While Dana Hourani came to fame by creating a well-curated, sleek and stylish Instagram profile, calling the 33-year-old Lebanese creative an influencer seems reductive. As she launches her music career with the release of her debut single, Ella Enta, last month, the singer is exploring the depth of her artistic abilities while representing a niche group of unique and contemporary creatives coming from the region. That’s why we chose to shoot her in the luscious, hidden countryside of Lebanon in some of the most exciting young, contemporary designers to come from the region today. These will undoubtedly be the legacies of tomorrow.
Kate Hazell: Can you tell me about your relationship with music?
Dana Hourani: It started when I was about 11 or 12 years old. It actually started because my uncle, my mom’s brother was visiting from France and he is an amazing guitarist. He was staying at our place so I asked him to teach me couple cords here and there. I picked up the guitar and learned a few chords and that is how it started. Then I joined music clubs at university and I did few concerts. I would find people who had the same interest and jam with friends and stuff like that. Then I took an eight-year break from when I moved to Dubai when I was 21. But there were a few years in my teens where I was very active when it came to writing because of the heartbreaks I went through. I felt like I could write only when I was super sad.
But when I had my daughter Zoe, four years ago, I found inspiration again. And that’s when I picked up the guitar and I started writing again. The first song I wrote, I wrote for her.
KH: What music did you listen to growing up?
DH: I listened to Arabic music all the time. My mom was a big fan of Fayrouz. I remember she would listen to her every morning when she’d drop me to school. Growing up, I listened to Mariah Carey and the Spice Girls were a bit part of my life. I would listen to a lot of pop songs – Norah Jones, John Mayer, Ben Harper.
KH: When did you realize that you thought this could be something you’d like to pursue as a career?
DH: When I started dabbling with music on Instagram. I would post my own covers of songs, even though I was a bit hesitant. I was afraid of what people’s reactions would be and I was never super confident about this side of my life. But when I saw an amazing reaction, it gave me the confidence boost and the motivation to do more. Then, one thing led to another and it kept getting clearer in my mind that it could be something that I could do.
KH: What was the first cover you posted?
DH: The first cover I posted? What’s that song called for Avicii, Wake Me Up.
KH: Could you tell me about the process of your first single. How did that come through fruition?
DH: It was a very natural series of events that got me to this point. Obviously, I have an amazing team around me and support that made this happen in the most natural possible way. It started last summer when I met Anthony, he is the lead singer of the band Adonis. We decided to collaborate on a song together called Kawkab Tany. It’s a remake of Teenage Dirtbag but in Arabic. So, I took on the English part and he rewrote part of it in Arabic, and it was a huge hit in Lebanon.
KH: Did he come to you with the idea?
DH: Yes, exactly. That made me realize that as I had put a song out there with a band that has been around for years, maybe I could do this for myself, on my own, eventually. My manager was always super supportive and he knew the end game for me was music. So, for my single,
I met up with Anthony who said he’d write the song for me. We sat down together, and I told him what the song should reflect in a story form, and he translated it into Arabic lyrics. It’s very hard for me to write in Arabic. It’s a whole different thing. There is a certain technique.
KH: It’s an independent record. Would you be like to be signed by someone?
DH: No, not in the first year. I want to be able to see how it pans out, and be able to be in control of how I do things and figure out what I want as a musician and figure out my own sound. I know what kind of sound I want and I have but it takes time.
KH: How did your regional background inspire your music?
DH: You know I always thought that I’ll be singing in English. If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever consider singing in Arabic, I would have said no. But the fact that I am Arab and I speak Arabic, maybe not very well, but I do speak Arab, I found a way to do it in a way that is familiar to me by bridging the gap between Eastern and Western music.
KH: How would you like to contribute, or change, the artistic landscape in the region?
DH: I feel that there’s been a lot of improvement in the region creatively, it’s evolving and I feel that Arabs are less looking to the Western world to kind of come up with ideas and are coming up with their own ideas, using our culture, which is a great thing. I wish to be a part of it by focusing my work around creative direction and create cool campaigns with brands alongside music as well. I never wanted to choose one or another; I always want to do both.
KH: How would you like your singing to evolve?
DH: To be honest, I’m afraid of thinking ahead. I am a very strong believer in taking things one step at a time, this is exactly how I have been addressing my music career. I want to go one song at a time. Whenever a song is ready, I want to release it. Music is not like Instagram, where you need to be present and upload content every day. I want it to be a very natural process and take it step by step.
KH: Who creatively inspires you?
DH: I follow lots of creative directors and photographers on Instagram that are relatively unknown, but they inspire me. I like to look at the underdogs, I don’t like to look at the biggest people. It’s mostly art directors and photographers – visual people.
KH: And Billie Eilish?
DH: Yes, I’m really into her and I’m really into Lizzo at the moment, too. I go through phases. If someone asks me who is my favorite artist, I never have an answer. It just depends on what phase I am going through at the time.
KH: What are your ambitions and goals?
DH: My ambitions and goals will always be the same, meaning to be able to express myself artistically with whatever it is that I am interested in at that point in time. So, today, I want to express myself musically. That has always been the constant in my life. I always want to find an artistic direction, in whatever form it may come, in whether it is in fashion or creative direction, or visual communication. Billie Eilish inspired me before she is an artist, and she is real and she represents what every teenager is going through.
KH: And last but not least, what is your favorite sorbet flavor?
DH: Pistachio. Can you get pistachio sorbet? You can, right? Or lime. I love lime sorbet.
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