Episode 332: Rotana is a Saudi Arabian performance artist, singer and songwriter. Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, she moved to Los Angeles five years ago to pursue music after quitting her job at Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world. She is currently working on her one woman show/musical, Alien of Extraordinary Ability (named after her immigration status), and her debut album which just released her latest singles Sin Again and Stuck in America.
Rotana describes herself as an initiator, an erotic being, and a liberator. As an artist that reckons daily with the experience of “other”, she is determined to give movement, sound, beauty and witness to that experience. After premiering her one woman show at FORM, a world renowned festival featuring artists and poets like Aja Monet and Florence and The Machine, she received the attention of publications like GQ noting that Rotana “delivered one of the most spine-tingling performances of the entire FORM festival.” She has also collaborated with brands including Fendi, Miu Miu, Lucky Brand, and more. Rotana has been named one of BBC’s 100 most powerful women and covered by GQ, LA Weekly, Huffington Post, Vice Arabia, Vogue Arabia, NPR, and AJ+. Her performances have spanned cities globally including Paris, Abu Dhabi, Los Angeles, New York, and at the Sundance Music Festival. Straddling a profound love for her home and the determination to be free, Rotana’s music speaks to the journey of self realization in the face of Saudi tradition, God, sexuality, family and the immigrant experience.
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- Book: Divine Names: The 99 Healing Names of the One Love – https://amzn.to/3rYLkmm
- Much of the mysticism around Islam is centered around Sufism, and numerology plays a big part in the background of the practice.
- Rotana has been drawn to a sensual aspect of prayer and chanting, which has been a challenge when contrasted with her more orthodox upbringing.
- Madelyn discusses her interface with this same concept via the Book of Solomon in the Bible.
- Ijtihad: to be a warrior within yourself – “doing the sometimes impossible work of sitting with your intuition and owning what that means for you.”
- Rotana believes part of her mission on Earth is to bring back holiness to our first and second chakras.
- Rotana grew up in a gated community in Saudi Arabia nicknamed “Little America,” a town built for employees of oil company Saudi Aramco.
- Just outside of the community, society was much more restricted and conservative.
- Rotana was initially more drawn to the traditional community, but as time went on she felt the pull of inner sensuality, creating a dissonance between the two domains of her life.
- After college, Rotana returned to Saudi Arabia to work at Saudi Aramco – the dissonance was taking its toll, causing panic attacks and anxiety.
- She traveled to India to take part in what was effectively a rehab experience.
- Rotana realized she needed to rebuild herself, undo everything, and came to America as a musician and creator.
- In 2019 she performed at FORM festival. and read scripture from the Quran.
- Her performance was captured on video, and it went viral.
- Her juxtaposition of the Quran with herself as a woman, with sexuality, with religious freedom, was intensely controversial and offended many back at her home, resulting in her effectively losing her family.
- Book: Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown – https://amzn.to/2LTH0W3
- Pleasure needs to be reframed as, instead of being selfish and frivolous, to something that is necessary for our vitality, well-being, and sustainability as a species.
- Madelyn asks Rotana who God is to her, and because of her background and what she’s gone through, it triggers a deep emotional response in Rotana. Her answer is amazing and a bullet in show notes wouldn’t do it justice. Be sure to listen to the episode to hear it in her own words!
Connect with Rotana:
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iamrotana/
- Music Video – Sin Again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOVgUgm0CLo
- Music Video – Stuck in America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmEyyNQ-4VY