Producer and artist, Stefana Fratila, greeted me at the top of the Calgary Tower with a smile as bright as her heart-shaped glasses. After we got through the customary introductions and chit-chat, I quickly learned that behind the bold look was a young woman with a wisdom that went well beyond her 22 years.
Born in Sibiu, Romania, the Fratilas immigrated to Vancouver when she was a young girl. The influences of growing up in the West and spending her summers in Romania no doubt had a hand in shaping her articulate point of view on art and social causes. While the influence may not be obvious in her music to a first time listener, she insists that it’s there.
“I definitely identify as both Romanian and Canadian, just in different ways. My music is inspired by a lot of Romanian music I grew up listening to, but it’s also inspired by R&B and hip-hop that I listened to growing up; it doesn’t sound like either of those, but that’s where I’m coming from.”
Performing her first show when she was just 15 at the Vancouver Cultural Centre, she has since played in clubs and major festivals in Canada, Germany and France; her experience in the latter served as a catalyst towards her advocacy against gender-based sexual violence. It was while studying at a political science institute in Paris on an exchange program with UBC that the issues of misogyny and racism came to meet her head on.
“I thought Paris would be really amazing and lovely, but it was really kind of traumatizing, and as a woman it was especially disheartening. Anywhere you go from every direction you’re constantly being objectified and it’s so prevalent in their culture. So is the racism, being Romanian, but the sexism just totally hit me.
While the issues of gender-based violence were topics she had already been aware of, the first-hand experiences she had while studying in France triggered a deeper anger that organically moved its way into her music. Her art was as much becoming tool for activism as it was an extension of her creativity.
“I was just so frustrated, and the music became really critical; I felt responsible to use my music to respond to [the frustration].”
Fratila teamed up with female-fronted record label, Genero, to release, “Tristă cu Frică“, (“saddened with fear” in Romanian) in July, and sees no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The soon-to be UBC Masters Program student still fits in touring when she can, and her unique creative perspective seems to deepen with each new adventure she finds herself in. While Fratila mainly identifies as a performance-oriented artist, she doesn’t want to corner herself when it comes to how she wants her usually unplanned sets to be interpreted.
“I just want the audience to interpret it however they want, but I try to take the opportunity, especially in interviews, to talk about causes. Someone who just stumbles upon my show doesn’t need to be drained and angry and frustrated, but they can be if they want. “