equality factor: threateningly feminine
last album: "MP EP"
our favorite song: "Nimmi"
based in: Bern, Switzerland
Swiss singer and producer Milena Patagônia is the embodiment of female empowerment: confident, confrontational and unapologetically owning her femininity and sexuality. She speaks five languages but chooses to sing in the most unconventional-sounding one, Swiss German. Her sensuality is a key element to her artistic work – for her own pleasure. We had the pleasure to discuss femininity, music production, and a powerful woman’s work and vision with Milena Patagônia, our artist of the week.
“I don’t want to be that submissive pleasure girl for other people. I want my own pleasure and want to profit from my own sexual power. My sexuality is a superpower.”
The Bern-based Milena Patagônia grew up in a Serbian family in Switzerland. She had her first musical experiences as a child when her mother sent her to sing in a choir. Milena always approached challenges the unconventional way: in a choir, she refused to learn the lyrics and decided to sing along with whatever fellow vocalists were mouthing. She took on a classical singing education, and later transitioned into jazz music at the age of 17. Her conventional education eventually came to an end when she decided not to give in to conventional music theory - and refused to learn reading musical notes. “I love to do trial and error”, she says herself.
With a weakness for the unconventional, it comes as no surprise, that Milena Patagônia looks up to fellow femme fatale electronic artists, such as FKA Twigs, Caroline Polachek, and, above all, Sevdaliza. It was women like these - often self-taught, lone she-wolves in the music industry – who inspired her to pursue a musical career nonetheless. Gifted with a hauntingly profound voice and unique artistic vision, she set out to produce her very first solo EP, “MP EP”, in 2016. While collaborating with hired producers, she often found herself relying on (male) exterior parties, putting her musical fate into the hands of others. “I was expecting other people to make my music sound good”, Milena reflects upon her work back then. Two songs in, the male producer she was working with unexpectedly left the project, packing up his computer – with the base of Milena’s work on it.
“I didn’t have my music. He did an amazing job – but I just realized that I need to be independent, that also means that my music is on my computer. That’s when I got interested in producing myself.”
This, and another fateful interaction with fellow artists and music is her passion favorite, Jessiquoi, finally formed the vision within Milena Patagônia to become her own producer. While comparing their latest works in Jessiquoi’s home studio the same year, Milena told her friend that she was waiting to find another producer to join the EP before continuing her work on the music. Jessiquoi’s answer? “What the fuck - why don’t you just do it on your own? Just start with something! Don’t wait for anybody to produce your music.” And that she did.
“I got married to music. I have chosen to make music until the end of my days.”
Receiving tips from her partner and fellow self-producing friend Jessiquoi, through the help of online tutorials and a university course in sound design, Milena slowly but surely took control of her music. “I wanna be really good at producing a voice, at vocal production”, she says. With an unconventional approach to music production, her musical goal is just as unexpected. “My dream is that one day, somebody asks me to produce for them because they’ve heard my album and they like my style. My producing style should be a flavor of their own music. This would be when I’m 50 years old: I’ll be that old, long grey-haired woman, sitting in her own beautiful studio, knowing a lot of stuff, and just being that producer who knows what she’s doing.”
“I imagine myself to be that producer who produces a couple of own albums and then gets bored, and finds a couple of other artists to produce for.”
Although Swiss German pop music and rap are rather popular in her home country, there are very few women at the top of the music industry – let alone producing women. Milena wants to change that by creating a new unique type of music, rather than claiming part of known territory. Again, in realizing her artistic vision, Milena Patagônia instinctively chooses not the easiest, but surely the most exciting and uncharted path. “I thought it would be more interesting to start off making music in Swiss German because there is more new sonic ground to claim. For me, it was never about being in the Swiss music scene. I don’t really care about being in a Swiss playlist. It was always more about finding my own aesthetics, and it’s easier to do it in a language that hasn’t been explored already”, she elaborates.
Doing things her own way
“Swiss German has some very interesting aspects, it’s not a beautiful language per se.” But she does not strive to be just beautiful, or an easily digestible pop artist. With her artistic creations, including visual components and on-stage performances, Milena Patagônia represents an empowered female of her own league. Her music mirrors who she is: “sexy, sensual, mystic, but at the same time very explicit and straight-forward and very reduced. I work with very few things in my songs. I like to keep the overview.” If she wants to be naked in her own videos, shave her head, and talk about sex, she does so for her own pleasure. “If I want to go naked, nobody has the right to shame me”, Milena exclaims.
In many ways, Milena Patagônia’s artistic works speak to and reflect the spirit of grown women of the 21st century. “I was always concerned with all that patriarch, capitalist shit they put on us. I am tired of it! It also has a lot to do with me getting older… like I am that 30- year-old woman, I realized: youth is a currency. When I think back, I always relied on my looks. I turned 30 and everything changed. You definitely get another response from men – especially, when you get older and your attitude changes. That’s when I realized this won’t go on forever, and I don’t want to be depending on others to be able to create my own musical universe.” With her music, Milena takes control of not just her own work, but also the way she is perceived as a woman. Relying on her own skills, work, and sexual power, she has chosen an empowered path of self-sufficiency and confidence. As a woman in music, and on top of that, a self-producing one, Milena takes her role as an ambassador for female artists quite seriously.
“It’s a curse and a blessing at the same time. The curse is a little bit: maybe it’s not only about my music anymore. But is it anyways? Don’t we all have a message coming with our music? I am an ambassador and people know that I speak up.”
To this day, being a sexually empowered woman is political in itself – singing about it openly and provocatively even more so. Not all listeners might understand her essence. Some might feel threatened and uncomfortable. Some might not feel represented or seen when watching Milena rip off her stockings while pole-dancing alone in a strip club, or shaving her head in an empty room. But fellow adventurous women will.