Artist Tribune

KIANA on balancing personal ambition and first-generation expectations

The rising Toronto artist explains how she navigates two worlds.

January 22, 2019

The conflict between growing up in a traditional immigrant household and choosing music as my path has never been easy. They say it’s always important to do what makes you happy, regardless of what other people around you may think. But what if this means disappointing the ones you love? Growing up in a very traditional Persian household meant many things that I know people from other immigrant backgrounds can relate too. Strict curfews, WhatsApp group chats with 20+ relatives, and most importantly, understanding the perception and wishes your parents have of you.

You learn about your parent’s sacrifices and the chances they took to leave everything behind to move to a foreign country. You learn about how they did this so you could have the opportunities they never had. It’s a lot of pressure to make sure you’re never disappointing them and making your loved ones proud, but sometimes there are things can never be seen eye-to-eye.

I feel like my personal values are different from traditional ones. It makes me feel like I’m sometimes speaking a different language or living in a different world.

Unlike my parents and older siblings, I didn’t grow up in Iran. My life has always been in either the Netherlands or Toronto. I feel like growing up here has made me much more open-minded, creative, and willing. I take pride in being independent and getting things done on my own. I choose to do things that make me happy, and ultimately it’s made me carefree. Most of the time, though, I feel like my personal values are different from traditional ones. It makes me feel like I’m sometimes speaking a different language or living in a different world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love coming from an immigrant family. It’s the best part of me. But I think traditional cultures lack understanding of the arts and creativity. It’s almost always viewed as a joke or taken very lightly when considered as a serious career or future. Family parties have never been more nerve-racking, getting the constant questions, “What are you taking in school?” or “What do you want to do with your life?” I have the answer in the back of my head, but I always have to question if I’ll be taken seriously if I chose to share.

“Music is not the safest route in life.”

“Look at what so and so is doing, she’s in school studying to become a doctor.”

“Oh, you mean like you wish to do it on the side?”

Sometimes it’s not even worth trying to change someone else’s opinion. Growing up in a traditional household has taught me to always consider and listen to what other people have to say. But at the end of the day, I’ve learned that if you’re confident in yourself and you want to pursue something that makes you happy, then it’s important to just do it and don’t look back. Trust that your craft and progress will speak for itself.

Making music for me is has always been more than just a coping mechanism. Of course I love to be expressive and share my stories, but music is a whole different world: you get to meet like-minded people who get your thinking process, and have the opportunity to craft art with other people. Ultimately, that will be the mark you leave on this world. It gives you the opportunity to make something, and put it out, knowing that it will live longer than you ever will. I can never see myself parting ways with music. It’s more than just a part of me, it’s practically all of me.

While it hasn’t been easy balancing both my personal values and the traditional values I grew up on,  it gives me a reason to keep moving forward, so that I can show the possibilities of not limiting your life to two or three routes. You can be whoever you want, and do whatever you want. Trust yourself and your abilities and everything else will unfold in due time.

You can check out KIANA’s newest single, “Alone” below. You can follow her on Instagram here.

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