Love is rarely easy, especially when trying to unravel the conundrum that it is and yourself, simultaneously. “Love isn’t as simple as people make it out to be because we’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes,” says Ta-ku, musician/producer/photographer.
On their collaborative EP (m)edian, friends and collaborators Ta-ku (born Reggie Matthews) and singer-songwriter Wafia (born Wafia Al-Rikabi) painstakingly navigate through complicated familial relationships and explore just how intricately sacrifice is intertwined with love.
With both of their parents having dealt with separation, Ta-ku and Wafia took on (m)edian as an opportunity to share their story with the world. “Anyone who feels a disconnect with their parents, or is dealing with depression [or] self-worth, I think the best thing to do is to express it,” Ta-ku says.
For ILY’s Conversation series, Ta-ku and Wafia peel back the layers of their closest relationships and dive deeper into what love means to one another. Below, both discuss how they learned of love (whether through their parents or movies) and how their perception of love has evolved.
Ta-ku: How do you define love?
Wafia: For me, love is not hesitating. The only love I know is the love I have for my siblings and my mother. If they were to ask me to do something for them, my only answer to them is “yes,” and without any hesitation.
Wafia: You’ve experienced different types of love. What is it for you?
Ta-Ku: I agree with that. Love moves you to do selfless things. Love is unconditional, no matter what the task may be. It motivates you. More romantically, it’s meeting someone that completes the person that you are.
Wafia: Would it be presumptuous to assume that you first learned love through your mother or…?
Ta-ku: I definitely learned love from a sacrifice position, or a sacrifice angle. I learned love through my parents–more so my mom. She would show us, kids, love by what she’d do for us, for us to live or be brought up well. Experiencing love from your family is so different than experiencing love from your partner.
Ta-ku: When it comes to romantic love, do you know when you first learned about that kind of feeling?
Wafia: I can’t really say that I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve seen people that I admire have incredible relationships though, like my band-mate Hans and his wife. They’ve been together for close to 10 years. They’re the definition of relationship goals because I see the sacrifice and how considerate he is towards his wife; it’s a really beautiful thing. These are two people who love each other very much and when you see that in two people, you believe in the power of love and that “love conquers all.” I see it between us, in our friendship. When we were touring, I realized how important it was to have my best friend around me. As you know, I haven’t seen it in the best way with my parents, but I see it in people that I choose to be around. Whether that be you, my band-mate Hans, or my other friends. I’m surrounded by people that I love, that love one another. The love I feel for my friends is immense.
I dwell on heartbreak more times than I’ve been able to connect with someone. I dwell more on the ending, and the ending always hurts the most. –Wafia
Ta-ku: Have you ever experienced heartbreak?
Wafia: Yes. I dwell on heartbreak more times than I’ve been able to connect with someone. I dwell more on the ending, and the ending always hurts the most.
I’ve experienced heartbreak, but then again I haven’t because I don’t think I’ve experienced love. Maybe I have, but at the time I didn’t know how to define it? I personally can’t imagine myself in a relationship right now because I’m doing so much. There’s really no avenue for that when I’m home either, so it sort of takes a backseat.
Wafia: How do you find juggling music and married life?
Ta-ku: When you’re a musician or a creative, that passion becomes your life. Then when you meet someone that you fall in love with or becomes your partner, they become your life even more so. I definitely have to try to reorganize and prioritize my life, which hasn’t been hard actually. It’s been very clear cut and black and white. For me, the balance has just worked itself out naturally, which I’m fortunate for.
Wafia: When was it that you knew that Miyon was someone that you trusted to build a family and life with?
Ta-ku: It wasn’t long after we first started dating. We talked quite a lot beforehand and I wouldn’t ask someone to date if I didn’t see them as potentially my wife. I’m not into casual dating. There was a lot of signs that made me realize that she was definitely the woman for me: how kind and generous she is, how important she views her family, and how amazing she is with my little sister, my dad, and the rest of my family–but those two in particular, because of certain things that have happened in my life. She makes me feel secure and safe which I’ve never felt before. It’s complete contentment with Miyon, and almost instantly, which is how I could tell she was the one. I hadn’t felt that before. She also had fun on the road [with me]. She loved it.
Wafia: Aw you guys.
Ta-ku: Tell me of an experience that you’ve gone through where it felt as if it was push and pull. Was there a moment where you had to push yourself to love, either yourself or someone else? Or pull someone else, whether it to be love or to be more?
Wafia: What comes to mind is again my parents’ relationship because I’m sort of living in that, now that I’m back home. I’ve been thinking a lot about a woman’s choice to sometimes stay in bad relationships, for example, my mother. I could tell her, “I think you should get out of this” and if she was to choose to stay, I should respect that choice. Everybody has to do things in their own time or not at all. The other side to that is that when I see my father I have to really push myself to feel love for him the way that I used to.
I was watching a bunch of interviews [where] Trump voters were saying how Hillary Clinton shouldn’t have stayed with her husband [Bill Clinton], and there was a time when I would’ve been like, “Yeah, why would you stay?” But I sort of see now, with having seen my mother go through it. I understand why sometimes you wanna stay. That makes me think of pushing and pulling. I think it also denotes sacrifice and compromise.
Love isn’t as simple as people make it out to be because we’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes. –Ta-ku
Wafia: What about for you? Is there a moment that symbolizes pushing and pulling?
Ta-ku: Yeah. I’ve been seeing my dad a lot more since I’ve been back, and it’s very push and pull. It’s not something I really want to do, but I know it’s the right thing to do. I can see why my mom, like you said, stuck around for a little bit until she had enough. I always think, What if that happened to me and I was married for x amount of years and then my partner was unfaithful? Before, I’d be like, I’d leave them cold turkey. But I think about it now and–God forbid if Miyon and I…I get sick even thinking about it, but for the sake of the conversation–if it happened to me, it’s not as easy [to figure out]; it’s not as black and white. There’s so many factors and issues to consider especially if you have kids. I’m coming to terms with the reality of it, like you are, with having to deal with those issues and understanding people. Love isn’t as simple as people make it out to be because we’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes and that’s why we’re impartial with one another.
Also, everything is kind of foreign to our parents, since they aren’t from here. I think it sort of makes the decision of leaving or pulling away a little bit harder because it’s this person with whom you’ve come to a whole new city with. If you were to choose to leave them, suddenly you’re by yourself, and that’s a lot harder for our parents’ generation than it may be for us.
Ta-ku: Yeah, definitely, which is scary too. We’ve talked about how our generation kind of operates differently when it comes to love.
Wafia: Do you think you, in another life, you would’ve explored online dating?
Ta-ku: Definitely not now, but I’ve found it fascinating and interesting, like when people use Tinder. I’d never use it, but it must be quite an experience–to meet people who you’ve never met before and to have those kind of interactions that you would’ve with people that you know. I find it weird, but I’m not condemning it. I think it would be a crazy experience, but to other people it’s normal.
Also, you’re taking out the foundation of meeting someone organically [out of the equation]. Perhaps being friends of friends, then becoming more, then realizing that you have more in common, and then it building from there…Whereas [with] internet dating, it’s like the motive is forceful and kind of clear, at that time, [that] you’re both meeting up to be potential partners.
Ta-ku: What role does love play in your creativity or career?
Wafia: You made a good point earlier when you said that it motivates you. Right now, I’m really motivated. I have two younger sisters and they don’t have that many role models to look up to, especially [from] our culture or with our skin tone. We sort of live in the in-between.
I always think about them in everything that I do. Every time I do any bit of press or write any song, I always think, If my sisters were to come across this, how would it make them feel?
It may be the Arab mentality of making your family proud. I know my sisters go to school and tell their friends about what I do. It’s really endearing, and really hard to let go of when you’re living with it. I always have them in the back of my mind. How am I gonna provide for them or how am I going to inspire them?
Ta-ku: Do you write better when you’re sad or when you’re optimistic?
Wafia: I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I tell myself that I write best when I’m sad, but I think when I’m sad, I need to feel it. I need to feel it and allow myself to feel without needing to bring writing into it. Once I’ve experienced the emotion, I’m ready to write. I need to linger in the sadness for a little bit–unapologetically–and then write. Once I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I can write.
Wafia: How is it for you? Have you noticed anything with your mood and also the music you tend to write?
Ta-ku: I’m more productive when I’m sad. But it’s normally when I’m coming out of a slump; it’s when I’m no longer sad but something bad may have just happened. I’m on the rise to a more optimistic outlook, that’s when I write the most. It’s been weird lately ’cause I haven’t written as much. I think being in a proactive environment is now what really helps me write music. When we wrote (m)edian I was neither sad nor happy. I don’t think feelings have propelled me to write anything lately, but surrounding myself around people that help me stay proactive is helpful.
Making a hard decision such as to let go or to hold on builds you into a person that is more refined, more decisive, and more weathered. You know what you want. –Ta-ku
Wafia: What have you been taught about love from someone you once loved?
Ta-ku: That’s a good question. Someone once told me that whether you end up with someone or not–whether they break your heart, or for whatever reason you don’t end up with someone you thought you should’ve ended up with–being able to experience that kind of feeling or that kind of love is pretty special.
I’ve always believed that without going through it, you don’t learn what you really want or you don’t learn who you are as a person. The fact that you’re making hard decisions, even though you’re hurting, means something: this feeling or this love must really mean something to you. Or, something about this person isn’t ticking your boxes. Making a hard decision such as to let go or to hold on builds you into a person that is more refined, more decisive, and more weathered. You know what you want. My past relationships definitely taught me that about myself. I’m at a point where I know what I want and I’m not gonna waste time being with someone that doesn’t make me feel a certain way.
Wafia: When did you know in your previous relationships that it was time for you to let go?
Ta-ku: We’re always questioning things. We’re smarter than we give ourselves credit for. You’ll always make sacrifices or compromises in life, but there comes a point when you simply can’t compromise. It’s like when someone comes along and does something or has a trait that doesn’t sit right with you, and you can’t stop thinking about how that bothers you or doesn’t really harmonize with who you are as a person. You shouldn’t ignore those feelings, especially if they linger. You can’t force people to change.
Wafia: What are some traits that you do like?
Ta-ku: Being thoughtful is a good attribute because you’re conscious of someone else’s feelings. If you really love someone, it doesn’t take much to be thoughtful, and that’s very important. And also, generosity, kindness, and someone that makes me laugh. Miyon really does all that. But, I’ve found that thoughtfulness is what really, really moves me to be attracted to someone because that trait checks off a lot of boxes, from being to kind to loving.
I want to give, so I need someone to match my generosity or else I’m always gonna be at a loss. –Wafia
Ta-ku: How about you? What’s some attributes you look for in someone?
Wafia: Definitely thoughtfulness and empathy. Someone that isn’t gonna be patronizing. I find it difficult to be around people that keep tabs because I’m not one to do that. I want to give, so I need someone to match my generosity or else I’m always gonna be at a loss.
Ta-ku:It’s important to get those attributes matched in your partner. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re giving, giving, giving, and the other person is, not necessarily selfish, but there’s an imbalance.
Wafia: There’s been a lot of people that were quite toxic to me and my friends. I realized the thing that really made us different was generosity. I think that that highlighted how important it is for me to choose to love people that are generous. I want them to be a very giving person, no hesitation.
Wafia: How is love different for you now than when you first fell in love?
Ta-ku: When I thought I first thought fell in love, it really wasn’t love. I didn’t even know what was important to me at that time. There weren’t many boxes that I wanted to check off when I first thought I fell in love. It was very superficial, and it was not as considerate as I wanted it to be; love is a serious thing. When I met Miyon, I was around 28. There was more things that I wanted in life and more things I knew I needed in a partner, and that was the difference. I didn’t know myself as well when I first fell in love at 16, as I do now. I watched too many movies when I was young, and I had this weird idea of what love was and it involved a lot of Hugh Grant.
Wafia: What were the movies or TV shows that put love into perspective for you, growing up?
Ta-ku: Batman Forever. No, I’m kidding. I said Hugh Grant as a joke, but there’s this movie, About A Boy. Have you seen that?
Wafia: I haven’t.
Ta-ku: It’s a father and a son kind of thing.
Wafia: Ugh, that stuff always kills me.
Ta-ku: Hugh Grant’s like a playboy and he has to look after this kid and the kid’s kind of a hopeless case.
Wafia: So it’s like Big Daddy?
Ta-ku: Yeah! Kind of like Big Daddy. He did so much for this kid. Obviously he didn’t start off that way, but he got to know himself a bit more and what he wanted in life. It’s really touching, and him and the mother fall in love so it wasn’t a guy and a woman kind of story. It was more family orientated. It always gets me when someone gives up a lot for someone else. And, The Girl Next Door. I had a big crush on Elisha Cuthbert. Have you ever seen that movie?
Wafia: I was about to say, you old.
Ta-ku: What year was that? It came out in 2000 and…
I thought love was having it all figured out…but then you grow up and realize that’s far from the truth. When you meet someone, you still have bad taxes. –Wafia
Ta-ku: Is your idea of falling in love different now than when you were younger?
Wafia: Hm. I guess. I can’t remember what I thought love was. I thought love was having it all figured out, like when you meet someone and fall in love, suddenly all the pieces align; once you meet someone, suddenly your taxes are done, you’ve got a house, and all things that our adult life is made up of is figured out. But then you grow up and realize that’s far from the truth. When you meet someone, you still have bad taxes.
Ta-ku: Yeah, true.
Wafia: I still have hope that love conquers all, but I realize it doesn’t stretch to the extent that I thought it did as a child.
Ta-ku: Well, Hollywood kind of sensationalized that a lot, but it is kind of true. It’s a lot more work than Hollywood makes it out to be.
Wafia: When I was growing up, TV put really bad expectations on women and what needing someone is like. You grow up with this skewed view of the world and then when you’re 20-something and single, you think,I should’ve had it figured out by now. When I was young, I told myself that by 23, 24, or 25, I’d have found my partner, or at least sort of figured out who I wanted that to be. Now, there’s media that caters to young girls and tells ’em, “You can be single for as long as you want. Heck, be single forever.” But at that time, in the ’90s/early 2000s, all those TV shows (The OC, The Nanny) revolved around women having relationships. It’s taken me a really long time to [realize] that’s actually not how the world works.
Hollywood makes women always the dame in distress or wanting love but never finding it, which creates an uneven and unrealistic view on love. –Ta-ku
Ta-ku: You’re right. You’re right about Hollywood as well. Hollywood makes women always the dame in distress or wanting love but never finding it, which creates an uneven and unrealistic view on love. It should be equal. I find that Hollywood always makes it seem as if men don’t need love, but women do. It’s the same either way…That’s why About a Boy is really good because he’s the one that realizes he wants something special.
Wafia: How much did About a Boy pay you to discuss this film? [Laughs]