Mogli is here and everywhere. She travels the world, writes songs, and plays concerts all over Europe – soon in the USA as well. Her documentary Expedition Happiness, released in May 2017, made thousands of teenagers go to cinema and listen to the soundtrack Wanderer while dreaming of new adventures far away. I first had contact with the young singer in the autumn of 2017 when I watched her play at the New Fall Festival in Düsseldorf. There, Selima Taibi played her last show of said year in a church. There barely could have been a more suitable location for this concert: People of all ages sat spellbound in their seats and listened to the globetrotter playing music and telling about her journey. Soon, some young people got up, went to the altar, and sat down right in front of the then three-headed band. The heart was warm, no matter how cold the stone floor was.
In the meantime, Mogli has been back in Germany for almost two years. There is still a lot going on in her life, she is still traveling a lot – but after a short stay in Hamburg and the Black Forest, her adopted home is now Berlin. Much has changed and is still changing, she says. And surely, if you listen to the young musician, you get the impression that she is constantly on the move. However, she also notes that her environment and the atmosphere of living together as a society change as well. Maybe that’s why Mogli focusses on herself when it comes to writing and releasing new music now; and therefore looks in the mirror: ‘A look in the mirror is a look back and into the future’, she says.
1. The past
Together with Felix Starck, who caused a sensation with the documentary Pedal the World, Mogli rebuilt a van and travelled with heavy luggage and her dog Rudi through Canada and America. Although they could not complete their journey as they had planned, they experienced so much that the movie Expedition Happiness was brought to life, conveying a vivid picture from the many weeks and months on the road. Since Selima Taibi is back in Germany, there has not been much silence around her. Too much to talk about, too many gigs to play. And indeed, when you talk to Salima, it becomes clear that movement and change play an essential role in her life. After her return, she first lived in Hamburg and then in the Black Forest. Now she is back in Berlin and currently writing new songs. This is how she looks back on Expedition Happiness.
How did it feel for you to be back in Germany after months of traveling and to live primarily in one place – apart from touring life? What has changed over time, you or your environment?
Mogli: Since I’ve returned from my travel I spent two years living in Hamburg as well as up on a hill in a small town in the Black Forest before I eventually moved back to Berlin. In spite of my plans to stay here I’m constantly on the road so that there actually is no daily routine for me. Every day brings something new. That’s why I enjoy having a concrete place where I can return to. My flat in Berlin is like a safe haven and the city – as odd as it may sound – grounds me. I love this city! I think I’ve changed a lot during this time. It’s something you’ll realise when you get to see me on tour or listen to my forthcoming record.
You have travelled with a converted school bus. What is the most valuable thing that you have learned on your journey to Expedition Happiness?
Mogli: On the one hand, it’s been the perseverance and the craft that allowed us to convert the bus. On the other hand, it’s been my calmness and positivity when something went wrong. Happiness is a matter of attitude.
On their latest album Super, Pet Shop Boys sing ‘It’s a long way to happiness/a long way to go/but I’m gonna get there, boy/the only way I know’. What defines happiness for you and what moment of happiness during your journey do you first remember after reading these lines?
Mogli: In my view, happiness is defined by the perfect balance between growths, contentment and fun. I wouldn’t want to miss one of these three for too long. It’s been a moment of happiness to write a song in the midst of Canadian nature. It thundered outside when I opened the windows of the bus, put out my piano and just let go.
When traveling, time often flies by. How do you experience your time in Berlin and how has your everyday life changed since the journey?
Mogli: Time goes by even faster now. At the moment there is something going on every day. I spend a lot of time in the music studio writing my new album. Also, my band and I prepare for the next tour. When you love what you do, time always passes by. And there is nothing that I love more.
Your life has been marked for some time by a certain restlessness. You’re traveling, playing concerts in Europe etc. How do you remember your youth? Was there already the feeling of wanting to be ‘on the road’, to let oneself drift? Is it part of you, your character, or was there an initiation experience that triggered it?
Mogli: At the age of 13, I did my first solo trip. I went to Munch for one week all by myself. I’ve always loved discovering the world. How should one develop a worldview without knowing the world? That’s why I’m very happy that I’m going on a US tour next year and that my work enables me to get to know new places in the world.
How did the music for the soundtrack of the movie Expedition Happiness come about and how (or where) did you make music on this trip?
Mogli: I have always been collecting inspiration for my music while traveling, but I usually made songs out of it at home. For the expedition I brought my guitar and my piano with me and was able to process my impressions, my environment and my feelings in songs directly on site. All that happened, for instance, at the Grand Canyon or in the midst of Alaska which has been an extraordinary experience for me.
2. The present
The here and now shows that Mogli has been in constant flux since her return from Expedition Happiness. Not only does this affect her personal life, but also the music she creates. She is traveling so much that she now sees her apartment in Berlin as a safe space – a haven. However, she also perceives what’s outside, the changed mood in society for instance. This worries her, she tells. Noteworthy is her pro-active attitude to this: ‘you have to change something’, she states. In her everyday life, Mogli still especially likes to do things she has not done before. This is also reflected in her music. For her new EP Cryptic, she invited fellow musicians to the studio. This is how she sees her current musical development.
How do you observe and evaluate current socio-political developments? Do they affect your current songwriting?
Mogli: I’m scared but I’m not ready to accept that. The world is not doing well and it’s ok if we feel bad about it. But we have to use that to change things.
Travel creates new perspectives, inspiration and promotes creativity. You have written many of your songs on the album Wanderer on the road. How do you currently write songs and are you looking for new ways to create something new?
Mogli: I deliberately focus on not being influenced by my immediate environment. I go to the studio with people I love and let out what’s going on inside of me, draw creativity from myself and the moment without thinking too much.
On Expedition Happiness you have met many people, yet it is the project of a duo, the soundtrack being your persona work. Your latest single Strobe Lights not only sees new, electronic influences, but also guests like Kilian & Jo can be heard. Is it your wish to open the project Mogli musically?
Mogli: Kilian and Jo are friends with whom I enjoy making music. That matched perfectly. Further collaborations are planned. So it’s definitely the case that my project is currently broadening musically. On the next album I show a brave and honest side of me but also make myself vulnerable. But I still keep it all for myself. It’s also a nice moment when nobody has heard the music yet.
What characterises the previous soundtrack is the direct access to your journey, the context that immediately opens up – just look at the descriptive titles of your songs on Wanderer. The Strobe Lights lyrics appear more diffuse to me, both in image and verbally. It almost seems melancholy, like an interplay of fascination, attraction and resignation. The title of your upcoming EP is Cryptic, opening up a stark contrast as opposed to your prior work. How did that title came about?
Mogli: It’s exactly this contrast that attracted me. I am a person who always does what she hasn’t done, yet. In my last chapter, nature has moved me a lot. It will always be like that, but at the moment there are other topics that interest me, too. On Cryptic I encrypted a lot and dealt with the topics in an abstract way. However, things are getting clearer on my new album. It’s now the first time that I write music all by myself which of course changes the songwriting as I suddenly have to fill 100 percent of my space with what I want. So I’m figuring out what that is.
In your own words, what awaits us on Cryptic?
Mogli: Cryptic is an abstract, intuitive look at my inner life and the bridge to a new chapter.
3. The future
A look into the future shows that Mogli has opened up musically, but that she has also written songs for her new album for the first time completely on her own. It became clear that no longer nature – what she loves – should play a predominant role in her lyrics, but rather other topics. Since she wanted to consciously focus on herself for writing new music, this meant that she first had to find out what she is now moved by and what she wants to write about – ‘how I could fill the space’, as she says. At the same time, her project, as she calls it, is opening up more and more. This means more and more people are involved and work together with her on the vision and ideas of the young musician. So this is how Mogli sees her future role as a musician.
The title of your documentary acts as the headline for your role as a musician. How would you like to continue the Expedition Happiness, albeit without a bus, in the future? How do you see your role as a musician now?
Mogli: I write melancholic music because it makes me happy; to get back to the state of the world – everyone is a bit sad. Being understood unites people and makes them happy, that’s why it feels a bit like my life’s work. By now, I get a lot of daily mails from people that I touch with my music, who relax and switch off with my music. There is little for me that feels more beautiful. For next year, I’ve got so many nice plans I can hardly wait to share with you.
The release of Wanderer was accompanied by a cinematic document, with Cryptic you are increasingly in the foreground as a solo artist/musician, whose focus is now mainly on playing a large-scale tour all over Europe. What can we expect from you on this tour? How do you prepare yourself?
Mogli: Currently, we’re preparing the unpublished songs for playing them live on my forthcoming tour. There’s been a lot of change to my music and one result of that is that I’ll share the stage with four fellow musicians. So, there’ll be five of us onstage now. I’m so looking forward to sharing my new songs with the world. Playing them live before they are released is something special because it only happens once.
How important is it for you that in the future everything around Mogli is rather ‘self-made’ and in your own hands? How do you deal with this responsibility?
Mogli: Not as much as one might actually think. I love my team and currently it’s getting much bigger. However, everything is still very familiar and I am involved in every process. It happens so much and my day only has 24 hours. So, it’s a nice feeling to be able to share responsibility with people whom I trust and who do good work. That allows me to focus on studio work and my new album. Still, I always work because I just love what I do. And ‘self-made’, just like happiness, is a matter of attitude. As long as I have the control and the vision, more people can be involved and help implement these.
Your album/OST Wanderer is followed by an EP – an almost forgotten art form if it comes to releasing new music. How did you decide to limit yourself to a handful of songs for your future release?
Mogli: I went to the studio with nothing but different people I like. Neither did I follow nor did I have a plan. This resulted in songs that are more a collection of snapshots than a Gesamtkunstwerk. I was still looking for a new chapter for an entire album, but the snapshots are all special and I wanted to share them. They show me and my status quo in a limbo and are e.g. also produced by different people. Nevertheless, they belong together and are therefore united on the EP.
Mogli will release her new EP Cryptic in 2019 and is also heading on a spring tour presented by NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. Find the tour dates below.
This article was made possible via the concept of ‘Smart Compensation‘ which allows to invest more time on specific editorial topics. Find out more about it in NBHAP’s Mediakit.