Dana Hourani’s debut album was long overdue.
Released in November, Ensaneine finds the successful Lebanese model and visual artist returning to her personal and creative roots.
Recorded over a two-year period in Lebanon, these moving songs about love, family and homecoming are co-written with Anthony Khoury of the popular Arab indie rock band Adonis.
The duo recently reunited for the album’s official launch event at The Fridge in Dubai, where Hourani performed selected tracks with a backing band including a string section.
“I know there will be people who will watch what I do and think, well, here is another model taking her chances in music,” Hourani said. The National.
“Although I understand this point of view, it is not true. What I do with music is not a brand extension, but a career transition.
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This pivot means going back over 20 years ago, when Hourani began to immerse himself in music.
Born in Sharjah, Hourani, 35, moved to Beirut at the age of 9 before returning to the United Arab Emirates in 2008.
“When I was in Lebanon, I found myself associating more with musicians and their circles. I just felt comfortable and inspired in these environments, ”she says.
“And in the family house there was also music. My uncle often visited us and showed me some chords on the piano.
While the dream of embarking on a musical career was still in his head after moving to Dubai, Hourani has had to put it aside for now to make room for more pressing concerns.
“I needed to look for a job and found it with a music distribution company,” she says. “It was mostly red tape and really focused on the boring side of the industry. I was doing this for about three years before things really started to change for me.
Hourani refers to the launch of Instagram in 2010, a platform on which she built a career as a visual artist and fashion influencer by documenting and predicting the latest clothing trends in the MENA region.
Dotted amid these posts, however, is proof that a burgeoning singer-songwriter is finding his feet.
“I would post songs and covers and I would get really motivated by the reaction and knowing that the songs connected with people,” she says. “It was really through Instagram that I connected with the people I worked with on this album.”
Songs of hope and doubt
This is also how she connected with Khoury, the singer and songwriter in chief of Adonis.
“He’s the only person in the project with whom I can say that I collaborated from A to Z,” Hourani says. “We were working on the lyrics, the melodies and the structure of the songs. He is a common thread throughout the album.
Khoury’s touch is found particularly in the production of the album, with its sparse and sometimes baroque orchestral instrumentation, also reminiscent of his work with Adonis.
While Khoury helped co-write the lyrics, the topic includes intimate snapshots and memories from Hourani’s life.
Track Enti Adda (You Are Worthy) finds it coming real with herself over a catchy percussion and swirling violin notes.
“It’s a lot of inner dialogue and it’s basically me talking to myself in front of the mirror,” she says. “Originally I wanted the song to be called You are not worthy to reflect the doubt I have always had. Whether it was my professional or personal life, I always felt the moment was way beyond me and I couldn’t face it now.
“It was during the writing process with Anthony that we realized the song would be better if we wrote it from a more empowering perspective.”
Other highlights such as the lush Zghiret Hal Bayt (This Little House), dedicated to his daughter Zoe, 5, and on the radio Erjaa Shoufak (To See You Again), all related to the key theme of the album.
“The title and subject of the album refer to a feeling of duality that many of us have and feel,” she says. “It’s about how you are perceived and how you present yourself in relation to what you really feel on the inside. “
Hourani says it’s a personal struggle sparked in part by her success in the fashion world.
“The fashion industry causes a certain level of anxiety,” she says. “But it’s something that I learned to overcome by approaching it very naturally and always trying to be 100% authentic.”
“It’s actually the music that caused me the most anxiety and maybe it’s because I’m more passionate about it and felt I had to give my best.”
Such an unqualified approach means that Hourani’s fashion career will take a back seat in the immediate future.
“I’m currently working on organizing a tour of the Middle East and I’m trying to get to places like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia,” she says.
“Music is the priority right now and everything else will have to adapt to that.”
Update: December 26, 2021, 4:32 a.m.