dinsdag 11 oktober 2016

Ziemba - Spirit Figures, Feminism and Empowerment

On the eve of her first ever European tour, which has kicked off by now, I had the pleasure of talking to Rene Kladzyk, perhaps better known under the moniker of Ziemba. Under that name Kladzyk has been creating wonderfully crafted dream pop, combined with alternative folk and queer theatrics.


After a couple of EPs Ziemba released her first full length album 'Hope Is Never' earlier this year, and last month already she released her latest EP, called 'LALA'. Even more than on its predecessors, 'LALA' showcases the enormous strength of Kladzyk’s voice and her lyrical prowess. “Well, I love singing, so I think that’s a good thing! And I like to see myself as a strong lyricist. For this EP I initially wrote a lot more songs, which I eventually boiled down to the four that are on it now. There was one song for which I wrote around seven pages of lyrics... that was quite psychotic, so it didn’t make it. Another song which didn’t make it to the cut had the line ‘time is a victim of the body’, which I really liked. It was hard to let that one go, but in the end a common theme appeared in the four songs that did make it. It felt like these were the best songs and together formed the most coherent whole.”

Spirit figure

The overall atmosphere on the EP is a very mysterious and brooding one, something that Kladzyk wasn’t necessarily looking for in the first place. “It was a bit terrifying in a way to realise I had written these songs from a specific perspective without intent. They deal with the mystery of this spirit archetype of the succubus, a sort of femme fatale or demon woman. My first conscious encounter with it was when I had an artist residency in Morocco, back in 2011. I came across this spirit figure called Aisha Qandisha, which some say is a semi-mythic figure, but others see her as very real. Women revere her and see her as a symbol of empowerment and sensuality. Men fear her and see her as a curse. She seduces them in their dreams and then they are forever haunted. Or she just kills them..! Some even say they are married to this spirit figure and therefore can never marry a real woman.”


Kladzyk became rather fascinated with this archetypal figure, in which the Jungian concept of the anima can also be recognized. After her residency in Morocco, she encountered the spirit in different forms in different places and became aware of many (pop) cultural references to the figure. “There is a novel from the late nineteenth century called 'She', which also deals with a she-demon. It takes place in a completely different part of Africa and has this fucked up colonial take on African myth and tradition, but it is a very interesting piece of work. The myth of sexualised evil, of a power through sensuality. The she-figure both curses and is cursed, because she is tied to what she is and cannot escape her fate. In a way I got tied to this figure as well, became almost subconsciously obsessed with it, which eventually showed through my lyrics.”

Photo by Standa Merhout

Power geometry

The depiction in myth of women having power through sensuality is something that still plays a role in many aspects in the world today, in particular pop culture. “Being a female musician, or a queer musician that is mostly understood as female and presents herself that way, I am definitely aware of the fact that being seen as a woman steers the terms I have to deal with. That goes for many different industries, of course, but I think that in the music industry especially power relationships are very much influenced by how women are being perceived. There is more and more friction though, and there is definitely some change happening, but the long history of this issue in the music industry makes it a difficult and long battle.” In the world of heavy music there seems to be a change visible, with women being more and more present in the role of screamers and grunters. See Svffer, The Charm The Fury or Employed to Serve, for example. I point out the paradox that often goes hand in hand with more women being in bands, when a rock band all of a sudden becomes a ‘female fronted rock band’, or a punk band consisting of all women becomes an ‘all girl punk band’. Kladzyk has first hand experience with this. “I’m frequently put on bills that say ‘all women line-up’ or ‘ladies night!’. I’m happy to see more women playing music, and also more queer musicians and more musicians of colour, but I’d rather be put on a bill based on the type of music I make.”

Ziemba is on quite a few bills all across Europe the coming month. Make sure to be around when she hits your town! You can also check out her Mixcloud page for a great collection of mixtapes she made. For an extension of this interview in Dutch, see my article on Gonzo (circus).

Ziemba Goes to Europe
Oct. 13: Rotterdam, Netherlands; WORM
Oct. 15: Berlin, Germany; Madame Claude
Oct. 17: Berlin, Germany; Schokoladen
Oct. 18: Prague, Czech Republic; (A)void Floating Gallery
Oct. 20: Gdansk, Poland; Kolonia Artystów Gdańsk
Oct. 24: Paris, France; Le Pop In
Oct. 25: Paris, France; Le Motel
Oct. 27: Brighton, United Kingdom; The Marwood
Oct. 29: Bristol, United Kingdom; Roll for the Soul

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