Rising sirens, Malak El Husseiny, Hana Ghoniem, and Doa El Sebai have proven that neither cultural constraints nor a slowing economy, not even a pandemic, can stop them from shining bright, and unleashing their talent for all to appreciate. enGima’s Amir Kamel caught up with these young female singers to learn about each of their musical journeys, their ambitions, and the challenges they have overcome.
Malak El HusseinyWith her mellow vocals, heart-wrenching words and eclectic style, Malak El Husseiny’s growing presence in the music industry in the past few years did not go unnoticed. With a fervent passion for music since she was a child, El Husseiny participated in various music competitions in school and later at the American University in Cairo, where she majored in mass communications with a minor in fine arts and music performance.
“Music is my whole life. It’s a daily companion of mine. As a child, growing up in a musical family, I still remember the thrill I had listening to records that my dad collected. I really can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” says El Husseiny, who also writes her own songs.
A major milestone for El Husseiny came when she was chosen among the three finalists in the ‘Sing Egyptian Women’ competition in 2014. She caught the attention of the Egyptian record label Subspace, who officially signed with her and released her first EP Alters in 2014. El Husseiny later left the label to join the TV show, X-Factor, where she got great exposure and amassed a lot of fans from all over the Middle East.
Providing a peek at the making of her latest single, Can’t Catch an Emotion, and why it means so much to her, El Husseiny recalls, “A while before writing this song, I was going through a really tough time. I was feeling depressed; I wasn’t eating and it was difficult to get out of bed. I knew that the only way to get out of this situation and connect back to myself was to start writing about how I was feeling.” While she always loved literature and poetry, El Husseiny says that writing songs didn’t come naturally to her at first. “It took a lot of practice to be able to put my thoughts and feelings into words. When I joined a music label, they made me write a song every day for three months to practice. It gave me resilience, experience, and training,” she explains.
Looking ahead, El Husseiny is excited about her upcoming full-length album which she expects to be released towards the beginning of autumn. “It is basically about the thoughts you have right before you sleep and after you wake up. Each song is centered around the raw thoughts that come to mind, whether they are spiritual, melancholic or romantic.”
Hana GhoneimFrom spectacular musical theater performances and breathtaking A-list commercials, to stunning music collaborations and captivating television shows, Hana Ghoneim’s journey has been the furthest thing from boring. Her dedication, persistence, and successes are a beacon of inspiration to many young artists and dreamers.
While studying for her bachelor’s degree at the American University in Cairo in psychology with a minor in music performance, Ghoneim harnessed her musical talent through extensive classes and performances, while being mentored by renowned opera singer Dr. Neveen Allouba. Her passion for acting, singing and dancing thrived, and she joined Fabrica theater where she performed in many major productions. “I’m lucky to have had this exposure at an early stage in my career with the support of my parents, and now my husband. I feel blessed,” says Ghoneim.
Another opportunity came Ghoneim’s way, when she was asked by Binge Circle to host the online show, Overdosed. “Through Overdosed, I met so many incredible creative personalities, and with that experience, I added ‘talk show hosting’ to my skills,” she recounts. Overdosed garnered over 80 million views and has been picked up for a second season.
Various other noteworthy opportunities came Ghoneim’s way since then, one of which was the chance to participate in the soundtrack composed by Antongiulio Frulio for the docudrama Foustan Moulawan (The Coloured Dress), directed by Ehab Mostafa. “That was my first musical collaboration. The theme was women’s empowerment and it addressed problems women face in life,” she explains.
Another incredible opportunity for Ghoniem was when she got to do a collaboration with Sherif Mostafa from Cairokee on the song Zekrayat Hayati (Memories of My Life). “We decided to film it in Sinai and that was the fun part. This song talks about freedom; the freedom to be who you are and the freedom to love. I loved the lyrics so much and it meant a lot to me,” she recalls excitedly.
Shortly after, Ghoneim got to take part in a memorable Coca Cola commercial with celebrities Amir Eid, Abu and Mahmoud El Esseily. “I loved my part. I loved recording it and I loved the music and the video’s artistic direction. Its director, Tamer Mahdy, is one of the best personalities I have ever met. It was also a pleasure to work with Abu and Amir, whom I knew from before, and Esseily; I was very lucky to be among those great singers, especially since I’ve always loved their music!” she exclaims.
Ghoneim’s latest triumph is the epic collaboration with Disco Masr in Baad Ezn Nehayet el Alam (Excuse Me, End of the World), which was recorded, filmed and released during the pandemic. “I felt like it appealed to my personality. The song is very fresh and modern,” she says.
Ghoneim proved to be an incredible actress as well when she performed in the sitcom Wanesny (Keep Me Company), which was aired last Ramadan. “Ramy Rizkallah reached out to me and I went for an audition and got the role! It was an amazing and challenging experience, as it was my first real acting project,” she says, almost surprised at her own success.
With multiple talents, it’s hard to bet on what Ghoneim will do next. According to her, however, her main priority is, and always will be, the music. She concludes, “Music is about self-expression. It reflects our reality and our emotions; that’s my goal.”
Doaa El-SebaiiWhen you meet young singer Doaa El-Sebaii, you are immediately struck by the energy she radiates. Her excitement, and even surprise, at having made it in the music industry is obvious. “I never pictured myself as a singer until I was chosen to be a part of TV’s Star Academy program in 2014. At that moment, I realised that I couldn’t miss the chance of doing an amazing thing like this in my life!” she exclaims.
Undoubtedly a major turning point in her life, El Sebaii describes Star Academy as an “intense experience.” Having studied economic and political science at university, El Elsebaii realised that joining Star Academy meant chasing a new dream and embracing a complete career shift. “It completely paid off!” she exclaims excitedly, as she recounts all that she went through. “I felt weird at first because I had never applied to the show and never even had it on my mind,” adds El Sebaii, who had to leave her friends and family at home, and go live with strangers she didn’t know for four months.
El-Sebaii insists that the experience she gained from Star Academy was priceless. She learned a lot about herself, who she is and the how she thinks. “At Star Academy I learned to embrace my true self without any awkwardness. In fact, I sensed that people loved how spontaneous and real I was,” she explains.
The budding singer describes herself as a fast learner, very determined and passionate. She loved working in the friendly, chilled, yet professional working environment of Star Academy with people who shared the values she lives by. After Star Academy, “I took a break and decided to make something worth being heard. I also started working on myself, investing in who I really am as an artist and a musician,” she explains.
Soon enough, El-Sebaii got to work on Schizophrenia, her first original song. “I wanted it to have meaning and to be an expression of myself, as well as my feelings and thoughts. I’m very honoured, humbled and grateful for the help of Amir Taema, who was very supportive and exerted a lot of effort writing the lyrics which beautifully expressed how I felt!” she exclaims.
The rising singer also went on to perform at the live concert, Haflet Beirut, with Ziad Rahbane in Lebanon in 2019. El-Sebaii was the only Egyptian featured in the concert. “I was singing Fairuz’s song live in front of a large audience; it was such a great responsibility! It was hard to sing in the Lebanese accent, so I prepared very hard for this concert. Sherif El-Dabaa, my vocal coach, helped me a lot with this concert and all along my musical path,” she recounts.
Today, El-Sebaii has a YouTube channel with Basement Records, which was founded by Hassan Al-Shafei and Mohammed El Shaer. “I’ve known Mohammed El-Shaer for about five years now and he introduced me to Hassan Al-Shafei. El-Shaer called me one day and asked me if I was interested in working with them. The music production was by El-Shafei and the experience was amazing,” she recalls.
El-Sebaii’s latest endeavour was Yama, a song for women empowerment, which she did with Sary Hany and Zap Tharwat. It was part of a campaign to raise awareness on the importance of women and their role in the society. “I actually worked on the melody of the song by myself and they liked it and supported me. Overall, it was very chilled and relaxed and we had so much fun. I felt like a close friend of theirs and we’re still friends till now,” she concludes.