Sa'ra Charismata Wants You to Think Your Neighbour Could Be a Lizard
We ask the Swedish artist about politicized labels and conspiracy theories—and premiere her new video, "Big Man".
In a way, the label ‘political musician’ is a sham. In this so-called globalized, border-hopping world, what musician isn’t political? It doesn’t matter anymore if you’re Nicki Minaj rapping about your Anaconda or a small Swedish band disrupting gender binaries in your music. When your career relies on media exposure as much as a musician’s does - especially when that exposure largely exists on fluid online media that knows no borders - every move you make automatically becomes connected to a larger social, economic, cultural or political conversation in the media sphere. Result? Everything you do as a musician inevitably becomes political.
That’s why the boxes used to categorize Swedish up and coming artist Sa’ra Charismata seem almost discriminatory and, well, amateur. For an artist who has only released a few tracks so far, she’s already primarily described in ways that tightly bind her to the political and to the underground. Yes, she’s a mixed-background Swedish woman making pop music. Why should her mixed background and her gender automatically categorize her as political? Yes, she’s talking about economic inequality and conspiracy theories in her music. Why should her subject matter automatically limit her to the underground?
Today, we’re premiering Sa'ra Charismata's latest video for a track called “Big Man”. As you’ll see above, it features in-your-face lyrics rejecting capitalist tropes, guerilla-style aesthetics and men in white suits with alien masks. You can decide if that's political, underground or insane—or if you're going to drop the labeling for a second and become just a tiny bit more open to conspiracy theories. In fact, we talked to Sa'ra Charismata about rejecting the political, embracing the spiritual and indulging in conspiracy theories—and we gotta say, she makes a pretty compelling argument. Determine for yourself below.
NOISEY: Hey, Sa'ra. You’re often described as a politically-driven artist. What’s it like being political in Sweden now given the current political climate there?
Sa’ra Charismata: You know, I always struggled with the definition of being a political artist. I feel I shield myself from politics. I’m political in the sense that I choose not to expose myself to the politics of the time because I believe the advancement we’re going to make – social transformation – won’t come from this fear-ridden media. I’m very into the idea that social transformation is impossible in the absence of personal transformation. So, my political-ness is spiritual. You need to deal with the spiritual aspect of yourself before you can actually tackle the external stuff. What we’re seeing now – war, conflict – is a result of people not having spent time finding resolutions from within.
Is this something you’ve always felt, or has it intensified as of late given the events in the world and in Sweden specifically regarding the refugee crisis?
I’ve always felt that it’s true what they say—the same issues will keep recurring in your life until you understand what’s happening in your spirit. If you blame everything on external aspects – bad people, situations, jobs – you’ll keep having the same problems.
We’re taught from a very young age not to feel our emotions—that being rational is how we should be. We’re doing this on a collective level, so the end result is one big mess of people ignoring the one thing that would actually make a difference. I’ve always had an old soul, so I don’t think spirituality is a bunch of New Age mumbo jumbo.
When people listen to your music, is it important to you that people get your message—or are these realizations more for yourself?
I thought to myself, "how do you communicate this message to people who wouldn’t usually encounter spirituality until they’re middle aged? How do you communicate this stuff to an 18 year old?" So I thought I'd use the same tools the music industry uses to sell all the stuff that doesn’t matter. I’m using pop music in a fun way to communicate very important things.
I’ve heard you labeled as Underground Pop. Why do you think that is?
The reason it’s labeled underground is that it has a message. I never went out and said, “I’m political.” Yet people want to put me in that category anyway. When you call something political, what are you doing? You’re automatically polarizing whatever you’re talking about. If you listen to a mainstream artist, you don’t feel like you’re taking a stand by listening to that artist in the same way you would of somebody labeled as different. So it’s almost as if labeling something as political is putting a stamp of non-approval on it. It’s like I’m a thorn. What would happen if the underground rose to the top—if the mainstream was actually positive? What if it said "don’t take drugs" instead of "take drugs, go to the club and pop bottles"?
It sounds like you’re highly critical of the mainstream.
No, I love the mainstream. I mean, I’m signed to a major label now because I don’t think it’s a bad thing to influence a lot of people. We are living in a material world; there’s nothing wrong with buying or selling. That’s part of what makes life enjoyable. I’m just creating a platform for the type of music I wish I had heard more when I was younger.
Although you're strongly labeled as underground, political, activist, etc, do you view that as an advantage or do you feel pigeonholed?
I think it’s neither. At the end of the day, it’s about how much you believe in yourself. You could do everything that’s ‘right’ and still not reach a level of success. On that level, it’s more about you believing in what you’re doing. That's what people will react to.
You’re also described as being super into conspiracy theories. Is that bullshit or are you actually a believer?
I actually believe in a lot of that stuff. Lately I’ve been really into the idea that there’s a reptilian agenda and that there is an alien race. Over time, I just started seeing and feeling things and started thinking to myself, “Hey, wait a second. Maybe this isn’t complete bullshit.” Because isn’t that how our beliefs start anyway? It’s when we feel something and start to decide for ourselves that it’s true.
When you hear the words “conspiracy theory”, that’s also something that you label and put away. I mean, it’s for the weirdos, right? However, if you really look at it, some of it makes sense.
At the end of the day, it is your personal right to believe in what you believe.
Exactly. Isn’t that what everything is, anyway? Something will start as a belief, then it will become a habitual belief and then it will become your truth. In this case, this happens to be something that I believe in and I feel that what's going to make me different as an artist. I'm going to bring this exact discussion into the mainstream in a way that's never been done before.
Thanks a lot, Sa'ra.