Jump into the surreal and soulful scene this 20-year-old Danish Colombian artist created. We talked about the process behind the video, the origin of her name and turning tension into art.
Twenty-year-old Amanda-Ximena, more commonly known as Zápata, wants to welcome you into her wild and wonderful world. In case you missed it, this soulful Danish-Colombian artist first thrilled with her release from earlier this year “Big Things”, which is the ideal precursor to the honest realness that is “Own Wave”.
Zápata’s creative vision and powerhouse vocals are only part of the package; stay and be enlightened by her openness about experiences with anxiety and self-doubt, ultimately accepting these feelings as her own. At the end of the day, her music celebrates humanness, vulnerability, and triumph, which is a beautiful thing to see. Her latest music video is a perfect reflection of all of this.
Hi Zápata! Congrats on your amazing music video. How did you first get into music?
I’ve always been into music and loved to sing and perform. I was a very theatrical kid, had lots of feelings and was (and still am) a very sensitive person. So music is and was very powerful to me. When I was young, I always knew what song I wanted to hear when I was sad, and would really dig into the feeling. Same with all the other feelings. It has always been a way for me to feel and reflect.
I started with violin lessons, then I sang in a choir and after that I chose to play cello, guitar and piano. I played all these instruments just to have more music in my life. I started to have guitar lessons at age twelve because I wanted to write my own songs.
What are your biggest musical influences from childhood to now?
I was very inspired by Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill and Nelly Furtado, because of their lyrics mostly, but also because of their amazing melodies. They were big influences for me back then. Right now, it’s more underground influences like, Ravyn Lenae, Seinabo Sey, Labrinth, Billie Ellish, Snoh Aalegra, Jessie Reyez, Cleo Sol and Pip Millett. I just truly love catchy melodies and some authentic lyrics.
What’s the origin of your artist name “Zápata”?
I knew from the start that I wanted an alias. I was born in Colombia, Bogotá, was adopted when I was about one and raised here in Denmark a little bit away from Copenhagen. I got some of my information papers when I turned 18 with further details about my biological family and in one of those letters, my biological father’s full name was written. His middle name is “Zapáta”. I took that one to honor him for creating me.
Can you tell us a little more about your background? What does your heritage mean to you?
It has always been a huge part of me, being aware of my story and the fact that I’m from Colombia. I’ve always been very interested and determined to get to know more about my culture and my family history. I’ve been aware of my history before I could write my own name, and I embrace that part of me. I think that’s why it meant so much for me to claim the name Ximena. It says something about my culture and my biological family.
Your name is Amanda-Ximena. It’s such a lovely name, and undoubtedly rare in your native Denmark. Is there a story there as well?
My parents decided to call me Amanda, because it meant a lot for them to give me that specific name. So they gave me that out of love. And Ximena came as a gift from my biological mom. She named me that and I kept that. I claimed it fully back when I was around ten years old. Everybody called me Amanda back then, but it meant so much to me to have my “original” name, because I was so grateful to have received it from the woman who had carried me, and the woman who had given me this amazing life. So my parents and family know me as Amanda, and all of my friends, also childhood friends, know me only as Ximena. I love them combined, because of its story, but no one calls me both names. I always introduce myself as Ximena.
You seem to pour your heart and soul into your music. What is the writing process like for you?
The writing process for me isn’t always the same. I’ve always been into spoken word poetry, so most of my songs start as poems. I write down punchlines, small rhymes and quirky words whenever they come to my mind because I know that it can all be used for something I want to write at some point.
I love playing piano and guitar because when I play those instruments I find chords that I feel hits my mood, and then sing whatever pops into my head. Good chords make you feel and see images in your head, so I love that way of creating a song. And I love that the process is never the same for me.
You’ve described writing music in the past as “constant therapy”. Is music your biggest outlet for communicating complicated feelings?
I wrote my first song when I was 13 years old and it was the first time that I experienced feeling very sad without being able to express myself. So I wrote a song called “Lost in this World”. I still remember it, haha it’s so sad, but it helped me so much to have that kind of outlet. After that I just kept writing my own music, and yes it has been very therapeutic for me.
The only frustrating part is that it’s difficult for me to write very happy songs. I’m a very happy person and living the best life, but it’s a lot more complicated for me to write happy poems. That’s my curse as a songwriter right now. I feel like “Big Things” is the most happy song I’ve ever made and it was such a change for me, but I loved it. It’s started a new motivation for creating more uplifting songs.
“Own Wave” was so easy for me to write. I wrote the poem that I just officially posted, when I sat in my parent’s house, far away from Copenhagen. I had just had my first experience of really heavy self-doubt and anxiety, and it became this poem, which I took the studio and re-wrote.
The production on the track “Own Wave” is really on point. What was the collaboration like?
It’s funny, I didn’t really know Troels Kjær (the producer) at the time when all the parts for the demo were coming together. But I was going through YouTube and searching my all-time favorite tracks to get ideas for the music video. When eventually I looked at one of the credits and saw his name as the producer I just lost it. I hadn’t realized he was the same guy!
The next session we had, I tried to act cool in the studio but I couldn’t hide my inner fangirl, so I was just this crazy person the whole time, admiring him and laughing because I was so hyped and happy about his production and how he made it better and better. I felt he totally got my sound. His style is simply amazing. It was definitely my dream team on this track. Stine was my co-writer who helped me re-write my poem to make it become this amazing song. I love writing with Stine, she’s very talented. It was just a wave of good vibes in the studio.
The music video for the track has a lot of soul and feels very human and very visceral. What was your idea behind it?
The script is about Zapáta who’s captured by Fear and Doubt, who appear in the video as dancers. 23-year-old Ibrahim Madsen is playing Fear and 20-year-old Celine Alonge is playing Doubt. Zapáta is held back by her own feelings and by her own mind, and only Courage can rescue her from her own subconscious. 13-year-old Yasmin Hjort is playing Courage and is the one who has to make Doubt and Fear surrender, so they all can be a part of Zapáta.
I wanted it to be a dance video, because I picture my feelings battling like this inside myself. I wanted Courage to be played by a young girl, because when I picture myself and my courage, it’s definitely myself at ten years old. Just careless storming confidence through everything. Remember when you were ten? You didn’t care about anything other than being happy and playing with your friends. I feel like kids are inspiring in a way. They don’t care like we tend to when we grow up. So for sure I wanted Courage to be a strong, fierce young girl. Yasmin is the perfect person to play courage; she stunned me. She’s fierce.
The choreography is really powerful and almost reminds me of the iconic “Chandelier” music video by Sia. Was there a nod there? How did this amazing video come to be?
Celine Alonge who also plays Doubt, made this mean ass choreography. She has a strong style, and that’s what I wanted to use for this video. We had the same vision for the dance and had video references from Jungle, Stromae, Seinabo Sey and many others to get a visual idea of what we wanted to make. She made the choreography exactly how I wanted. Yasmin and Ibrahim added some to the choreography, and made a mark with their own styles as well. I’m so proud of the results.
The video was easy for me to make and star in; everything in the universe just felt so clear to me – the awesome music production for “Own Wave” courtesy of Troels Kjær, the bomb choreography and my own personal story shining through the lyrics. It all worked.
Indeed! You’ve made some very poignant music by now. What’s next for you?
I’m gonna keep making new music and will release it whenever I feel some of the stuff is good enough to show you guys. I’ve got a lot of plans, so I’ll keep making poignant music, and most importantly keep getting better without stressing about the next move. In 2019, I’m planning the next big thing, so I’m excited for the new year to begin. But until then, keep getting better, working and getting some new music done.
What’s your message to young girls or women who may be inspired by your music?
My message would be to believe in yourself no matter what. Don’t ever accept being told you can’t achieve the same as anybody else because of your gender, no matter what you choose to do in life. Always be humble, but never quit when you see unfairness around you. My message to myself everyday is this: Let love play from you. Be the instrument of love. And that’s my most important message to everyone.