The first time I heard about the sisterly duo known as Krewella was a contrastingly low-key day. I was curled up on a couch at home, newspaper in hand and a steaming cuppa in the other, blissfully unaware that the perceptions deeply held by this 20-year-old were about to be rocked.
You see, Krewella has just headlined at a celebrated music festival, and the headline identified them as a Pakistani American pair. As a Pakistani girl, I was taken aback. In a moment that clearly spoke to my own ignorance, I had never truly thought of the high energy world of EDM as an industry that Pakistani women could dominate and use to challenge the status quo, and yet, here they were, in the flesh. Resisting through rhythm. Living their truths and authentic selves. To me, the sisterly duo of Yasmine and Jahan Yousaf, under the banner of Krewella, were unapologetically challenging deeply entrenched cultural norms and stereotypes by their very existence — it was refreshing to a young Pakistani girl.
It was a peculiar feeling to me, seeing this unapologetic duo rage on in an industry that I had once perceived as completely devoid of Pakistani presence.
And so continued their climb to the top, and that journey has brought us to this very moment: Krewella have announced their first album since 2013, and we are excited to treat ourselves to it. As though they could read our minds, this morning Krewella premiered their music video for the track “Green Lights” on YouTube.
This high energy, uplifting beat and the unapologetic confidence that permeates the lyrics of this power anthem has us swaying along. This little ditty encapsulates the very existence of Krewella — a duo who, despite all odds and obstacles is here; is ready to continue forging their path and making their mark.
In this exclusive sit down with MuslimGirl.com, Yasmine and Jahan speak to us about their unfailingly empowering journey:
Muslim Girl: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us! To get things started, I want to ask what makes Krewella tick. What inspires your art?
Krewella: The experience of life itself. The enigmatic force of nature. Moments of synchronicity. Immersing ourselves in the present moment. Deep conversations about alternative realities and past lives, magic, and mortality. Stories of women who have persevered. Emotional, nostalgic playlists. Ancient ruins, medieval fortresses, goddesses, spices. Adventure, travel, cultural fusion. Spontaneity and tapping into the inner child. Golden hour in the City of Angels. Consuming books, film, poetry, art.
Does your Pakistani heritage play in your music? If so, how? How do you weave that heritage into your art?
Our mixed heritage is definitely something that we’ve been exploring and honoring more and more as we’ve matured. At first it felt like a risk introducing new ethnic sound palettes and eastern melodies to the electronic sound we established from the start, since that’s what fans expected of us. But as we felt ourselves personally wanting to dig up neglected aspects of our identity, we felt an itch to authentically reflect that in the art as well.
It was definitely was uncharted territory fusing desi instrumentation with hard dance beats, and still is a bit of challenge to synergize both worlds. But we have learned to embrace a healthy challenge by enjoying the journey of creating on another level, trusting the process —even if it takes several months for the theme of a song to reveal itself — and having confidence that experimentation and leaning into what makes us different is the very thing that becomes an artist’s asset.
As lovers of visual art, sometimes the imagery is what sets the tone for the song. There have been times in the studio where we’ll pull up a music video from a period piece Bollywood film, and while that’s looping on mute in the background, we’ll freestyle melodies or sample tribal percussion inspired by the ornate settings and dance sequences.
Even aesthetically speaking, our fashion sense and art was more one-dimensional in the early days of Krewella, but we’ve always been fans of unexpected juxtapositions. At first that kind of started with styling jangly Pakistani jewelry with bro tanks, our sister Aisha giving an Arabic-inspired facelift to our hyper-masculine logo, sampling tablas to frame our distorted vocals over hip hop beats…and now we have come to a place where our faith and spirituality is manifesting it’s way into lyric and storytelling.
At MuslimGirl.com, we love nothing more than subverting norms and challenging the tired old stereotypes that come part and parcel with being modern women of faith. Honestly, people on both sides of the scale seem to have an opinion of whether we are good or bad at our faith, based entirely on how we choose to present ourselves to the world. Would you say you use music to subvert norms and expectations? If so, how?
Any time we find ourselves passing judgment on ourselves, or others, in regards to their position, faith, social identity, whether that is feminist or Muslim, or even their status of being a “mother,” we try to remember that these opinions of what makes someone a “good Christian” or “bad feminist,” are all man-made constructs. And every single individual has their own definition of what makes something right/wrong, good/bad. Sometimes we still find ourselves struggling to verbalize that we are Muslim-raised, because we don’t think that our vulgar vocabulary crop tops, or choice to drink once in a while, is a positive representation of the faith. But do our personal choices negate the fact that we have a relationship to a higher power, moral compass, values and principles, and loving hearts? There is no “one size fits all” with religion. What we love about the Muslim community in modern times, is that there is a movement to showcase the various ways in which one can interpret their faith, express themselves, and uphold a certain lifestyle that is right for them as an individual, while knowing their inner truth.
What we love about the Muslim community in modern times, is that there is a movement to showcase the various ways in which one can interpret their faith, express themselves, and uphold a certain lifestyle that is right for them as an individual, while knowing their inner truth.
As a global act, with many years of international voyages and exposure to other religions and cultures under our belt, we have been so fortunate to witness how music is the bridge between people of different religions, languages, cultural upbringing, sexual identity, and age. To witness a sea of international flags at a festival like Tomorrowland, where neighboring enemy countries are side by side, has been such a profound expression of unity that I wish could permeate into citizens’ every day life. Our community, “the krew,” as we call it, and its culture — “the krew life” — has always been about accepting one another despite our differences and celebrates the coming together of all faiths. I believe in one shared consciousness, and to me, all these various forms of religion are manifestations of the human mind.
So you’ve got this new music video for “Green Lights” out, which by the way, is visually stunning. The powerful shots and unique angles so beautifully compliment the lyrics of this power anthem. Tell us about the video. What were you trying to convey and how did the ideas come together?
We filmed the music video for “Green Lights” while in Indonesia for the Jakarta Warehouse Project festival, our last show of 2019! The next morning we travelled to Malang, a city in the rainforest with a small colorful town, with some of the kindest locals we’ve ever met. Despite being sleepless and getting stuck in a torrential rainstorm, we were energized by the vibrant culture, spicy Indonesian curry, as well as the smiles and sweets from hospitable locals.
Travel and enriching ourselves with diverse cultures has always been something we are very passionate about. It’s pretty incredible that our project has taken us around the world for years, and something we want to explore more on our tour is experiencing the traditions, cuisine, locals, and history, so we have a wider scope of the city we’re in beyond just the isolated show experience.
As you might know by now we love juxtaposition, so contrasting the concrete jungle in Jakarta with the lush rainforest in Malang can be quite the metaphor for the opposite dualities that exist within us. Sometimes it feels like we lead different lives with our love of nature and solitude, alongside the inner character whose livelihood thrives in gritty underground clubs with fog and lasers. The art has become a way of intertwining these complex inner forces and creating a unified piece from them.
Our main focus for the video was to capture the beauty of Indonesia, and our passionate fans there. We wanted to mirror the energy of the motivating anthem, and just to really enjoy ourselves in the process of creating by having an adventure. Our favorite videos to make are DIY like this, where the journey itself dictates most of the video. It’s a little risky and unpredictable, but it’s thrilling, but we’ve been embracing flying by the seat of our pants…or shalwars…more these days!
If there’s one thing you hope fans will take away from this song, what would that be?
We hope our fans, and any one who watches the video, feel transported to another part of the world, inspired to embrace adventure and explore. We hope they feel re-energized to pursue their dreams that might have been collecting dust. Music is also a motivator for us to get moving, whether it’s lifting or running, so we hope this is medicine for lethargy or malaise, and pulls you out of a stagnant state.