I had the pleasure of interviewing Tooji recently, a man who’s been in the news because of his controversial video ‘Father’, which is shown below
Touraj Keshtkar, better known under his stage name Tooji, is a Norwegian-Iranian singer, painter and model . Tooji holds a bachelor degree in child welfare. He has worked in asylum reception centers helping children and teenage refugees and victims of human trafficking. This work motivated him to use his songs and profile to speak out for those who suffer in silence. Tooji is a supporter of LGBT and women’s rights, as well as a supporter of Green Wave, Iran’s democratic reform movement. Tooji wore a Free Iran green bracelet during his performance in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 held in Azerbaijan.
In June 2015, Tooji came out as gay to the Norwegian website Gaysir, stating that he hoped he could make it easier for young gay people by being open about his own sexuality. He was praised for his decision by the Norwegian National Association for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender People.
He was recently a TV presenter but was fired from this job at the start of June this year, cited as being a ‘bad role model’ for children. The article can be read at the end of the interview.
Whatever you think of this decision, it does not detract from the fact that Tooji is first and foremost a humanitarian in our eyes and as such, his story below should speak for itself as to who he is and how YOU perceive him
In his own words – ‘This is why I do what I do’
Interview with Tooji
Tell us a bit more about the message you’re trying to send, and how you think this music video gets your message across. And why you chose to come out using this video as a vehicle to tell the world.
Because of religion, homosexuality has throughout the century been shamed as a sinful act. Since I live in a country based on Christian values and that until recently had a state religion, It was natural to criticize my own society.
This song and video has a deep political message telling the audience that homosexuality is a pure form of love, equal to heterosexuality, and just as much a part of God. I want to send a message to all youth, that there is nothing wrong with them, that this shame they feel is not true and they are perfect just the way they are. Be proud, know that you are pure.
Also I wanted to do it on the Altar , since that is the place where priests have sent out their message of shame that has concluded in harassment and death of millions of people based on who they love. Society evolves, and religion must follow society, not vice versa.
Your music has been described as having ‘Electronic elements mixed with urban heavy and organic sound’ with a mix of irony and darkness. It’s a mix of pop and soul, east meets west. Is this how you intend the music to sound; are you satisfied that this musical genre gets your lyrics across and provides a vehicle for your rather unique voice?
Of course I have elements that I love, and creating a world where the dark meets light, organic meets electronic, results in a very beautiful dynamic. Also I sing in many different ways, so I adjust my voice to the music that I make. I guess I am a musical chameleon and I change my style based on the song and the message I want to get across. Whatever that can contribute to the feeling or picture.
You have a Bachelors degree in Child Welfare. You’ve worked with the hungry, the homeless, the displaced, the unwanted and the horrifically abused. You have a music career now; you are very socially empathic and caring and I wondered if you still do work in the areas of refugee centres and helping teen victims of horrendous crimes?
I still work with it but not directly in the field. I been creating campaigns in Norway for many idealistic organizations that works with children and youth, focusing on how to get the message across. I even recently wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “Taki & Grandma” that focuses on emotional competence. With emotional competence I refer to teaching our children how to be aware of their emotional structure and so being able to organize emotions and know how to deal with them. Life is not about keeping our children away from the dark sides of life, but learning them how to deal with it.
I have to ask you about Eurovision 2012. How did it feel to represent your country, Norway, in that competition? I know there’s been a lot of publicity over it but I’m sure the Divine readers would like hear about it…
It was a lot of fun, but it’s boring talking about that for the 1000th time 🙂
Divine – thanks for the honesty! Back to the rest of the interview…
Back in 2013 when asked where you saw yourself in five years time you said ‘Doing music internationally on a high level, and working on big projects, both within creative fields and within children’s rights.’ How have these goals worked out for you?
I’m definitely getting closer, and I’m seeing what I am capable of. Father has really stirred my country and that once “Gay Friendly” – Norway is showing its true conservative face. It’s a 50/50 situation where half of the country are pro, and the other half is against. We have come a long way, but obviously not long enough.
At that time, you were single. I’m sure the readers would love to know if anyone special has captured your heart yet.
Might be, might be.
AND NOW FOR THE FUN QUESTIONS…
If you were a super hero who would you be?
Yes, bring it on! Now these are my kinda questions!! If I was a superhero I would have been the Last Avatar. Controlling the forces of nature must be the most awesome thing in the world. I really, really, really wish I could do that. Let’s say that that is my goal for the next 5 years; becoming a superhero or just delusional.
What’s your favourite pizza topping?
I like pepperonis with pineapple. The sweet against the salty topped with a bunch of cheese. I actually ate some yesterday.
If you could go back in time to change one thing what would it be?
Wow. I would probably change one of the greater religions, by becoming one of the most influential characters.
Do you own any hats and if so, which one is your favourite?
My favorite hat is a Stetson Cowboy hat. Love it.
What’s your favourite milkshake flavour?
Chocolate, baby. My milkshake brings all the boys…. ….. actually it doesn’t. So I sit there with my milkshake alone feeling fat afterwards.
Which would you choose -jelly or ice cream?
Ice cream!! Are you crazy? How can you even compare??? Ice cream is my kryptonite.
And on that resounding endorsement of the pleasures of ice cream, we wrap up this interview 🙂
It’s been a wonderful time spending time with Tooji and I’d like to thank him once again for taking the time to answer my questions and be with us here at Divine Magazine today.
Where you can find Tooji
Other news articles about Tooji