Egyptian singer Malak El-Husseiny discusses her new single, writer’s block, and her desire to stay vulnerable

Egyptian singer Malak El-Husseiny discusses her new single, writer’s block, and her desire to stay vulnerable
The 26-year old artist tells Arab News she suffered from a prolonged mental block. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Egyptian singer Malak El-Husseiny discusses her new single, writer’s block, and her desire to stay vulnerable

Egyptian singer Malak El-Husseiny discusses her new single, writer’s block, and her desire to stay vulnerable

CAIRO: “I was very lost and disconnected from my environment and from myself,” says Egyptian singer-songwriter Malak El-Husseiny (who goes by the artist name Malak). “I didn’t know if I wanted to do music that much.”

Malak is talking about the time that preceded the writing of “Can’t Catch An Emotion,” her latest single, released late last month. The song contemplates a painful state of inbetweenness (“The sun frustrates me and the moon don't look as good”) and examines the young artist’s crippling inability to connect with herself.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Now everybody wants to know what introverts do for fun

A post shared by Malak ملك (@malakelhusseiny) on

The five-minute video follows Malak as she walks through different manifestations of nature, navigating her confusion and trying to re-establish that connection.

The 26-year old artist tells Arab News she suffered from a prolonged mental block — weighed down by indifference and an inexplicable heaviness of heart — that she couldn’t seem to shake.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

caving in with the tide, wave after wave on my bedside @lomovros

A post shared by Malak ملك (@malakelhusseiny) on

“It’s not that I couldn’t make music. I just had no feelings to connect to and express in music,” she says. “Eventually I knew that writing about this was going to help me move forward and reconnect to my art, to myself and to my truth. It took a lot in me to be able to finish (this song) and I’m happy I did.”

Malak dropped her debut EP, “Alters,” in 2014 and immediately grabbed attention with her dark English-language electro-pop that drew comparisons to Lana Del Ray, among others. She featured on season four of MBC’s “The X-Factor,” and received critical acclaim for a couple of singles around the same time, particularly “Wild Summer Hearts.” But she has been out of the headlines for quite some time before the release of “Can’t Catch An Emotion.”




She featured on season four of MBC’s “The X-Factor.” (Supplied)

Not that she hasn’t been busy in that time; she launched her own music production company in 2016, which focuses mainly on commercial work — ads and radio jingles, for instance — and has been writing for other artists too, exploring her love of other genres, including hip-hop and trap.

Her wide-ranging musical taste is something that stems from growing up in a family with an extensive and eclectic record collection. “Their hobby was to collect vinyl records, so I grew up listening to Fairouz, Umm Kulthum, Guns & Roses, Dire Straits, Scorpions, and Bon Jovi,” she says. “My dad would spread out his collection and we’d play music all the time. My mom also played the guitar. So there was always music around the house.”

Around the age of 12, Malak realized that she wanted to do more than simply listen to music — she wanted to perform. She started off by trying to recreate beats (“just tapping along”) and practicing on her karaoke machine.

“That’s basically how I got into loving music,” she says. “I guess it just came naturally to me.”

Having performed cover songs at numerous events, Malak was spotted by Subspace Records, and signed a contract with the label when she was just 18. That was when she began writing her own material.

Initially, she says, her writing was more of an attempt to copy her favorite artists. "I had no guidelines,” she says. “I was a kid and I hadn’t written anything before, except for poems and short texts. But I had never written a full four-minute song. Melodies were the most difficult part, because they required a knowledge of music and (melody) matching.”




Around the age of 12, Malak realized that she wanted to do more than simply listen to music. (Supplied)

The label set Malak the task of writing a song a day for three months. “It didn’t have to be a finished song,” she says. “It didn’t even have to be good. But they assigned this exercise so I could learn how to express myself and find my (own) voice.”

The exercise also taught her not to become too attached to the outcome. “It was true expression and that’s what mattered,” she says.

After months of trial and error, Malak began to settle into a songwriting process that she was comfortable with, one that allowed her to tell her own story.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

mooood

A post shared by Malak ملك (@malakelhusseiny) on

“I was singing because I knew this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to take a shot at it, to do what I actually believe in and live my truth,” she says. “As I grew up, I wanted to do it in a more authentic way. I didn’t want to have to make music that I didn’t believe in just to be more popular.”

Her approach, she adds, is “more about authenticity and releasing emotion.”

The press release for “Can’t Catch An Emotion” stresses Malak’s commitment to authenticity, claiming that she “sings of the vulnerabilities of being a modern Arab woman” and “explores her journey through love in its different forms and all the euphoric revelations that come with embracing it.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Can’t Catch an Emotion - Out tomorrow on all platforms (link in bio)

A post shared by Malak ملك (@malakelhusseiny) on

Those themes will apparently continue throughout her upcoming debut album, which she says explores various manifestations of love, from “the romantic, to spirituality and one’s relationship with God, (all the way to) one’s relationship to oneself.”

It is an act of questioning that is both subtle and versatile — one in which Malak posits her own inquiries as a modern Arab woman who is curious to understand why things are the way they are; inquiries that Arab women may shy away from because they’re “wired to be scared to rock the boat.”

The album also challenges expectations about how Arab women should perform in society — including having to fit a certain mold “for families to accept you as the wife of someone.”

The album was originally set for release this summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed it. However, Malak hopes to be able to release — and tour — the record soon.

As for the future, the young star says she’s open to exploring more musical options whilst “staying true to my roots and where I come from.” The key, she asserts, is to stay vulnerable.

“I’ve listened to artists who have changed my whole life just because of one song,” Malak says. “I’ve always wanted to be that type of artist — to write something that is so personal to me, put it out to the world and be so completely vulnerable that people feel it.”


Sotheby’s to auction unseen sculptures by Egyptian pioneer Mahmoud Mokhtar

Sotheby’s to auction unseen sculptures by Egyptian pioneer Mahmoud Mokhtar
Updated 40 min 45 sec ago

Sotheby’s to auction unseen sculptures by Egyptian pioneer Mahmoud Mokhtar

Sotheby’s to auction unseen sculptures by Egyptian pioneer Mahmoud Mokhtar

DUBAI: Auction house Sotheby’s announced on Tuesday that it is auctioning two sculptures by Egyptian pioneer Mahmoud Mokhtar this month.

The artworks have never been auctioned. 

They were bought directly from the artist, who died in 1934 the age of 43, by illustrious collector Hafez Afifi Pasha – an influential politician and the first Egyptian delegate to the United Nations – and have remained in the same family for decades, unseen by the public until now.

Mahmoud Mokhtar, “Ibn El-Balad,” 1910, bronze. (Supplied)

Embedded in Egypt’s cultural sphere, Afifi was one of Mokhtar’s great patrons – funding him for his most famous sculpture “Egypt Awakened,” also known as “Nahdat Misr,” a triumphant representation of Egypt’s past and present, as well as founding the Friends of Mahmoud Mokhtar Foundation after the artist’s death.

The first sculpture, titled “Ibn El-Balad” (estimated at around $107,000- 131,000) was Mokhtar’s university graduation project. 

Mahmoud Mokhtar, “Arous El-Nil,” 1929, bronze. (Supplied)

Dating to 1910, it was among the first sculptures he created, and marks the pivotal moment that he evolved into the artist he is renowned as today. 

The second, “Arous El-Nil,” from 1929 is a Pharaonic head of a woman, a marriage between Ancient Egyptian aesthetics and Art Deco (estimated at around $143,000-214,000). It is the bust of a full-length sculpture in the collection of Paris’ Musée du Jeu de Paume. 

The bidding will be online and will go live from March 23-30.


Luxury e-tailer Farfetch launches Ramadan capsule collections

Oscar de la Renta for the Farfetch Ramadan collection. Supplied
Oscar de la Renta for the Farfetch Ramadan collection. Supplied
Updated 42 min 9 sec ago

Luxury e-tailer Farfetch launches Ramadan capsule collections

Oscar de la Renta for the Farfetch Ramadan collection. Supplied

DUBAI: In anticipation of Ramadan, luxury e-commerce platform Farfetch has launched an exclusive edit featuring  30 regional and international designers and brands.

The modest edit includes designs from homegrown talents like Shatha Essa, Sem Sem, Bambah and Sandra Mansour, in addition to renowned global brands such as Marchesa, Oscar de la Renta, Off-White and Tory Burch, among others.

The pieces, which include fluid kaftans, flowy jumpsuits, printed long-sleeved maxi dresses and embellished heels, are all exclusive to Farfetch.

Speaking of the launch, Edward Sabbagh, managing director of Farfetch Middle East, said in a statement: “For the coming Ramadan season we wanted to ensure we could deliver a take on modesty with an Only on Farfetch angle by working with a variety of global and local brands across core categories that we know to be in demand during the period.”

The Ramadan campaign will run across Farfetch’s platforms globally, with items available for purchase around the world.


Shoe maven Amina Muaddi teams up with Net-a-Porter for good cause

Amina Muaddi created a charitable t-shirt for Net-a-Porter. Instagram
Amina Muaddi created a charitable t-shirt for Net-a-Porter. Instagram
Updated 09 March 2021

Shoe maven Amina Muaddi teams up with Net-a-Porter for good cause

Amina Muaddi created a charitable t-shirt for Net-a-Porter. Instagram

DUBAI: March 8 marked annual International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates and champions the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world and also highlights what still needs to be done in the ongoing fight for women’s rights and equality.

To celebrate the occasion, many brands, designers and retailers introduced Women’s Day-themed collections and cause-driven products that see all profits go towards charities and organizations that advocate for women and girls, including Net-a-Porter.

The luxury e-tailer, which launched a localized platform in the Middle East this week, teamed up with 12 female designers who have created exclusive pieces.

Among the designers who have participated in the initiative is Jordanian-Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi, who has created a white, long-sleeve shirt that bears the words “I got you” in pink and of which 100% of the proceeds will be donated to charity Women for Women International.

“Happy International Women’s Day Sisters!” she wrote on Instagram.

“I made this long sleeve tee to support @netaporter’s charitable partnership with @womenforwomen. 100% of profits will be donated to Women for Women International,” she said, adding that in 2020 Net-a-Porter “raised over $230,000 for women survivors of war, and in total over the last three years, raised enough to fund over 850 women through the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program.”

Other designers that took part in the initiative include French-Algerian homeware designer Anissa Kermiche, who created a set of mini jugs inspired by her bestselling Jugs Jug, reimagined as a pair to promote female solidarity.

Designers Stella McCartney, Emilia Wickstead, Westman Atelier, Tove, Anya Hindmarch, Jennifer Fisher, Simone Rocha and Ninety Percent, Roxanne Assoulin and Alighieri also took part in the initiative.


George Clooney jokes ‘ER’ role is causing trouble with Amal at home

George Clooney jokes ‘ER’ role is causing trouble with Amal at home
Updated 09 March 2021

George Clooney jokes ‘ER’ role is causing trouble with Amal at home

George Clooney jokes ‘ER’ role is causing trouble with Amal at home

DUBAI: Hollywood actor George Clooney joked this week that his hit TV series “ER” is causing him problems with his wife, British-Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. 

The Oscar-winning actor said in an interview with podcast SmartLess on Monday that his wife is currently watching the 1994 medical drama. 

“It’s getting me in a lot of trouble because I’d forgotten all of the terrible things (his character Doug Ross) was doing picking up on women,” said the “The Midnight Sky” actor.

Clooney played the role of a pediatrician who was dedicated to his profession, but also was a ladies’ man. He later married a nurse, Carol Hathaway, played by US actress Julianna Margulies.

Amal and George first met in 2013. They married in a lavish ceremony in Venice in 2014, and had twins, a boy, Alexander, and a girl, Ella, in 2017.

The “Ocean’s Eleven” actor also spoke about meeting his wife on the podcast. “She took my breath away. She was brilliant, funny and beautiful and kind. I was sort of swept off my feet,” he told the hosts.

“She was brilliant and funny and beautiful and kind,” he added. “I was sort of swept off my feet. We got engaged after a few months and got married within the first year that we met. It surprised me more than probably anybody else in the world — and everybody else was pretty surprised.”


‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut

‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut
Updated 09 March 2021

‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut

‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut

CHENNAI: A compelling work about love, life and loss packaged neatly and executed with brilliance, “Memory Box” competed for the Golden Bear at the recent Berlin International Film Festival. Part of the reason why the movie is so touching is its story and script, which drew inspiration from Lebanese co-director Joana Hadjithomas’ letters and diaries penned during her teens. Made with Khalil Joreige – the duo is known for their range of documentaries, features and performance art – “Memory Box” covers three generations of women from 1980s war-ravaged Beirut to icy Montreal. The writing — by the directors — is tight and leaves no room for confusion in this back-and-forth narrative.

The first film from by the award-winning directors in nine years, it has a picturesque start. It is Christmas Eve in Montreal, but one woman carries in her heart the ravages of the war, the loss of her love and the distress of seeing a sibling and parent die.

Hundreds of grainy old photos, notebooks, newspaper articles and cassettes arrive in a huge box without warning during a snowstorm at the Montreal home of Maia (Rim Turki) and her teenage daughter, Alex (Paloma Vauthier). The parcel is from Paris, and it contains just about everything Maia sent to her best friend, Liza after she left Beirut in 1983. Maia had put down every thought, every feeling, every sorrow in letters, notepads and cassettes and mailed them to Liza. Now that she is dead, the boxful of memories has been returned to the sender.

Alex is infinitely curious to see what the parcel contains, but her grandmother, or Teta (Clemence Sabbagh), discourages her, telling the young girl to hide it and wait for the holidays to be over before informing Maia. But in the middle of the night, Alex sneaks into the basement and discovers the ecstasy and agony of her mother’s youth, her love, her stolen kisses inside a car with bullets flying all around or sometimes in the darkened auditorium of a cinema.

Alex finds out that her mother, Young Maia (passionately played by Manal Issa) was strong-willed and lived with her parents, who struggled to accept the death of their son in the war. The father was a principal who refused to leave his school, and the mother a nervous wreck living each minute in fear. But carefree Maia roamed the streets with her girlfriends, until she meets the handsome Raja (Hassan Akil). And then there was no stopping them — in a visually engaging sequence we watch the two zip along on a motorbike with the city in flames. This is one of the impressive visual effects by Laurent Brett. Josee Deshaies’ cinematography offers some arresting moments. The contrast between a city living under falling bombs and the tranquility of the Canadian metropolis, where snow-white clouds hang tantalizingly low, is striking, to say the least. And the last shot of the sun rising over post-war Beirut infuses certain warmth.

It is a heady cocktail of a mother-daughter struggle and a story on the overwhelming power of memories. But the end is a tad too tame, even slightly contrived, which rather lets a wonderful film down.