This Bahraini-Palestinian singer is creating new opportunities for Arabic music

Dubai - Banah is a Bahraini-Palestinian singer and songwriter who is creating opportunities for the non-Arab world to hear and relate to Arabic music with her songs, which are a Mélange of English and Arabic


Purva Grover

Published: Thu 5 Aug 2021, 3:23 PM

A Bahraini-Palestinian singer and songwriter, Banah is a name to reckon with when it comes to music in the Middle East. She showcases a style of music that differentiates her from other Arabic artists in the region, and her musical interpretation plays on the sentiment of combining commercial elements with memorable classics. With a following of 85.7k (and counting) on Instagram, she looks at her followers as her fans, rather a home base to everything. The 36-year-old sings in English and Arabic, as well as genres like jazz, blues, classic rock, pop and oriental Arabic. She has also taken part in key festivals around the region, including the Bahrain Jazz Fest, Abu Dhabi Festember Festival, Bahrain Music Festival, and more. Ask her if she can recall a time when she knew she would be a performer, and she shares a lovely anecdote. “The first time I realised that I wanted to be a singer, was when I was invited on stage with Bryan Adams at a concert in Bahrain! He had a duet with Mel C and wanted to invite somebody from the audience at random and I was chosen! Standing on stage in front of thousands of people and singing my heart out was definitely the starting point for me to pursue music professionally.” She’s just released a single, which is already being showcased on several top charts as well as on many radio and TV stations in Egypt and the Middle East. We speak to her to know more about her journey so far.

Have you been to the UAE? What was your favourite part of being in Dubai?

I love the UAE. Every time it feels like a different experience. What I admire most about Dubai is how culturally diverse it is as a city and how future-driven all the industries are, especially music. There’s a huge amount of local talent. From a foreign perspective, I always learn something new every time I visit.

Can you share your experience as an artist in the Middle East?

Being an artist in the Middle East definitely has its challenges. Perhaps the music industry, in general, is difficult in this part of the region. However, I am blessed to be signed under an amazing label, Universal Music Mena. I feel very much protected under their guidance and I am able to gain a lot of experience from what they do in order to progress within my own, personal career.

You merge different genres of music. Why do you think that is important?

I am all about fusion, especially in music. I am a bilingual singer, so I also think merging different genres creates interesting sounds, although all my singles are in Arabic. Prior to the pandemic, I created a short concept called Music of the East and West, in which I merged Oriental and Western classics. Personally, this is definitely something I enjoy doing, and I believe it’s important to create awareness of Arabic music on a global level.

Could you compare the art scene of the UAE with Bahrain?

I believe the art scene in the UAE is bigger, considering it is also a larger population. There are more opportunities to perform. However, Bahrain has a collection of amazing talents and musicians and it has definitely been a good place for me, especially when starting out in the music industry.

Where would you say your early inspiration came from?

My early music inspiration came from both English and Arabic backgrounds, legends like Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin. While listening to all these names, I would also have Umm Kulthum and Fairuz on my playlist.

Do you play any instruments? If yes, which?

I play the piano… by ear!

In which aspects of music creation are you involved?

All of my music, except for my previous track, has been written for me. However, I am always heavily involved with the creative process, it is always my vision in terms of the lyrics and melody. I try to choose concepts and subjects, which relate to what I’m going through.

What does a day in the life of Banah look like?

Lack of events is probably the only and biggest factor that has changed; no rehearsals and more time in the evening for myself. However, I never stopped releasing music or shooting music videos throughout the past year. A typical day is a balance between taking care of my children, who are currently homeschooling, and my music business.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I have just released a song Sa7ya Ray2a, which is written by one of the promising composers in the Egyptian music scene, Aziz El Shafei. The track is already being showcased on several top charts as well as on many radio and TV stations in Egypt and the Middle East. The music video was shot in Lebanon and provides the ultimate summer vibes kind of track. I am proud of it and have worked on it very hard so I hope people like it.

If not a singer, you would have been...

Easy, a radio host, which I actually had the chance to do for a couple of years. I think this is still the closest you can get to music.

A message for singers who are starting out...

I would tell budding singers, who are just starting out, to not work excessively and burn themselves out. Make use of social media for positive work. Remove the fear and embarrassment, and refrain from randomly messaging strangers on social media in order to connect and network. Use the digital world to your advantage.

Your message to all the women who look up to you...

If you have true passion, then you need to go for it in any form or way. It doesn’t mean if you like music, you need to be a singer right away. The idea is to take small steps in order to fulfill your passion or desire, even if it’s not the full journey. It could be as simple as music lessons or an acting course, anything to keep you fulfilled if you don’t have the luxury to go full force. Once you do that, you will find your purpose and enjoy life even more.

Your top three songs and singers you admire.

Fairuz, Aretha Franklin and Umm Kulthum. From today’s musical scene, I would say Dua Lipa.

In your latest music video, Sa7ya Ray2a, you are dressed in pieces from Pinko’s SS21 collection. What aspects of the Italian brand’s range appeals to you?

I am in love with all the outfits from the brand, especially the pieces showcased in my latest music video. Pinko fits me beautifully and it’s classy, and funky at the same time. The colours are amazing, especially from the selection of outfits in the video.

85.7K followers on Instagram. What does this number mean to you?

I don’t look at my followers as fans I truly look and think of them as my army and home base to everything! I have never bought a single follower and I’m very proud of that. They are all genuine and they are truly people who want to hear my music.

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