Dounia is a new breed of teen – the kind that makes those of us who breathe the air of 90s nostalgia feel like everything we remember was a lie, because the best time to be a teenager is actually now. There are probably dozens of #relevant words to describe Dounia, but it all boils down to the most timeless one: cool. Dounia is cool. At age 19, she’s a social media star and already has thousands of fans who are addicted to her special brand of awareness and outspokenness. Dounia is a fierce advocate for PoC and women who don’t conform to unrealistic, toxic Hollywood standards of “the perfect body”. She’s also about to launch a solo music career.
Raised in Morocco and Queens, Dounia’s sensual first track “East Coast Hiding” takes its cues from her varied upbringing. Under her sultry vocal (which is both as sweet as Ellie Goulding and as sexy as Rihanna, a wonderful testament in and of itself to the dynamic vision of womanhood that Dounia represents), the song sounds like a Moroccan sunset over a New York rooftop party. And for someone so young, the track is disarming in its maturity: Dounia’s confidence, no bullshit attitude comes through even in the rolling, dulcet tones of her music.
We spoke to Dounia about releasing her first EP independently, what it means to be an advocate in the public eye, and the beauty of New York City.
What made you decide to get into music?
Dounia: Music’s never really been a decision or choice rather than a primary outlet. It’s always been a part of how I function, ever since high school, posting full-blown subs to a boy via song.
You’re quite vocal about the inherent inequalities in culture, society, and the media. How does your music to play into this?
Dounia: My opinionated nature is something that’s bound to translate through my work and definitely made an appearance on this project. I treat music like any other platform – so if there’s something I gotta say, I’m not hesitating.
“I’m really into the balance of laidback and chaotic, chill but complex, light but not lacking” – Dounia
The music on your Soundcloud has a really sexy, laidback feel to it. Is this what we can expect from your debut EP?
Dounia: Thank you! Laidback is for sure an energy on the project, but there’s definitely some variety. I’m really into the balance of laidback and chaotic, chill but complex, light but not lacking.
Tell us a little bit about ‘East Coast Hiding’. What inspired the track?
Dounia: ‘East Coast Hiding’ is placing my home, New York, in that getaway/vacation light, because I’m enthralled by it regardless of being raised here. It represents a vulnerability that a lot of my friends and I are hesitant to showcase outside of drunk subway rides back from Coney Island.
Why did you decide to release it independently?
Dounia: My music means too much to me to allow any sort of warranted tampering. The idea of someone having control of any aspect of it is too wild to me. I’m so sensitive and particular about my music – being independent is the only thing that makes sense. I need to micromanage everything to be content. Also, I never want music to be an obligation or a job that one day doesn’t make me feel like this anymore. I wouldn’t give up my relationship with creating it.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a young person advocating for equality and intersectionality?
Dounia: The bigger of a scale you’re on, the more backlash you’ll receive for absolutely anything – including something as necessary as defending and amplifying the voices of marginalized groups. I really can’t take any of it to heart because the issues at stake are so much more important than the trivial personal backlash I’ll receive.
“Not everything has to follow a guideline for it to be dope. Not everything has to go through ten executives for it to prosper” – Dounia
What do you see as inherently missing from the pop landscape? What do you think your presence brings to the music scene?
Dounia: I think we’re lacking a lot of authenticity in music. There are so many personas and not enough people. I think my presence offers a reminder that not everything has to follow a guideline for it to be dope. Not everything has to go through ten executives for it to prosper. The whole movement I’m pushing is going outside the box, in every sense possible.
What are your plans for the future? Is music going to be your main focus from now on?
Dounia: Yes! Music is definitely my main focus now. I’m so excited to delve into it.
Follow Kat George on Twitter here @kat_george