An interview with Simin . Topic: “Home”. For this interview, we met Simin in her beautiful studio apartment in Cologne. Simin is a (jazz) vocalist and songwriter. Besides appearing as a special guest in various projects, she has mostly been recording and touring the world with her quartet and a trio with Tord Gustavsen (see Simin’s website here). She welcomed us with some delicious tea and together we went on imaginary journeys to her roots in Afghanistan. An interview about finding “Home”, the deeply felt sense of belonging and what all of that has to do with her beautiful music. Enjoy the read and as usual – Stay Mango!
In our pre-talk, you mentioned that you felt at home during your first short visit to Iran. A country that you are in fact not connected to in any way. What do you think makes you feel a sense of home?
Concretely speaking, it’s the place where I was born and raised. On the other hand, like now during my trip to Iran, it can be things, people, an atmosphere. Very abstract units that remind me of something within myself and that resonate with me. It can be the way that people deal with one another or a mentality that reminds me of something that I know from my home or my childhood. Something that I carry within myself and then see in the surrounding that I observe. Not necessarily logical or rational, however with a clear sense of belonging. A sense of: „Here, I am not different“
Do you believe that you find home?
Finding sounds like there was an active search beforehand.
Would you say that you encounter home?
Yes, much rather! Because an active search feels like a process driven by a strong will. For me, that doesn’t match the idea of home. Home just is. You might be able to develop a sense of home after having spent plenty of time in a specific place. However, that’s more of a process of getting used to things and creating a suitable surrounding. What I imagine is a deeper sense of feeling that a place has something to do with my inner self. Something I can’t search for. Something that just is.
So choosing a home comes with a process of adaptation?
Yes. However, I generally believe that it might be possible to create a home anywhere. But certainly, some environments resonate much more with me than others. Just like it happened in Iran.
Do you believe that quality of life and happiness are higher in a place that resonates with your inner self?
Yes, I believe that. However, I find that there’s an element of decision in that. Like back when I went to New York for a bit or during my time spent in Holland. The decision of wanting to be a part of the surrounding. So somehow, I don’t know myself being somewhere and clearly thinking: „This won’t work.“. Yet, places like Italy and Norway which evoke a sense of belonging in me might come with a higher quality of life. I once went to China, a country which I am hugely fascinated by, but there I had absolutely no feeling of home. I felt so different there, that it would surely be very difficult to feel at home there.
Did you ever take an imaginary journey to Afghanistan, your father’s country?
What do you imagine and expect there in terms of resonance?
I see very warm, sandy, soft colors and vast, vast nature, mountains and rivers and lakes with clear water. And I hear the accentuated and rolling sounds of Pashto and Dari. During my imaginary journeys, it’s a very intense and emotionally charged trip even though sometimes I imagine that it might be much more real and normal eventually. But in my phantasies, I arrive there and become one with my Afghan self. I imagine that side of me blossoming. As if this side of me that was somehow asleep and only found expression in my music sometimes, would suddenly come to life. I see many memories about my father coming back up and my emotional reaction to that. Very foreign, yet very near to me. A beautiful phantasy but frightening as well because I don’t really know what it would do to me emotionally.
Does this imagination give you energy or inspire you?
Yes. Somehow there is a sense of longing for something in those imaginary journeys. I can feel that longing very clearly. However, it’s quite abstract and I don’t really need to know if it has to do with my Afghan roots or with the fact that I’ve never been there. But yes, longing is part of myself and a source of energy.
Aren’t this longing and searching home the same thing?
If I look at it like this, yes. Because longing definitely has a direction and a goal. However, I don’t believe that this longing, my „Sehnsucht“, will ever be satisfied and therefore end. So there is always an attempt of getting closer to my Afghan roots and I enjoy the moments in which I feel that I somehow got there. Like when I sing in Pashto and clearly feel fulfilled in that part of my being. However, I don’t really feel the wish to end this very deep sense of longing in me. It is endless.
Where is home now and is it somewhere else than where you think it should be?
Short answer: Still in Cologne. Longer and more abstract answer: I’m trying to understand, whether I can find a deeper sense of home within myself. Sounds cliché, but especially since I travel so much for my music and other reasons, it became even more relevant. Maybe there is a part of me that can be independent of the place I live in. I might feel different in Cologne, as it brings memories of my childhood. However, the need for a feeling of home within myself is becoming stronger.
Place of birth: Cologne (Lindenthal)
Parents: Mother Christel, German (teacher and pedagogue for kids with social problems), father Qudus from Kabul, Afghanistan. passed away in 1985 (journalist and author of poems and narrations)
Siblings: Sister Mina (actress)
Learned profession: Professional Jazz singer. Working as a freelance singer and teacher in German music universities
Nationality: German with Afghan blood
Relationship status: In a relationship
Romantic or realistic? Absolutely both. First answer is romantic. But as much as I can hand myself over to being romantic, there always is a very analytical and down to earth way of thinking coming right after that. I can feel when my thoughts become overly romantic, however, I like to indulge in that.
How many Facebook friends do you have? Unfortunately, my personal and my professional/ fan account got mixed up at one point. So I reached the limit of 5000 on my personal account a while ago.
Adventure or stability: It used to be adventure but stability is entering the picture more and more. I now try to approach adventure from the quietness within myself and the connection to the ground so to say. Adventures without groundedness don’t really interest me.
Coffee or tea? Both. Coffee is my addiction and tea is to spoil myself and be good to myself. Herbal teas, good green teas, all kinds of healthy teas
Favorite spot in Amsterdam or a city of choice: Standing in the middle of the „Südbrücke“ in Cologne is something I love. The surrounding is very quiet and the view is stunning and open.
If I were a bitterbal, I’d be filled with… Red beet, goat cheese and cardamom
Sitting on a Mangotree feels… Great! A protected space, overview and fully part of juicy nature