He has sold everything he owns except for his computer, he has given up his apartment in Stockholm, Sweden and September 9th he left Sweden for USA. Emil Brikha has grown tired of being rejected.
Emil Brikha is a word- and sound artist who answers to no one except for his own conscience and God. The fact that his last name means righteous does therefore not seem to be a coincidence.
This is the young Assyrian who at the age of two fled Iran, to live in a city called Jönköping in Sweden. The search for another lifestyle in a bigger city eventually led him to Stockholm where he today leads a life where work and free time seem to go hand in hand. He sums his work by calling himself a “word- and sound artist”, which includes genres like photography, music and video. A job which seems to be the result of a teen rebellion where Emil needed to rethink and change his thoughts and opinions. Today Emil writes about anything that makes him react. By writing his own lyrics and producing his own music Emil started his art creating at the age of 14. And from there it just kept going.
"Everything I do resounds in the encouragement towards a spiritual revolution," he says. "Another aspect of writing is the search for confirmation in other because everyone on some level are a product of what others think of us," he continues.
When I ask Emil about his dreams of the future when he was a child he can’t really remember and says that still to this day doesn’t think about the future.
"I’m simply not that rooted in the physical life," he says. That doesn’t make him any less determined though.
Emil has been struggling for recognition of his work in Sweden for a long time, without much result. Despite that he seems to have landed on his feet as he’s sitting here on a late august day at Kungsträdgården in Stockholm and tells me about his upcoming USA tour. His backup plan.
It all started when Emil without any plans or budget decided to go to USA to try his luck. At the same time he was contacted by the American four time poetry slam champion Taylor Mali. He had heard about Emil’s upcoming tour and wanted to book him for his biggest gig yet, at the NYC Urbana club on Manhattan. With Taylor as a reference Emil was able to get about ten bookings all over the continent, at theatres and music cafés. That way he financed his trip to the U.S which suddenly had turn into a 3 months long tour. Emil is at the same time promoting his third CD “Spoken words & Unheard thoughts”. At the same time he is recording a forth album which only consists of collaborations with American artists and besides that he is planning to produce a documentary about his USA tour. Needless to say, a lot of stuff going in.
So if USA’s poetry slam champion has heard of Emils work, how has the reactions been among the Assyrian organisations in USA? When I ask him I get a sad reply. Even though he has made numerous attempts to get in contact with organisations, only one person has shown any interest for him. Something he was hoping could be a way in to the Assyrian movement in USA.
"They have ignored me just like they have done in Sweden. The only Assyrian who actually replied was Shamiram, a journalist at Assyria Times." Despite the fact that Emil speaks Assyrian fluently his Assyrian influences have been limited. "I’ve just felt different," he says. It all started with something as simple as a World Music Festival in Stockholm. Suddenly he felt that sense of belonging which he had missed for so long. It wasn’t until he wrote the poem “Emil Brikha, a Swedish Assyrian from Iran” when he realised who he actually was. The poem was written on a evening after having attended a typically Swedish Christmas fare. "It was at that point I realised what bloods runs through my veins."
Walking around the fare, he was experience everything Swedish. All the traditions, the scents, the songs and the dances. That was something he had grown up with, but the experience the night before made him realise that he didn’t feel at home in the Swedish culture which he was now studying from a distance. In the poem he talks about this feeling and says “… it was the first time in my life that I had had my whole life, culture and heritage shoved up in my face, in front of me.” Despite the fact that he didn’t understand the words in the songs or how to dance the dances he felt a connection at the festival. "Where I really was an outsider, I realised who I really am," he says.
Emil seems to have taken another step in that direction with his work by for the first time writing a poem in Assyrian. According to him it’s his own attempt to deal with the process that has started inside of him.
It’s very easy to become friends with Emil but to describe him as a person is hard. The best analogy seems to be the word “The sultan of thinking” (it looses some in the translation from Swedish), which funny enough has been a nickname his friends came up with. Emil has such a big way of speaking and describing things that it sometime can feel over analytical. "When I reflect upon things I do it so intensely and find so many aspects that I sometimes kill discussions," he says and laughs.
I ask Emil if he, not only as a public person, but also as a young Assyrian, feels some sort of demands from Assyrians. How should you reason about this?
"These are my words, my truth," he replies firmly and continues to explain. "It is every person’s human right to express opinions. And every person has the same right to react to the opinions I express." He does not speak for the Assyrian people, but represents himself, as an Assyrian. "If you find pride in me… Awesome! If not, at least try to understand that what I do, I do it for love." The message is clear. Emil refuses to be placed in any stereotype or category. His uncompromising spirit refuses to submit to the preconceived guides dictated by society.
"We need to see each other as Gods and Goddesses and stop being so afraid of the word, love."
Visit Emil’s website to listen to and download his music and poetry. He also has a music video which was released just a few weeks ago. All available for free at: LQP.se