Imaginary Life

At home, in exile.

Here is an article that first appeared in The Forumist in December, 2014.

At home, in exile.
Changing Places with Ninos Dankha, Prince of Assyria.

It’s easy to compare Ninos Dankha’s sultry tones to the searching expression of Nick Drake, or the pared-back honesty of Tim Buckley. It’s certainly in that Hall of Fame that he belongs. His cathartic approach to music conjures unmentionable longing: all the joy and sadness of the world. His voice has a natural, emotional intensity and restraint that can’t be feigned. The rhythm is definite, but slightly reticent and offbeat. The melodies are original, yet hauntingly familiar. Changing Places is an album that you will revisit, with renewed meaning, time and time again.

“I wanted to say ‘I am the Prince of Nothing, I’m not from anywhere.”



Photo: Truls Andersen

Q: The name, Prince of Assyria, was it intended as a provocation?

A: At the time, I think it was. But you know, the name – it was in 2007. It was more tongue-in-cheek and less loaded somehow. I just wanted to say ‘I am the Prince of Nothing’, because Assyria doesn’t exist. I wanted to say I’m not from anywhere. I’m brought up here in Sweden, and have been here since I was one year old, but I’m always asked where I am from. For me to say I’m Swedish would have been the real provocation.

Q: And now more than ever, that’s a provocation?

A: Yes, I think it still is. Europe is freaking out again. Blaming a whole range of complex issues on immigration. It’s the easy answer that sounds logical and believable, but it’s dangerous to opt for easy answers in challenging times. We need more critical thinking. More solutions. At least now there is a public debate. When there is no dialogue opinions go unchecked and never get challenged.

Gates of Ishtar at the Pergamon museum, Berlin

Gates of Ishtar at the Pergamon museum, Berlin

Photo: by Ninos Dankha

Q: So what is the solution?

A: That’s the discussion we should be having, especially in the media. I hope it’s time for a more intelligent discussion on what the solutions really could be. Most of all, I hope that the new generation can find the confidence within themselves to design these solutions. The issues today are diverse: restrained resources, failing economies based on an outdated model. We’ve turned ourselves into consumers heavily reliant on cheaply produced, throwaway goods. It isn’t sustainable. This is happening and neither Europe nor Sweden can blame it on the ‘outside.’

Q: In a way, Sweden needs to believe the story about itself that the rest of the world believes. Are you also still defining your place in the world?

A: Yes, in more ways than one. I used to dance. Making music was a natural progression. It’s just about creating something, letting whatever it is inside you flow through you – even if it is blocking you. If you focus on just the blockage, or the problems, you lose your focus and can’t be creative anymore. Being creative is the way out for all of us. The difference is, in dance there can be total silence while the movement continues. This is hard to do with music. I’m still learning how to not overexpress – to be more confident and transparent in silence and slowness. It’s a thin line.

Ninos Dankha

Ninos Dankha was a dancer

“In dance there can be total silence while the movement continues. This is hard to do with music.”


Q: What music are you listening to now?

A: So much Ryuichi Sakamoto today, it’s the weather! I also listen to folk music like Karen Dalton. I had 16 Horsepower on just now.

“I think I am letting go of the commercial make-up. Changing Places
is self-produced, but besides that there isn’t too much post-production either.”

Q: Your music has been described as ‘Swedish Melancholy’. Is there such a thing?

A: Yes, I suppose so. I think I’m trying to tap into some sort of universal mix of joy and sadness. That’s melancholy for me. When I think about Swedish melancholy I think about gentle, melodic voices. A shift from major to minor. In Egypt, they sing their heart outs with so much sadness! In Mexico, they celebrate death with joy – but it’s all the same feeling in those blue notes, wherever you go. It’s just a matter of rhythm or ‘touch’ that defines the cultural aspect, and even the cultural differences are not confined by national boundaries. Very little is.
Q: It’s more of a changing landscape. So it’s apt that Changing Places is the last Prince of Assyria album?

A: Yes. The first album Missing Note was well received, and I’m really grateful for that. There have been a lot of great people involved in Prince of Assyria. But now I have to find out what’s next. I think I’m letting go of the commercial make-up. I’m trying to learn how to have far less production. Changing Places is self-produced, but besides that there isn’t too much post-production either.

Photo: Ninos Dankha

Q: Yes, it feels closer. Your version of Song to the Siren in particular: You can feel the air. What are you working on now?

A: Right now, I’m writing lyrics for the third album. It will be called Prince of Assyria, by Ninos Dankha. It’s a transition. After that I can finally leave the Prince of Assyria project and see what I can do. Mentioning Assyria makes people scared and it scares me too. If I let go of that identity what am I?

Q: Maybe it’s enough to start being Ninos Dankha and see what happens?

A: Yes. That’s more than enough for anyone! There’s no need to go on justifying my existence. From now on it’s just about the music.

Text and interview by Tanya Kim Grassley

Bring along joy:

Tears of joy:

Press contact:

Prince of Assyria Website:


Tears of joy

Tears of joy, from the album Missing Note by Prince of Assyria

Picture 1

My promises have been broken before.
I’m not saying I’ll do it once more.
I’m confused about the way you expose my lies.
I’m accused of living to close a lie.
If I fail, if I’m wrong.
I mean, no harm.
Look in my eyes, are you surprised.
You can se tears, don’t be afraid.
These are only tears of joy.
In my place in my world, love is not negotiable.
What’s not yours, you can’t take.
Love is not negotiable.
My honesty spoiled many before.
I´ve stripped myself, naked and broke.
I refused the truth, by embracing lies.
Days gone by, while I fight my cruelest sides.
If you’ll fail,
If you’re wrong,
Don’t fall.
Look in my eyes, are you surprised.
You can se tears, don’t be afraid.
These are only tears of joy.
In my place in my world, love is not negotiable.
What’s not yours, you can’t take.
Love is not negotiable.
Not negotiable.
It´s not negotiable.
Look in my eyes, are you surprised.
You can se tears, don’t be afraid.
These are only tears of joy.
In my place in my world, love is not negotiable.
What’s not yours, you can’t take.
Love is not negotiable.
Not negotiable.

Prince of Assyria

Join us 20 April 2009 at 21:00, Location: Berns Salonger, Berzelii Park, Stockholm, Sweden

The Prince of Assyria’s imaginarylife

imaginarylife is proud to be working with Prince of Assyria, and a new approach to music distribution that we call “music by merit, not marketing.”

Our Stockholm/Berlin based singer-songwriter is launching his new 2009 album Missing Note independently, collaborating with imaginarylife, after turning down deals with major record labels EMI and Universal.

The tracks will be spread for free through private networks, on and offline. Each song is connected to an artist who enriches the total album experience with a unique interpretation of one of the tracks.

Prince of Assyria – The music.
Prince of Assyria’s début single What Ever You Want is already available as a download but is now set to become a much sought-after item on vinyl, with this highly limited edition seven-inch release. Issued by the Kning Disk label (sic), it subtly presents the different strengths of Dankha’s songwriting capabilities. The first promo single is a moving introduction to the new 2009 album Missing Note.
It’s fitting for someone who embodies such contradictions that the début track Whatever you want is at times both understated and deliciously ornate. For those of you who savoured this track, the new album will be no disappointment. Dankha’s composition mines a rich seam of melancholy which is reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake and Bill Callahan, pleading for another chance while he hunches over a guitar, and abandons all restraint in evocative choruses that etch themselves into your memory. The simple acoustic setting is perfect for his sonorous tones and intelligent lyrics, complementing the album’s sombre, yet joyfully uplifting and lyrical feel.
There’s a sudden shift of emphasis in the soaring chorus of his songs, building from low-key melancholy to something that provides an even weightier emotional punch, and proves that he has an uncanny grasp of soaring melodrama too. Soaked in maudlin strings (Prince of Assyria is sometimes accompanied by a violin and cello duo) the wringing of gently acceptant sadness emerges from deeply personal lyrical motifs, that we can all identify with: poignant and intelligent lyrics stay with you for days as you find yourself remembering phrases such as “Love is not negotiable” from the epic love song Tears of Joy that is set to become an instant classic. The lightness of touch in all the chorus melodies make the otherwise heavy-hearted atmosphere more than palatable- it is positively addictive.
Prince of Assyria is certain to be a prized and played possession in many music collections, sitting along side other New Swedish favourites such as José Gonzales or Ane Brun.

Prince of Assyria

Watch out for this name. It won’t be the last time you hear it. Local Stockholm singer songwriter, also based in NY and Berlin, has created a totally new model for sharing his music with fans- that doesn’t rely on friendly donations or penalizing people for downloading music for free. We welcome him to our network. We’ll explain more later on in the year when the new album is launched. For now, just enjoy “Whatever you want”.