The future is Elyanna | Our chat with the Palestinan-Chilean artist taking the world by storm
| Doubtful you’ll need an intro to our next guest. Her name has taken the front stage this year, from quite literally the coolest stage of Coachella, to magazine covers, via social media where she’s been making waves and sharing glimpses of her life to her 786.000 followers.
In case you need a reminder, of course we’re talking about Elyanna, the Palestinian-Chilean artist who’s taking the world by storm at only 21. Born in Nazareth and now living in LA, Elyanna mixes cultural influences to create innovative and highly addictive sounds, the latest to date being the just released “Mama Eh”, a song anticipating her upcoming album.
We chatted with Elyanna to know more about her, her career and representing Arab women.
By Cynthia Jreige
“Mama Eh” BTS shot, exclusive to JDEED Magazine
Hi Elyanna! First off- how have you been feeling? Has 2023 been a good year so far?
I consider 2023 to be a year of personal growth. I feel exceptionally positive and have discovered a great deal about myself. My understanding of my image and vision has never been clearer than it is today. I am incredibly grateful for the team of creative individuals I have gathered around me.
This year, I had the opportunity to perform at Coachella and my album will be released. There will be many accomplishments and I am very excited to embark on this new era of Elyanna. While I don’t wish to be overly dramatic, I acknowledge that this journey will include hard work, tears, joy, stress and moments of confusion. However, as long as I surround myself with good people and remain passionate about what I do, nothing can stop me.
You were the first Arab artist to perform a full set at Coachella – How did this impact you and your career?
Coachella marked a significant milestone in my artistic career, leaving me feeling incredibly empowered and recognized as an artist. One of the best parts was being able to sing in Arabic and showcase my belly dancing skills, accompanied by my band with their “tablé, derbekeh, 3oud “and my brother on the keys. I didn’t have to alter a single thing while performing at one of the world’s largest festivals.
Coachella taught me a lot about myself too because I had to spend long hours doing rehearsals and I had to push myself and my limits.
That’s the secret of success.
As an artist, you should go through everything, the good and the bad in order to learn and grow.
Coachella gave me great insights about how I want my live performances to be. I feel excited about what lies ahead because I know that things are only gonna get better!
It holds great significance for me to have been the first artist to sing in Arabic at Coachella as it was a tribute to my culture. However, my hope is that I won’t be the last to have this opportunity.
“Be patient till you discover who you truly are and what you aspire to represent.”
Do you ever feel a form of pressure to represent Arab people, and most importantly Arab women on international stages? And did you always know you’d sing in Arabic?
Sometimes, I find myself experiencing equal amounts of pressure and excitement. It’s exciting to explore new territories and try new things. I particularly enjoy this because routine tends to bore me. The current path I’m on is fun, creative and distinct and I am eagerly anticipating where my experiments will lead.
The pressure I face comes from both cultures: those within the Arab community who may not align with the progressive wave I represent as an Arab girl living in the US and singing in Arabic as well as individuals from other cultures who may not fully grasp my vision or possess much knowledge about Arab culture. Although challenging, I am receiving significant support from my people and I am confident that this support will only grow stronger in the future. Singing in a language unfamiliar to many can be hard but I draw strength from the resilience and beauty of Arab culture. With the backing of amazing Arabs in the US and worldwide, who are incredibly influential and eager to uplift young Arab talents, I believe we will reach new heights.
It is truly an honor to represent Arab girls. I am very proud of my Arab heritage. I embrace my curly hair and curvy body that I like to flaunt. Arab girls are strong and fierce. Whenever I step onto the stage or film a music video, I feel like a businesswoman, constantly learning and growing. My background and culture provide me with a powerful attitude. Arab girls’ attitude is unmatched.
Being away from home has deepened my connection to my culture. Initially, I was singing pop, jazz or R&B, which I love and still find inspiring. However, when moving here, my producer Nasri encouraged me to sing in Arabic, as no one had done it before. I was initially hesitant but I drew inspiration from various sources worldwide: my roots, Palestinian weddings, my grandpa and my mom, who is a writer. I also find inspiration in other artists like Lana del Ray, Etta Jones, Aretha Franklin, The Weeknd, Beyoncé, Kanye West and MIA, among artists from diverse backgrounds. While I initially had my apprehensions singing in Arabic, once I started doing it in my own unique way, it felt like the perfect path for me.
How was your love for music born? Did you always know you’d be a singer one day?
From a young age, I really wanted to become a singer and a shining star. Although it may have seemed unlikely to others, especially considering our hometown of Nazareth, where international singers or actors were rare, I always believed in my dream. I would often share this dream with my mother, even though I couldn’t tell what was its origin. Somehow, I knew in my heart that I was meant to be a singer and my entire family shared this belief. Even as a young girl, I would spend hours singing and working on improving my skills, preparing myself for the day when a producer or manager would recognize my talent. That was my ultimate purpose and goal.
My love for music has always been an intrinsic part of me. I was particularly fond of live performances and I would watch them with great enthusiasm, often transforming my mother’s room into a stage, wearing her clothes and performing for myself.
It may seem weird but my passion for music was undeniable. After school, I would return home, dedicate my time to singing and training on challenging songs, continually seeking my next musical challenge.
Looking back, I realize that as a young aspiring artist with limited opportunities in my hometown, I looked for ways to make my sound heard and to establish myself in the industry. This drove me to explore lots of experiences, supported by my brother Firas.
What can you tell us about your upcoming release? We’re super excited!
The upcoming release from my new album is titled “Mama Eh.”
What sets it apart is its unique blend and simplicity. We incorporated Arabic instruments into an urban sound.
This song deals with topics that reflect me personally. My brother, who co-wrote the track, suggested that I discuss subjects that I can relate to and that reflect my everyday life. As a result, I talk about fashion, things I love, the music industry and the struggles artists face in proving themselves and fighting for their art and purpose.
I address the material challenges artists often encounter and emphasize that, in the end, love is all that matters. There is a lot of honesty in this song. I sing it differently because I genuinely feel the emotions behind it.
If you could collaborate with any artist tomorrow, who would it be and why?
Tamino, because he is a unique artist with a unique voice, and I love that he plays the oud haha.
What advice could you give someone who’s looking to launch a career in music?
At the age of 21, I am still in the process of learning and growing each day, which is why I don’t believe I am in a position to offer advice just yet. However, what I do know is that I pour my heart, soul and entire being into my artistic career.
I give it my all because I love it.
I am passionate about it and it is a constant source of inspiration for me.
I work relentlessly on a daily basis and push myself to the maximum.
Before you pursue a career, you should consider your objective as an artist, the message you want to deliver and what do you want to be representing.
Over time, as you discover hidden skills you may not have been aware of, you will find answers to these questions
Be true to yourself and to your art.
Surround yourself with the people
Who inspire you and encourage your growth and stick to the people you were there since the beginning of your journey because they understand you and your brand.
Work very hard.
Be patient till you discover who you truly are and what you aspire to represent.
Finish this sentence: In the Arab World, I wish we’d see more…
Girls rocking their big messy curls.
Listen to “Mama Eh” here