Fatima A.M., ‘Our land is undergoing a process of sheer abuse. Many of us have been struck by that very violation’

An upcoming collaboration between singer-songwriter Claire Tonna and spoken word poet Fatima A.M will aim for a meditative expression away from the anxiety-ridden, toxic reality we are forced to live in. The duo speak of how performance can help us carve a space away from the rush

Fatima AM (left) and Claire Tonna. Photo by Kim Sammut
Fatima AM (left) and Claire Tonna. Photo by Kim Sammut

How did this event come about, and what was the root of collaboration between the two of you?

Claire Tonna: Mouth to Mouth actually came about as a means of survival and revival in these trying times; a reminder of what’s valid in this culture of forgetfulness… kind of writing what you need to listen to and share it in the most honest way, for the benefit of all.

Fatima A.M: I think both of us have long been trying to survive a system based almost solely on monetary value and bent our spirits almost beyond recognition in order to match the pace of current society. It’s been a tough year, and I don’t think either of us would have made it through if we hadn’t sought our passion for creating as a means of feeling alive. At some point, you do turn around and really look and listen to what’s happening around you and have this moment of dawning realisation that most people are at the end of their wits trying to make ends meet, both on a financial and a psychological, emotional level. The sheer magnitude of our self-imposed notions and values by which we lead often toxic lives does make you wonder how much of it is true to oneself, or fulfilling at all. Mouth to Mouth is kind of the breath we lend to one another in order to re-establish self-governance and unburden ourselves from unnecessary – often self-inflicted – weight.

CT: Collaborating with Fatima came about as naturally as sitting down and smoking a cigarette on the pavement where we first met over a year ago. Living under the same roof empowered strength in our separate creations and it was only an organic development that at a certain point, our material moved closer to each other’s, leading us to create something pieced from both ends. Mouth to Mouth is in fact a whole project we created and produced together from scratch and the whole process has been a really powerful breath from the chest.

What is the main reason you called the event ‘A Night of Revival’?

CT: Because to survive isn’t enough; one must live. And how do we live when most of us struggle to even feel whole? We must revive what we think we have lost deep inside of us – our very own self, our identity.

AM: This night is about gathering the necessary tools to find one’s footing and rise. It aims to shed light on our ability to choose and change our reality, despite external factors that may seem to be controlling our freedom.

Being a blend of spoken word and music, what would you say is the main theme of the ‘Mouth to Mouth’? What are the social and psychological dimensions you would like to explore with it, and how would they relate to Malta in particular?

CT: Mouth to Mouth literally means blowing air into someone’s mouth and compressing their chest to revive them – it is a metaphor for the pain we can feel in our chest, feeling stuck, numb and the slightest word of courage and remembrance of what is truly valid can relieve that pain and transform it into changes, translating into a kind of revival. The concept is all about this breath of freedom we own and the responsibility we have to lend that to ourselves and to each other. The theme emphasises the idea of making oneself safe and strong in a time where such things are not remembered and not promoted. Every day, we all have the gift to encounter our fortunes and misfortunes, and this is a power, a compression to our chest, to create a better space inside and outside of ourselves for the benefit of all.

AM: This land we inhabit is undergoing a process of sheer abuse and so many of us have been struck by that very violation. There is no time to take a step back and breathe, the air has become toxic and complaints are on the rise. We have glorified the idea of being busy… it’s almost an ugly thing to be idle and yet, mental illness is on the rise. It is undeniable that a portion of that is due to the environment we find ourselves in.

My point is this: you cannot cure depression and generalised anxiety by sitting next to a tree, but we have definitely reached a point where the reliance on substances is suggested in order to lodge ourselves further into a framework that doesn’t suit our nature. We have almost wilfully departed from the essence of our being in order to worship a false god, and that falsehood seems to be seeping into every facet of our day to day lives.

The hyperreality of social media, adverts, rent prices and large cement boxes... There’s only so much one can live with a reliance on appearance and the virtual before breaking down. How many people have carved out their mind in order to fit inside a box they didn’t want to fit in to begin with? How much of ourselves is there left to contort?

We tend to internalise notions we didn’t want to internalise in the first place yet somewhere along the line we still make them ours and live by them. But to hell with it all. Mouth to Mouth is the sound of unravelling all of that and soaring once more.

What do you make of the local musical scene? What would you change about it?

CT: I see the local musical scene as abundant in itself; there is a lot of creators, collaborations and projects happening constantly and supported in different ways too. Though, at times, I do miss the honest and genuine expression of what really lies inside. There’s also an absence of representation – it can’t be that in Malta we only have white Maltese people who create and perform. I definitely think there are certain barriers and that the local scene can be more open, complete and rich in this sense.

What’s next for you?

A one-way ticket, without any plans!

Mouth to Mouth will take place at the Malta Society of Arts, Republic Street, Valletta on November 9 and 11 at 20:30 and 20:00 respectively