CANNES: Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna gave a heartfelt performance at MENA Night on Sunday evening at the conclusion of the SRMG Beach Experience at Cannes Lions.
The artist took the stage earlier that day to speak on the Arab region’s growing international presence and her personal journey with music.
“I love when creatives and people that love art meet up, because, out of that, I feel like we get so much bigger and we work together and we support each other, and that’s the whole purpose of what we’re doing in the Arab world. We’re pushing to make sure that we get to the top,” Elyanna told Arab News.
The star recently made history as the first artist to perform in Arabic at Coachella, the famed music festival held annually in California.
Most famous for her songs “Ghareeb Alay,” “Ala Bali” and “Ana Lahale,” the Los Angeles-based musician has been normalizing Arabic lyrics in Western regions throughout her career, taking inspiration from all sorts of artists, including Westerners like Lana Del Ray and Beyonce, as well as Middle Eastern legends like Fayrouz.
She told Arab News: “I’m happy to be recognized. I’ve been doing this since I was 15, singing in Arabic, pushing for the culture, and now that I’m 21 I feel like what made me start doing music is finally getting recognized.
“I’m so honored that I don’t even have to sing in any other language or do something that doesn’t fit me or my personality as an artist. All I had to do was just be myself … Having the band on the tabla and oud, it’s different, because it’s something they (audiences) haven’t seen before. I wanted to make sure we set the bar high.”
Music by Arabs and other artists from the Middle East and North Africa will finally have proper backing and tracking with the launch of Billboard Arabia, which will gauge ongoing trends, success rates, and consumption. Elyanna grew up with Billboard magazine, widely known for its Billboard Hot 100 chart, and sees this as a major step forward for the industry.
“The fact that we’re growing in this way and supporting the artists we have gives us a new path to walk through. I’m so proud and honored to be a part of it as well,” she said.
The artist opened up about her own struggles tapping into the LA music scene, singing in Arabic, and representing the diaspora. She chooses to respond to hate with positivity.
“If you’re passionate about anything — acting, singing, being a doctor, it doesn’t matter — a lot of people are going to be against it or not care, but I feel like that should be something they use as motivation to achieve what they want to achieve,” she said.
Navigating the global frontier, though, is not the only hurdle ahead of the MENA region’s music scene. As artificial intelligence and machine learning tools make their way into every field, the overarching discussion at Cannes Lions was the evolution of these technologies and their role in innovating the present.
Elyanna, however, believes there is no replacement for the human element of creativity.
“I don’t think anything can beat what humans create, because what’s unique about being a human is that you have emotions and a heart and a brain, and can never beat that. Emotions come from us and it comes from artists … (AI is) technology, it’s always going to grow. It’s always going to keep going. We always have to find our way and do our thing,” she said.