A Global Diva Out To Make You Say 'Oh My Goodness'
Two years ago, Gnucci Banana roared into the spotlight — dressed in a tiger suit no less — for the cover of Miike Snow’s “Animal” by Mash Up International. The new version might have struck some as strange — it was manic and joyful, and the new beat wasn’t club-razing house or dubstep, but some kind of aggressive kuduro or reggaeton. One had to wonder, ‘Who is the crazy Swedish chick with the fruit in her name messing with global bass?’ Internet stalking ensued.
Turns out “Animal” wasn’t her first track. That honor belongs to her feature on Schlachthofbronx’s “Ayoba” with her husband Spoek Mathambo, where she found her musical calling. Since “Animal” she collaborated some more, released the upbeat single “Famalam Jam” dropped the Banana in her name, worked with Tove Styrke, and added some punctuation to make Gnučči. In August, she’s coming out with her high-energy debut EP Oh My Goodness, produced by fellow Swedes Mash Up International, Farkas, Youthman, and Cristian Dinamarca.
We talked to Gnučči, aka Ana Rab, about doing her own thing, about the meaning of a “360 Donna,” and why the term ‘world music’ sucks.
So you dropped the banana in your name?
Yeah. Just couldn’t identify with the banana anymore! I don’t know. I take my music very seriously and it came to the point where I would eat a banana, and if you have a banana in your name people point and say ‘aha you like bananas!’
Is it some kind of a new phase?
Not really. Some people question if I’d ruin the brand if I don’t use it, but I don’t think that way. I don’t feel like having it anymore. It’s like when you’re a kid, you say your name is balloon, and your name is balloon.
What’s a 360 Donna?
A 360 Donna is a Donna who just recognizes that it isn’t enough to have somebody’s back — you need to be there 360. It’s better if you don’t put up a façade. It has to do with sisterhood and not just falling into the clichés of the drama queen, the bitches — it’s about going past that, going past the 90 Donna, the 180 — it’s the 360 donna.
Watch Gnučči’s video for “360 Donna”
So it’s the best friend anyone could ever have.
Tell me about the EP.
There are four tracks, all produced by Swedish producers, and also a feature from Vaz who blessed the track “Damena” with a very suavemente chorus. The EP has the loose theme of ‘good stuff,’ hence the name Oh My Goodness. They’re songs that I’ve done when I’ve felt good about myself, and good about things. The themes are “360 Donna,” then I do song brag song called “Oh My Goodness,” “Damena” which is a mac song for babymaking in the club. Then the third song is called “Goodah,” it’s about a girl that’s so good that you have to bend the language, disrespect the language — as if she’s too good for grammar.
What inspired you to get into music?
Well I got into it thanks to Schlachthofbronx, but mostly Spoek Mathambo convinced me to jump on “Ayoba,” my first song. So after that I enjoyed the process of making music, and I don’t know, my gut told me that I could keep going. Plus I really really enjoy all that comes with it.
Were you interested in music before all that?
Well, it wasn’t random. I think Spoek could tell that I was good at it. But no, I had no ambitions to make music. I needed a little kick.
What were your ambitions?
Becoming a teacher. I’ve always wanted to become a teacher and studied to be one, for elementary school, first through third grade. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. I think that’s the most important job in the world.
What is the music scene like in Malmö?
To be honest, I’ve been so self-obsessed recently that I cut down on going out. When you start working in clubs, you tend to not go out as often as you did before. But Sweden has been very nice to me, and the response has been amazing. I had the honor of working with four different Swedish producers, they all interpreted what I wanted in an amazing way. I think we’re good at being inspired and picking up sounds in a very humble way, we’re not so much in your face or picking up something just because it’s trendy. Everyone I work with is very respectful of the genres. They know the history of the music, they do their research. There’s something more sustainable to it.
Dubstep. And the whole thing with labeling genres that have perfectly fine names of their own; world music. Just because western people might not recognize the genres it seems easier to bunch them all up under one label and make it more convenient for them rather then educating themselves. I find the whole idea behind that very nonchalant and ignorant. A lot of times when people don’t know what to call something and it scares them, they call it world music. I respect people that reach out to the origin country, instead of getting inspired by the third in line. I like the people who look at the source, but are also be happy to be progressive and not do the same old same old. It inspires people from around the world, and it includes people.
Have you learned anything from making this EP?
Oh definitely, but it’s a very much a self self me me I-I-I process. I’ve gotten to be very bored with myself! But mostly I’ve learned technical stuff to be honest. I’m a control freak with that stuff to the point where it’s actually annoying.
What was it like to work with so many producers on the EP?
Well, they love me personally, and they’re great people, so I don’t have to worry about them not being good people, beyond being great producers. That sets the vibe to songs for me as an artist. I like being particular about who I work with. I’m good friends with all four of them, I know they’re not like, sexist homophobic racist assholes. These days you feel like everyone’s an asshole. But these guys are not. [Laughs]
You look cool on your EP cover. Have any fashion inspirations?
No. I like it when people tell me to raise my hands and dress me and tell me that I look good. I like looking good. But I don’t have the patience for the fashion stuff.
How did you and Spoek meet?
We met in London when I was there for a year and a half, and he was there playing. So we met, and we hung out and danced, and hung out.
What does he think of your new EP? Was he involved in the process?
Not especially, I might have asked if the levels were good. I play everything for him and ask for his opinion.
What do you think of his new album?
I think he’s a genius in capital letters. I’m amazed that he has so much vision in one human brain. I think he’s amazing.
Have any downtime?
No! I have gigs, PR stuff here and there. I’ve been on my admin shit and I should be on my music shit. I do everything myself. Everything from I don’t know, updating Facebook to writing treatments to videos — that takes time.
Well, if you could, would you want to hire someone to do it for you? Or would you want to be in control of it?
Naa I want to be in control of it, even though it stresses me out. That’s why sometimes I have difficulties doing interviews, because you’re talking and talking and sometimes you’re having a good day, sometimes a cranky day. And then, you’re reading yourself.
Should we expect new videos or previews or anything?
Well, every song is powerful, there are strong melodies and catchy hooks, and they all deserve videos, like “Goodah,” definitely.