast found a loyal following here and overseas. We chat to her about her work-life.
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Growing up, Wafia Al-Rikabi moved around. A lot. “We lived in South Australia, Auckland, Sydney, Amsterdam, Groningen, Montreal, and even moved around within those cities,” she lists. That was until her family finally landed in Brisbane when Wafia was in the 8th grade. Brisbane stuck for the family and is still her home. “It was really difficult,” she recalls of their transient times. “I don’t think I ever got used to it until my parents settled down in Brisbane and then I just wanted them to move again, like they always had!”
Change is something Wafia learned to embrace growing up and has played a role in her career, too. She could have gone a very different route, and was mid-way through a biomedicine degree when she was compelled to completely change paths and work towards a career in music. “For me it was a no-brainer,” she says about the shift. “It became the only thing I could see myself doing and bringing me happiness.” Very often, it is the push-back from family and friends that makes decisions like this tricky. “My dad was very supportive and I think seeing him believe in me gave me the encouragement I needed to dive in,” says Wafia. Her mum took a bit more convincing.
“My mother was more concerned about how I’d make a living so I appreciated her caution and I got obsessed with proving to her and dad that it will work out for me.”
Fast forward to now, and the decision is paying off. An average day for Wafia looks a lot different to her time in the lab at uni. “It could be writing, recording, traveling, playing a show, doing a shoot or absolutely nothing. It really depends what time of the year it is and if I’m releasing music or not!” she says. “There’s a lot of waiting around for things to happen.”
One strategy is to keep an eye on the prize. Some of the recent highs for Wafia include performing at SXSW – the annual conference and festival in Texas – and New York.
Motivated by all things GO FORTH, we’ve been playing Wafia’s I’m Good on repeat. As have many others: Wafia’s ultimate ‘get over it’ song reached #14 in 2018’s Triple J Hottest 100.
This is not a classic breakup piece, written in the aftermath of a failed relationship. In fact, Wafia wrote the song in preparation of heartache ahead: “It was inspired by the fact that I knew I was going to experience my first real heartbreak soon and I wanted to write the song I needed to hear on the other side of it.” Neat trick!
Experiencing your own heartbreak right now? Or, like Wafia, know it is coming your way? Turn this one up. LOUD!
While a life of touring and making music looks exciting, she says it’s not all as glamorous as it might seem. “I really struggle with the long stretches of time where I’m just supposed to be at home in Brisbane with literally nothing to do, just waiting for the next song or show to happen,” she says. “The highs are so high when you’re working but the lows are just the lowest.”
At WinWin we always ask our interviewees about the specific moments or opportunities that mark a turning point. There’s been a lot of hard work over a number of years, but Wafia can pin her success down to not just what she produces, but who she produces it with: “I think releasing my cover of Let Me Love You on Soundcloud was the thing that changed everything for me. I met my manager because of that and also Ta-ku, with whom I started working with very closely. If it wasn’t for both of them, I wouldn’t be here.”
…releasing my cover of Let Me Love You on Soundcloud was the thing that changed everything for me. I met my manager because of that and also Ta-ku, with whom I started working with very closely. If it wasn’t for both of them, I wouldn’t be here
Wafia’s down-to-earth Instagram follows suit: her sense of humour and genuine excitement at the opportunities that come her way are ever-present in her feed.
We can’t wait to follow what comes next for the talented 26 year old.
One piece of advice you’d tell teen-Wafia?
Don’t compare yourself to others. You’re on your own path.
What do you do to look after yourself?
I love seeing my personal trainer; working out gives me some kind of schedule when I’m home.
One tip regarding a career in the music industry?
Learn to song-write and produce your own music. Become as self-sufficient as you can be!
Who are you listening to right now?
Kacey Musgraves, SZA and Rihanna, always.