With the help of some influential music bloggers and fans among the Finnish radio and television profession, a virtually unknown Swedish singer and songwriter Ninos Dankha has within a few months become one of the year’s most talked-about new artists. Under the regal name Prince of Assyria, Dankha is stirring interest across Europe, but he seems particularly welcome in Finland.

So why is the Prince so phenomenally popular here?

”I have no idea, really. No-one has come and told me that,” says Dankha over the phone from Sweden. ”I hope it’s because of the melancholy connection, my music is often quite sad and dark. I mean, I try to write about things that are universal, that every one can relate to. Maybe Finns are just really fast to catch on to it.”

On his debut album Missing Note Dankha writes the perfect soundtrack for moody Nordic winter nights: warm and sensitive like a shot of morphine for a broken heart. His music is part Leonard Cohen part Nick Drake, with a dash of New York’s The National. Added to the mix are the odd elements of Dankha’s own Assyrian cultural background. Born in Baghdad, Dankha and his family moved to Sweden when he was less than a year old.

”I use the Assyrian language in my lyrics sometimes. I grew up speaking it at home. But I only use it as an element. Assyrian culture is part of my background, but it’s not my musical background.”

In Sweden Dankha first learned to play the piano and then the guitar, and then to write songs. He recorded some of those songs and posted them on MySpace, and was soon spotted by the Kning Disk record company. ”That’s my little journey,” he laughs. But why is his music so melancholy? Is the Prince himself a dark person?

Fri 12 Feb
Prince of Assyria
Tavastia, Helsinki

”It depends on how you see yourself. My life has been quite dark and melancholy, but I try to find the dark side and come out of it through music. I try to write something that is hopeful, not just dark.”

Matti Koskinen
Kning Disk