Ala Riani was born in the city of Mahabad in Eastern Kurdistan. She left Kurdistan when she was 5 years old and moved with her family to live in Sweden. She dreams of going back to her hometown in the future.
The 35-year old Nirvana fan started writing songs in English when she was a young teenager, and she started to make melodies for her songs. Finding a producer to work with was not always easy.
Around 3 years ago, Ala decided to move to Kurdistan to pursue her dreams of singing and acting: “I wanted to act, sing and become more familiar to the Kurdish music and the oriental way of singing”. One of her best memories of acting is from her childhood, when she played in an Astrid Lindgren play. She started to take acting classes about five years ago when she decided she wanted to pursue acting more seriously.
“I am inspired by strong female leads like Sofia Loren in her early movies. Nowadays, although more and more women are in the lead most heroes are still men. It is great to see so many Kurdish talents in the film industry, producers, directors, we need to tell our stories, keep our history alive, and that can only be done with great filmmakers including Kurdish actors and stars.” She revealed to ZÎV.
Once Ala moved to Southern Kurdistan, she acted in the praised and awarded German-Kurdish movie Memories on Stone by director Shawkat Amin.
Ala has acted in a number of short films, and has also sang in them: “After been seen by one of my friends singing in a short film directed by Beri Shalmasi, she introduced me to the Kurdish legendary musician Wirya Ahmad.” Ahmad decided he wanted to work with Ala so she started to go to his studio to sing regularly. “It was the best training for my voice and for my ability to sing in Kurdish. I am truly greatful for all his help and support.”
Thanks to Wirya Ahmed Ala joined the Kurdish-French music group Dengekan which she has performed with in several festivals in France and Kurdistan before releasing her first single Kê Dezanê which is a remake of a Swedish song called Vem Vet by Lisa Ekdahl.
“You know sometimes when you have a reoccurring song in your head, that Swedish song was always in my head and I was singing it in Kurdistan when a friend of mine suggested I should sing it in Kurdish. And so I translated the lyrics that same day, and when I was back in Sweden I recorded the song with a group of Swedish musicians. “They were amazing because they had never heard or played anything Kurdish but they thought it fun and it turned out great”.
“I hope that the song is not exactly like the original version but that I’ve put some of my personal touches in there”.
When asking her about fashion, Ala says “I love fashion and love to mix it up and play around with colors and styles”.
Currently, she is writing a Swedish song along with other jazzy songs.
When asked about her audience, Ala says she is open to all audiences, of course Kurdish songs appeal more to a Kurdish audience, but she would love an international audience too. Ala has also been active in issues related to women’s rights, HBTQ rights, as well as prisoners of conscience especially in Eastern Kurdistan.
“As Kurds, we live and breathe the music, and as we haven’t had a country of our own, the only way left for us to keep our culture has been through songs and oral storytelling. Movies now play an equally important role, take Yilmaz Guney for example, and what he contributed to. I really believe that art and culture is one of the best ways to shed light on our cause”.
Ala Riani’s Kê Dezanê music video shows different scenes from everyday life in Kurdistan, the city of Hawler, and a refugee camp in Koye. The video portraits how magical Kurdistan is, the love lyrics turn towards Kurdistan as she sings “You are a fairy tale, too good to be true.”
“I write much better when I am lost and in pain. Unfortunately I have more inspiration to write lyrics and poems when I am sad, I don’t know why that is, but I think at least it’s a good way to deal with being hurt and sad”.
Kê Dezanê is available on iTunes and Soundclouds. All the proceeds of the song goes to the Shingal refugees through the Kurdish diaspora organization in Stockholm which helps refugees in Kurdistan. Kê Dezanê music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmfiiMz7i9k