Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Hana Malhas to bring her minimalist sounds to new Dubai concert series

The Jordanian singer-songwriter talks to us about her debut album Nasi, which blends acoustic and electronic

Jordanian singer Hana Malhas. Courtesy Apple
Jordanian singer Hana Malhas. Courtesy Apple

Some of the most exciting names in the regional indie-music scene can be heard live on Friday at the Apple store in The Dubai Mall. With the launch of the live music series, Balcony Music Sessions, a diverse set of bands – including Emirati soul singer Hamdan Al Abri, Lebanon’s Mashrou’ Leila, Saudi Arabian RnB singer Hamza Hawsawi and Syrian folk singer Ghaliaaa – will take to the stage ­overlooking the Burj Khalifa to perform an unplugged set of original material.

Also on the bill is Jordanian singer Hana Malhas. She has recently stepped up as a talented singer-songwriter, courtesy of her arresting debut album Nasi. Ahead of her debut UAE performance, she takes us through her dynamic songwriting process.

Low key electronic music is a dominant flavour of pop music these days and ‘Nasi’ rides that wave. Why do you favour that stripped down approach when it comes to your songs and production?

I do love that sound. I am very influenced by what I was hearing around me when I was thinking about the kind of sound I wanted to produce. I typically write on instruments that I can play, which is the piano and guitar. One thing that drew me towards electronic music is that you can come up with ideas that you can’t on the acoustic guitar. And vice versa, too. It definitely expanded my palette and I found that this minimal sound and style arrives when the folk and electronic music worlds meet.

While it is a solo album, would you say the starker sounds of ‘Nasi’ are also as much a collaboration with producer Khaled Nimry?

Very much so. But not in terms of lyrics, but more the music and direction. He very effectively nudged me and pushed me outside of my ­comfort zone. I’m used to ­having more of an acoustic sound and he really expanded that and challenged me to think more creatively when it comes to writing new songs and arrangements. The album, if you noticed, has acoustic and electronic ­elements, yet he was very very good at making sure that I maintained my sound throughout. He didn’t want to put something out there that wasn’t Hana Malhas’s tone of voice.

Your album is a bilingual affair. Do you access a different creative well when you are singing and writing lyrics in Arabic?

I have noticed that there is a different type of expression that comes out when I’m ­singing in Arabic that I couldn’t access when I sing in English, and I just loved that. The problem was that I didn’t have the ability to write faster in Arabic, since my writing structure is in English, so in Arabic it needs more work. For the song Alb Maskoon, for example, I did have a co-­writer with me. When it comes to songwriting, I find it difficult to express myself in Arabic at times, but I know the images I want to go for.

You are also responsible for the popular indie music concert series Bala Feesh in Ajman. Bands love playing there because you creatively keep them on their toes. Can you tell us more about it?

We’ve had over 40 artists come to our show from over around 10 countries I think. What I try to do is a bit of curation. So I try to put two bands together that are either interesting opposites or good matches together. Each one of them presents a set, and then encourage a collaboration ­between the bands themselves or between me and the bands. It’s really sort of free-form. We have a video crew that tapes these shows and then we put them online, song by song.

Do you plan to bring the concept to more regions?

It’s funny you should ask. Because that’s what my team has been suggesting for next year. They said, we should do a Bala Feesh Dubai, a Bala Feesh Cairo and a Bala Feesh Beirut. It’s something we’re very ­interested in.

Balcony Music Sessions is on from 2pm

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Updated: December 12, 2018 02:56 PM

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