For GRAZIA’s seventh episode of Preserving Palestine, I invited Elyanna to join me as we discuss her transition from Nazareth to Los Angeles, the beginning of her musical career and how she’s making a genre of her own.
I remember first hearing about Elyanna back in 2020, and I couldn’t help but feel mesmerised by her remarkable voice. There were people resembling her to Rihanna, Shakira, and even her muse Lana Del Ray. And yet, after listening to her hit songs, from Ala Bali to Ghareeb Alay and her rendition of La Vie En Rose, I can guarantee you that there is no voice on this planet like hers.
Put her unbelievable talent aside, Elyanna as an individual is bubbly, charismatic and frankly adorable. And yet, as soon as she hits that stage, a different side of her comes out. Powerful, alluring and ridiculously energetic. I’m a big believer in reading people’s auras and the energy they give off once they enter a room, and I’m telling you there’s nothing but positive vibes whenever Elyanna is around.
Born in the biblical city of Nazareth, Elyanna moved to California when she was just 15 years old with her family for the sole purpose of her singing career. “A lot of people don’t know that I was born and raised in Palestine. And they’re always surprised that I speak Arabic. It’s my first language. And I’m so proud to be Palestinian,” Elyanna exclaims. “And as a kid it was a huge transition for me to move to California, it’s a completely different culture. It’s a different mentality. And everybody’s just, you know, in Palestine, everybody is very warm. And, you know, all the neighbours know each other, everybody’s close, and everybody really cares. That’s the word I would use. And when you know, moving to California, it was a bit tough, because I was only 15. And I had to go to school and school was a very tough thing for me. You know, I felt so lonely. But thank God, I had my family with me. And it definitely made it easier.”
“And everybody’s just, you know, in Palestine, everybody is very warm. And, you know, all the neighbours know each other, everybody’s close, and everybody really cares.”
Elyanna was first discovered by Nazri, who invited her to his studio and eventually introducer her Wassim Sleiby, the CEO and Co-Founder of XO Records, which discovered some of the industry’s biggest stars including The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, French Montana and Doja Cat. “He [Nazri] actually discovered me and he invited me to his studio and I met Sal through him,” Elyanna reminisces. “I was always singing in English. I was singing jazz, I was singing Aretha Franklin, that’s what I was very inspired by. Nazri was like, oh, I want you to sing in Arabic. And I’ve never sang in Arabic my whole life. And I left home, I was crying, like, oh my God, how can I do this? I can never,” she continues.
It’s hard to believe that Elyanna ever had an ounce of worry when it came to singing in Arabic, especially as I asked for my very own live performance and heard the words come out of her mouth in such a proficient range, with a deep richness that is as rare as a blue moon. “We sat in a studio, and we just made an Arabic song that just sounded different. And it was really my first studio session where I made ‘Ana Lahale,’ my song with Massari,” she recalls about her first song. “And it gave us so much motivation. We were like, “okay, this is different. This is new.” So we just kept going from there. And I had no idea that one day I was going to be singing in Arabic, and I’m going to be representing Arabic music. It sounds crazy to me. But sometimes, you know, you don’t know your path yet. But once you know it, and once you’re convinced about it, and you know what you’re doing, This is where you go from there, you go from there, and you work hard, and you know where you’re gonna go,” she continues.
“Sometimes, you know, you don’t know your path yet. But once you know it, and once you’re convinced about it, and you know what you’re doing, This is where you go from there, you go from there, and you work hard, and you know where you’re gonna go.”
Elyanna is undoubtedly the first person to put not only Palestine, but the entire Arab world and the Arabic language on the worldwide map. Maluma has brought Columbia to the world, Rosalia has brought Spain, and now Elyanna is bringing Palestine. “To be honest with you, it’s something I always say, if you’re too comfortable, then you have to change your direction. I always try to be out of my comfort zone. I always want to do something different, something new. I’m very inspired by so many amazing artists. But I feel like I’m the only example of myself. So sometimes it gets tough. Because I’m just introducing Falasteen and a new culture to America. And I feel like it’s interesting. But the good thing is that people are more open these days. And they accept cultures and they want to hear more about new things, which makes it an easier process for me,” Elyanna expresses.
Artists like Maluma has brought Columbia to the world, Rosalia has brought Spain, and now Elyanna is bringing Palestine. We can’t wait to see what’s next in store for her, especially since she’s releasing a new album “very soon.”