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RAF: From Band Beginnings to Solo Success

Raf Skowroński, known simply as RAF, is a vocalist, songwriter, and composer from Poland. A graduate of Middlesex University in London with a degree in Popular Music, RAF first gained recognition as a member of the band JÓGA, which was celebrated for its alternative and electronic-folk sound. With JÓGA, he performed at major festivals such as Open'er Festival, Kraków Live Festival, and OFF Festival. Now pursuing a solo career, RAF merges genres like soul, R&B, and electronic music, drawing inspiration from artists like SZA, Björk, ELIZA, and Frank Ocean.



In a recent conversation, RAF opened up about his journey, challenges, and aspirations.

 

Reflecting on his early days, RAF shared, "I was a teenager when my best friend asked me to sing with him. We started with acoustic, slow music and were soon offered an audition on Polish X Factor. It was shocking for us because we were just two cringey teenagers." Although they didn't advance far in the competition, their appearance on national television led to unexpected fame. "People would stop us on the street, ask for autographs and photos. It was surreal."

 

Despite the early attention, RAF’s passion for music only grew stronger. "Music was always a big part of my life. My family wasn’t particularly musical, but I found solace and expression in it," he said. "I remember locking myself in my room for hours, just writing and experimenting with sounds."

 

RAF’s life took a pivotal turn when he fell in love with a man living in London. This relationship eventually led him to move there. "After two months of flying back and forth, he asked if I would consider moving to London. I was so in love; I couldn’t imagine any other way," RAF recounted. This move also allowed him to pursue a popular music course at Middlesex University.




However, balancing his studies and music career proved challenging. "Time verified that it wasn't easy. Traveling was very expensive, and the management company left us. I realised I needed to focus on my studies," RAF explained. Despite the difficulties, this period was transformative for him. "London gave me the confidence to come back to Poland and openly talk about my identity as a queer artist."

 

London also opened RAF’s eyes to a broader spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community. "It was the first time I met trans people and got to know the queer community in depth. Holding my boyfriend's hand for the first time in public was such a liberating experience," he shared. This newfound freedom and acceptance played a crucial role in shaping his artistic vision.

 

Upon returning to Poland, RAF faced the reality of rebuilding his career from scratch. "The music industry forgets quickly. It felt like I had to start all over again. No one remembered me from my band days," he said. Despite these setbacks, RAF remained determined, channelling his experiences into his solo work.



"The transition from being in a band to going solo was daunting," RAF admitted. "In a band, you have a support system, but as a solo artist, every decision rests on your shoulders. It was both terrifying and exhilarating."

 

RAF’s music began to reflect his personal experiences more deeply. "One of the songs on my first solo EP, 'Polska,' is about being gay. It was scary, but it felt necessary," he explained. "I wanted my music to tell my story, to be honest and authentic."

 

Looking ahead, RAF is excited about his upcoming projects. "My next single is coming out in May, and it's about people not believing in me. The song will be in English," he shared. RAF also plans to release an EP in June, followed by a potential small tour in Poland. Additionally, he is thrilled about his performance at the Sziget Festival in Hungary. "I'll be playing on the Magic Mirror stage, which is a queer LGBT stage. It's super exciting."

 

Despite the challenges, RAF remains optimistic about the future of the queer community in Poland. "I think it's a matter of generations. I see a lot of hope and progress among the younger people," he noted.



For LGBTQ+ people in Poland, the past eight years under the Law and Justice party (PiS) have been a period of turmoil and a test of endurance. The government adopted conservative and hostile stances, often scapegoating the LGBTQ+ community to rally their base. This led to an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, policies like "LGBT-free zones," and a rise in hate speech and violence. However, the recent elections, which saw PiS ousted by an opposition alliance led by Donald Tusk, have brought a sense of hope. The new government presents an opportunity to reverse discriminatory policies and foster a more inclusive society by implementing legal reforms, educational programs, and expanding support services. The resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies has been remarkable, and there is cautious optimism that significant strides can now be made toward equality.

 

RAF is committed to using his platform to advocate for change and acceptance. "If my music can change even one life, I would think that my job is done," he said. "I want to inspire others to live their truth and to know that they are not alone."

 

Raf Skowroński's journey from a teenage musician to a confident solo artist is a testament to his resilience and passion. His experiences in London and Poland have shaped his music and identity, making him a voice for the queer community in Poland. With new projects on the horizon and a steadfast belief in progress, RAF continues to inspire and break boundaries in the music industry. "Music is not just about entertainment; it's about connection, expression, and sometimes even revolution," RAF concluded. "I hope my music can be a part of that change."


Listen to RAF's new track, THEY DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH I CARE, on Spotify now.

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