Hania Rani on the Magic of Dreaming in Your Own Bedroom  

4.5 million views for her video for Cercle, two and a half for her video for Arte – and counting: Hania Rani is a pop star among pianists and has long since filled the big concert halls. We met her for an interview.

“Chaos«. This is how Hania Rani, who has become known for quiet music full of empty spaces, calls the impetus for her ever-evolving sound. Almost all her life, the 33-year-old has played the piano: Starting in Gdánsk, Rani later studied first in Warsaw, but finally discovered her approach to electronic music with her studies in Berlin. With her penultimate solo album »Home«, the artist already presented herself partly singing, but is going one step further now: »Ghosts« which will be released in October on Gondwana Records, shows Hania Rani not only as a diversified singer, but she also immerses her piano melodies in the synthesizer. Already the single release »Hello« might have irritated some who expected the neoclassicism they were used to. With features by Ólafur Arnalds, Duncan Bellamy and Patrick Watson, Rani modulates her way into an electronic heaven, just to break it up with little piano islands. A remarkable development since their LP debut in 2019. 

In doing so, she underlines that her new sound will never completely displace the piano. Her album »On Giacometti«, also released this year, will satisfy all diehard piano fans: gloomy and melancholic, Rani leads us through the Swiss valleys. »Ghosts«, on the other hand, brings the smell of show fog to your nose: in the shadows, you are carried through the night by euphoria. Thereby, the musician deliberately puts ambivalence on a pedestal. Some things remain fleeting, others become very concrete.  

Hania, your new album »Ghosts« will be released soon. How did it come about – and who are they, these ghosts? 
Hania Rani: I have been on the move since 2016 and I really lived, worked and recorded music in many places. »Ghosts« is a great example of my way of living and reacting to reality. Look at the credit list: different places, different studios, different sound engineers. I often worked in remote places, renting a studio somewhere and collecting sounds. People usually expect that you have a base or a home. But I feel at home in many places and I stopped fighting this. It became a feature and a power of myself, just as it shaped my sound. And then there are the ghosts: the spirits, stories, memories and elusive things in our lives. They glue all these fabrics of reality together. 

I think the most important things in life like Death, Love, Truth are very ambiguous and there is no one answer. Art is a beautiful space to reflect on them and to research them. (Hania Rani)

Sounds melancholic. The album, on the other hand, is much less than its predecessors… 
In the course of the last years I became so much more aware that I emphasized my interests in life, not only in music. And when I say this I mean all aspects of life: life and death. On the one hand something extremely dark, and something extremely difficult. On the other hand, all of the things that are spiritual, beautiful and artsy in itself. So it is not only about being melancholic, or being nice. I think that every artist needs their own steps to come to realize which stories are really interesting for them or where you feel: this is meaningful or I really want to face these aspects. With this decision, comes music. Some of the topics and feelings might need a little bit more harshness or profoundly dark sound or generally just a different energy.  

One of the themes you have chosen for the new album is death. On “Moans” you sing about it very directly. 
Death is such a common thing that happens to everyone but at the same time still very much a taboo. People tend to not talk about their fears surrounding it. Also with the war we are facing right now: how can we find a way of expressing how disturbed we are about it? Words are literal. When I am singing, I cannot hide behind the elusiveness of music. Being 33, I feel that I am a lot more relaxed about what others will be thinking about it or if my songs are too murky, or too serious. 

I think people are generally afraid of the fact that everything is transitory. And death is the ultimatum of that. It also has to do with aging and being not »valuable« anymore. This is not what is hot! 

A lot of people cannot find the space for ambiguous feelings because we are not taught to think ambiguous. 
I think the most important things in life like Death, Love, Truth are very ambiguous and there is no one answer. Art is a beautiful space to reflect on them and to research them. You can use so much abstraction, and everyone will interpret it in a very individual way. 

When we talk about endings, we are embedded in a culture that teaches us to not honor these things
…or even allows the feeling of grief! It is such a suppressed emotion! You almost cannot feel sad in our society. If it is taking more than two weeks, everybody is suspecting that you are depressed. But maybe what I just experienced, what I just lost, was just so meaningful that I need a little bit of grieving just to understand and therefore kind of celebrate it that it was really there. 

It nearly feels like, as if people would basically support me in my impatience. (Hania Rani)

With all this, however, “Ghosts” does not sound like a movement inwards, but very vast. 
I think so too. When I think about music, I think with spaces. Sound always happens in space. So depending on which space you are or in which imagined space you are working in, makes a difference: it always has the aspect of finding borders for yourself, in order to be able to work. It gives me a lot of clarity, what is happening where. In »Ghosts« these spaces are way bigger. Especially with »Hello«. The videoclip that we shot was made in an Open Space in the French Alps. But when I was writing it, I imagined it to happen in a huge abandoned building or city, where no-one is. So that the word is just echoing, when you say it.

Does music firstly make the space, or does the space make the music? 
I think it is a little bit of both. When I come to a new space, the sound tells me so much about this new space. And I rather follow these initial ideas than to adjust the space. I am not really interested in making the studios that I am working in, acoustically perfect. So very often, space gives me ideas first of all. On the other hand, I always need imagined spaces that the music is happening in. Of course, this is not a real space. These borders do not have real locations. When I play live, I can bring people into another space, no matter where they are! This would be a good argument that music actually can create space. I want to learn how to make this transition between something extremely domestic and privat to something almost fantastic and chanted. Not only going from smaller space to bigger space. But from something soft with no real angels to something that is extremely vast and limitless. It is almost like dreaming in your own bedroom! You are in a precise, known space until you close your eyes and go somewhere completely different. 

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And has the audience so far allowed itself to be taken along on the new spaces that »Ghosts« opens up? How were the reactions?
Of course there are some that only want my piano sound, but to be honest: I made a whole piano album »On Giacometti« this year! At the same time, my audience is used to me always changing. At some point I will always feel that I need to evolve. My sensitivity is my filter. Everything I do is therefore a filter of reality by Hania Rani. And my audience is open-minded. Sometimes I make mistakes and I am just trying out, taking the first steps into a new direction. I allow myself to be chaos, because it is my best feature! I value that I am not afraid of not being perfect and that I am always so excited that I cannot wait. It nearly feels like, as if people would basically support me in my impatience.