DUBAIS (Nadia Buyse) is a perpetually changing concept band.





Searching for Musical Identity With Nadia Buyse

Not only is Nadia Buyse one the most artistically talented and prolific people you are ever going to meet, she also one of my best friends in the world. Like me, she is a brown skinned music obsessive who was raised in a tiny Washington State community with limited ethnic or feminist diversity yet was still able to maximize the benefits of this sometimes lonely predicament. Also like me, she is afflicted with the same inherit drive to produce Lo-Fi art and music in the fastest, most frequent methods possible. From the moment she moved to my hometown of Olympia from the Tri-Cities, these characteristics immediately drew us together socially and thus solidified our long time friendship. Whether performing together in punk groups like The Caledonias and Ghost Mom, or inspiring each other from afar, our paths have always ran uncannily parallel. Even though she was primarily known as a powerful vocalist during her time in the Northwest, it is not unlike her to jump behind the drums on stage or spend hours on end composing layers of rhythms for her most current, prolific, and personal project Dubais. Her whirlwind ethos of performing and forming bands wherever and whenever has taken her all over the world and a recent stint in art school has only expanded her oeuvre to performance and visual art, making her live shows a one woman multi-media spectacular. This past year Nadia took her multi-tiered talents to Berlin, Germany where her colorful tenacity has not only been well received but is also opening a new spiritual chapter in her life. I caught up with my sister from another mister recently while she was working on on a video with her Croatian friend Nina Kurtela called “Pokazi Mi Guzu”. The lyrics of the song literally translate to “Show me your mouth, show me your butt”. Simplicity is genius.

Chris Sutton: I already love this song and I haven’t even heard it yet!

Nadia Buyse: Thanks! Its basically just a bunch of dumb pickup lines I wrote in Croatian. I’m actually going through a lyrical block phase right now so I’m reading a lot of poetry and listening to a ton of Grace Jones.

CS:I never know if lyrics are good or not.

NB:I’m pretty weird about lyrics too but sometimes you know when you hit gold!

CS:How is Berlin treating you?

NB:I’m feeling a little homesick at the moment and I’m really missing all my friends in Portland, but I know that I can’t have the art life I want in America right now. The stuff I’m doing is really kind of dependent on an international discourse I think.

CS:Your newest material in your solo project Dubais definitely speaks to this. How did that project materialize?

NB:I started Dubais while I was doing an art residency in Antwerp. At that time I was also reconnecting with lost and forgotten family members from Northern Africa and the Middle East and was finally able to organize a reunion with these relatives in Tunisia through Facebook. Not knowing this part of my biological family my whole life, you can imagine how important this was for me. In the end I had to cancel my trip due to fundamentalist attacks on art galleries in the city of Tunis. It really broke my heart and I started to write songs about feeling like I could never go home and how I couldn’t really communicate with my family because I stopped learning French after my mom and dad moved back to the states. Ultimately, my music is really speaking to the cultural dilemma of diaspora. Dubais became a way to implement myself as a person who is disconnected but also seeking to find what the future of diasporic children could be.

CS: I love this concept!

NB: Im calling it Arabfuturism. It’s based on a vision Sun Ra had where all of the black people in America would relocate to outer space through the power of music. I see so many links between the problems of Arab and Black Americans yet I’m also into linking the solutions, or at least negotiating them anyway.

CS:Now that you’ve discovered a newfound cosmic connection to your heritage have you found yourself incorporating more Middle Eastern rhythms and instruments into your music? Of course the name of your project is called Dubais and you’ve recently found an affinity with the Camel channel on YouTube…

NB:I’ve been connecting to Middle Eastern music in ways that I didn’t even understand. Lately, I’ve been really into using polyrhythms and sounds inspired by North African music, specifically Moroccan 60’s psych beats where they would add things like Flange to a snare sound. Of course my drums are electronic but I’m definitely using theirs as an inspiration when generating my own beats.(Shout out to Karen Antunes for showing us the beauty of The Camel Channel, btw)

CS:Is there any current artists or styles from the Saharan region that have been turning you on?

NB:Oh yes, I’ve been really into a lot of the Post Spring music, like the hard Tunisian political rap of El General or the Electro Chaabi sound coming out of Cairo. Also, I can’t forget Malikah, who is like the most famous underground lady rapper in Lebanon right now.

CS:I love that you’re really getting in touch with with your vibrational ancestry. Are you connecting with any communities over there?

NB: I’m a big fan of, which is a social networking platform for musicians coming from the Middle East. It was started by my friend Esra who I had the pleasure of meeting when I went to Bahrain for Music Camp For Girls. So much good music on there..

CS: How do small town brown punks like ourselves attain a global outlook such as yours?

NB:Man! I mean you’ve been to the Tri-Cities! You know where I’m coming from!…maybe even more so than I do because I forget. But I got a dose of “memory” at a show in Salzburg last week. The town is really sleepy and the promoters were real sweethearts, but it seriously reminded me of my teen years when I would often play for/with people who weren’t “like minded” and didn’t really socialize with us “mixed folk”.

CS: How did the art and the punk find you out there in rural Washington?

NB:It had to. We belonged together. Being a punk is aligning yourself to a counter culture, so there is a built in dichotomy that is already challenging the dominant “culture”. Similiarly, If you live in a small town and your point of view has multiple cultural identities, you are already standing in opposition to the status quo whether you like it or not. That being said, I never felt like I was seperating myself or challenging anything…I’m just biologically transgressive. I think sometimes white punks feel this need or intuition to be “different”, but when you are born with distinguishable differences you aren’t necessarily searching for that challenge, you’re just standing around, arms open, looking for the solution.

CS:I’ve been coming to this realization lately that most people I see are just using the word “punk” as a way to justify their anger management issues….

NB:I have to say that I totally feel you, Chris. I suffer from depression on the daily because my punk experience is built on the foundation of creativity, small town boredom, and otherness. Unfortunately for most people these days it seems to be based on anger and the “oh so exotic” touring musician lifestyle. In short, punk vs. punk rock. I have a LOT of opinions on this but I won’t get into them just now..

CS:Amen, Sister! Now my last question is something I’ve always wanted to know about you because you’ve always been open to playing anything and everything musically. Do you have an instrument you are most attuned to? And why?

NB:Whoa! Good question! Whenever I play an instrument I do it out of my love for singing. I want to be self-sufficient when it comes to making compositions, whether it be garage-punk or midi pop songs. A big reason why I change bands a lot, or change what I do, Is because I want to maintain fluidity in presentation and be able to have the freedom to make what I want, as I like to. Musicians, especially if you are established in any way get locked into an identity or persona; this exceeds musical style as well. In some cases, you are also labelled in a concrete way that has nothing to do with what you actually make.

CS:Any examples come to mind?

NB:Lana Del Ray. At first, I knew her as a dummy who hates feminism and loves Tesla, but I now I think her music can be really smart and introspective. I mean, if a line like “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful” is not a confrontational feminist statement to the male gaze, then I don’t know what is.

CS:Girl! You’re really gonna make me write about Lana Del Ray?! Haha!

NB:Don’t get me wrong, in that same song she does ask God to be her boyfriend and she did say something stupid in an interview once that proves that she’s no smart feminist writer. But then again, maybe I’m going to say something stupid right now. Oh shit, maybe I already did!

CS:Hahaha! I wouldn’t ever worry about that! Hey, thanks for hangin’ with me for a minute and letting me in on your vibes. Good luck with all of your art, Berlin is lucky to have you!

NB:I miss you.

CS:See you soon, friend.


My original intent for this project was based in a series of rules and regulations, reflective of my conceptual concerns. First of all, no instruments could be used. Only drones, blips, beeps, generated by my cell phone or consumer grade programs like Garageband, and samples taken from either Space disco of the late 70s or break-beats from the early 80s. Now it has expanded and changed. My interest is still in not exclusively using instrumentation to write/arrange songs. I also use video clips to generate the arrangements and tempo. I use memories, Billy Strayhorn, psychoanalysis and cultural heart ache to determine lyrical content. Although DUBAIS exists as a band, it really exists more as a vehicle in which I can explore multidimensional compositional strategies through a displaced cultural lens.

I often think of the state of music now. I think of what my expectations of music, especially punk music, were. When I was young, I saw it as a way for me to feel comfortable in my own skin. I projected punk into some utopian realm where I can say, be, look, do, whatever I am/want. I was always aware of my differences and tried to conceal them. Tried to pretend that my frizzy hair would eventually turn blonde and straight. Tried to pretend that eventually my skin would lighten and I would get taller. Tried to pretend that someday people wouldn’t notice or comment on my differences. That I would B L E N D into my white-washed rural youth. When I discovered that I wouldn’t and didn’t want to B L E N D I turned to music, to this subculture of punk to give me permission to be different, to not compromise or submit to some sort of homogenized ideals or expectations. It all felt very revolutionary at the time…. but that time is gone.

Now, years later, where am I? I’ve been in countless bands, (well, actually about 30ish) toured various places, made records, music videos, etc. and at the end of the day I’ve come to realize what is at the heart of what I love about music. I love the community, I love the activity of playing and composing, I love combining music with politics, I love teaching kids to do it and being a positive role model for them, I love using music to express social change, I love the healing effect it has on my soul, I love that I can incapsulate all that I feel in one song.

I am also faced with the things that I hate about music. I hate the way capitalist ideas of commodification has so much influence in the presentation of the music/musician. I continually am searching for ways to challenge this and to take myself out of that context.

thank you for being here.


I take my name from the city of Dubai. I added the ’S’ because I am not alone.

Dubai was built as a utopian projection of Arab modernism, only to become a pre dystopia of fundamentalism and capitalism. I look at this as a symbol and an opportunity to examine my own ‘arab modernism.’

All around there is struggle and displacement, diasporic colonies coming and going until the place ‘we are from’ is not real anymore… But instead a construct of Western ideology and a displacement from Middle Eastern reality.

Who are we now? What am I?What’s goin on here?

What signifies meaning to someone else, in most cases, has absolutely no real presence, so this line of questioning doesn’t work anymore. Identifying becomes outsourcing, all negotiations and language to identify is coming from the presence of the dominant source; or as Audra Lorde once said “The Master’s tools.” These tools have never fixed anything, and yet they are perpetuated by countering mechanisms utilizing the same oppressive language and the same tactics of separatism… but this time it is fashioned to look like a false empowerment.

I don’t want to be your vessel of empowerment and I am not interested in homogenizing experiences or interactions of ‘psychic otherness,’ or the perceived placement of self or someone else in accordance to your predetermined knowledge of race, gender, and privilege. I have no interest in being placed into your definition of a ‘subversive’ identity and I have no place to do the same to you. Don’t touch my HAIR. Don’t take a picture of my ASS or TITS and call it ‘brave’ or call me ‘unapologetic’ because I am not the “HAIR” “ASS” TITS” that fit your definition of ‘normative’ standards.

I will not engage… I will barely roll my eyes. I am not the identity politician for your outdated 20th century, pre-historic, pre-internet, Gloria Steinem college bi sexual ‘confronting your own whiteness’ phase; in the same way that my visuality is not a signifier for hate groups and bigots….

(PS. is me saying this a form of “placement?”)

Those who can, make art. Those who can’t distract and die. Art in the western world is one of the highest forms of privilege. So what do we (I) do with all of this privilege? (I) will definitely not be participating in a victim role inscribed by performance art tropes and perpetuated by an audience in a comfortable chair. I’m going to be loud and confrontational… I am going to create new emotional realities and states of being. I encourage you to join me.

“The music is different here — not like Planet Earth — we could set up a colony for black people — bring them here through transmolecularisation — or teleport the whole planet here — through music…”


Where can music take you? From the point of view of the audience and the maker it can be transcendental… it can be a source of healing, growth, pain, love, memory, joy, and sorrow. We attach memories and intention. I want to call for a shift in intention…

I believe Music can/should draw transnational connections to bring us closer together. We should go on tour to create community… not fan base. We should fully exchange… not perform. We should share blood, sweat, tears, drinks, spliffs, and knowledge. We should get over ourselves as a commodity or package, a legacy, or an outfit.

Sun Ra says “Space is the Place”, I say “My Place is in the Space that I take.”

To Be Continued….

DUBAIS’ guide to identifying emotional imperialism pt. 1

I, like all of us, can only speak to my own personal history. If I look to my particular historical cultural experience I am left void because it’s so far removed from my own experience. Also, like most people this day and age, I have an intercultural background so it’s not like I am coming from one particular place. That being said, I have a very specific knowledge/ understanding of the word ‘imperialism,’ or (as defined by Wikipedia) the unequal division of territories and people. First of all, I have never lived through the invasion of my country… most people I know haven’t. Secondly, I have had many experiences in which my space has been invaded… most people I know have. Although space invasion is not conducive to bloody war, it still is a form of invasion and should be treated as such; especially when it is coming in the form of an attack in regards to your race/gender/or perceived identity. This is where I am deriving the term Emotional Imperialism from; I define it as any language or action with the purpose of claiming stakes to your space or identity.

It’s important to examine the way in which language can act as a tool of oppression and more importantly how to disengage with this form of language on an emotional level. Here are a few rules I find helpful in this process:

#1. Reverse racism does not exist (and it’s totally embarrassing)

I think maybe the first time I even heard the term ‘reverse racism’ was in regards to Nelson Mandela criticizing a university in South Africa for not

penalizing or allowing the unruly behavior and demonstrations of black students. He felt that this action was ‘racism in reverse’ because the school did not expect good behavior from students of color, suggesting that they were not capable. I mean call me crazy, but this just sounds like normal racism to me. This is also not the popular idea of what reverse racism is.

Often times I hear the phrase ‘reverse racism’ when a person of color has made a generalized statement about white people, rather than speaking to an individual person. Often times I’ve also heard this criticism when organizations are formed exclusively for people belonging to certain ethnicity groups… for example has anyone ever heard this statement: “ Why does the NAACP exist? There is no NAAWP, that would be racist… this is reverse racism.”

The fact is that racism is not an ‘action’ or ‘state of mind’ it is a condition. There is cause and effect. The cause being hundreds of years of enslavement, colonialism, and invasion by white western Europeans/ Americans on people from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The effect being years of healing and recovery from diaspora, invasions, war, rape, etc. suffered by the people effected and the generations that come after them. Everything that happens afterwards is just apart of the same condition. This is a responsive form of language that is coming from the same lineage; it is not being ‘reversed’ it is just being continued. The NAACP is apart of the healing process. If the NAAWP existed it would just be a perpetuation of the same system. That being said….

#2: DO NOT let white guilt make you feel guilty

It’s been a couple of months since the article in the Times called “Why I’ll never apologize for my white male privilege” written by Tal Fortgang came out, so it’s a relatively fresh exemplification of what I want to talk about. To paraphrase this article, a white male explains that he doesn’t need to apologize for his privilege to his fellow students at Princeton because his grandparents had to hide from Hitler in WWII. I wish I could say that I was grossly simplifying it… but I really am not. He could have just written that sentence and it would have had the same effect.

It has been my experience that when the phrase “check your privilege” is spoken it is not just directed to insult the white men in the room, but more of a reminder to look around, assess the situation, and feel gratitude for any privileges you have; despite the color of your skin, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It’s a mantra of compassion, understanding, and empathy. But this is my understanding of it… I think it is interesting when a person feels threatened by this statement. The defensive nature of this article leaves me to believe that the person has taken a position against this statement as if it were an opposing sports team. But if this were sports, it seems like Mr. Fortgang has already chosen his team and women and people of color are not on the same team as him.

This is what white guilt is, someone who perceives you as ‘The Other’ making YOU feel guilty for them identifying your differences and creating preconceived notions based on their perceptions of you and your expectations. This brings me to another point…

#3 Appropriation of language is MORE annoying than racist Halloween costumes

The 80s/90s were a magical time for art and music. This was the age of the rise of identity politics where people were speaking directly to the oppression that they felt by creating work about it. On one end of the spectrum you have artists like Glen Ligon deconstructing language through repetition, text, painting, fragmentation, and humor. On the other hand you have Riot Grrrl creating new feminist language through organization, self-publication, DIY performance strategies, and political activism. This was a time where people were exploring their role as a victim of oppression and attempting to subvert that role by creating new contextualization through creative practice.

Sadly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through an art critique, either as a student or visiting artist, where a white male student tries to talk about his art as a ‘reclamation of his white maleness.’ Don’t get me wrong, exploring masculinity and whiteness in work is important, and can be interesting (just look at the films of Jay Rosenblatt) but there is something about work of this nature that seems so disingenuous when the artist in question takes a heavy stance of being victimized by this identity construct. Guess what? If you’ve never been chased, called names, or physically harmed based SOLEY on your skin color, you don’t get to make art about being victimized this way. Or you can… I just won’t take you seriously. I would MUCH rather sit in a room fool of sorority girls dressed up like Frida Kahlo speaking in a fake Mexican accent than have one more conversation about ‘crimes committed against your white hetero male body.’

To come back to some sort of summation, I am not here to make black and white assumptions about the condition of how people experience things emotionally. I realize that I am maybe more or less sensitive than other people, and like I said before, everyone has their own emotional cultural experience. This is only my attempt to share some guidelines that help me assess situations that make me feel uncomfortable or in some cases unsafe. It is up to the individual to make sure that their personal emotional space is safe by creating your own boundaries and being able to identify situations that feel invasive. Thank you for allowing me to share mine with you.

DUBAIS’ Guide to identifying Emotional Imperialism pt. 2

Speaking of nonsense, I want to talk about body positivity. I’m so mad right now… Why does my body have to be a political movement? Why do Cis men get to look however they want and why do women and gender queer people have to justify their ‘hotness’ through political action if they happen to not be skinny, white, blonde, etc. I was really impressed with an interview by comedienne and writer Mindy Kaling where she so eloquently stated this:

“I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, and you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’”[2]

I rarely, if ever, see male bodies represented this way. Yet the words I have seen used to describe my physical appearance or the physical presence of any woman’s body that is not fitting into social normative expectations of beauty (whatever that even means anymore) but is still attractive or sexually overt or having any power in any way, is a bit insulting… words like “unapologetic” or “brave.” Don’t get me wrong; I think that body positive self-love is so important for all people, but I don’t think it needs to be a mechanism for social acceptance … or rather I wish that it wasn’t. It can be alienating and I think separating people into groups or assigning privilege based on what you think is a normative beauty standard is still perpetuating aforementioned beauty standard. I personally am not attracted to “normative beauty standards” and most people I know aren’t either, so why are we giving it this special privilege? Because a magazine said so? Because Taylor Swift going out in public wearing short shorts is news according to the Huffington Post?[3] This leads me to my point, which is namely this:


[1] I am also not negating the role of ‘sexualized mother’, but it is not necessary to this conversation.





DUBAIS is Nadia Buyse. Artist, musician, and cultural activist.

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