Malak el-Husseiny, the Egyptian making it big singing in English
Up-and-comer Malak el-Husseiny, 21, is one of the few female Arab singers in the region who sings in English
Up-and-comer Malak el-Husseiny, 21, is one of the few female Arab singers in the region who sings in English. The Egyptian is best known for her sultry sound, which has been influenced by 1950s and 1960s pop culture, from fashion to music. Since signing to Subspace, an independent Egyptian record label, Husseiny has created a name for herself.
Q. Tell us about yourself, your background, and how you got into music.
A. I studied at the American University in Cairo (AUC), and graduated last June. I’ve always enjoyed music growing up, and my parents were always very musically cultured, so I was very influenced by them. I got into music at a very early age, and I used to love singing at school, university and local talent shows, events and competitions, as well as at home.
Q. How would you describe your sound?
A. I’m still trying to find my unique sound. I used to sing acoustic covers and wrote songs on my guitar, but now my original music is fully produced, and this supports my voice more than singing with just a guitar.
My EP “Alters” sounds very cinematic, with strong drum sounds and mellow melodies, but I don’t intend to stick with this sound throughout my musical career. I’m still experimenting and enjoying wherever my musical inspiration takes me. This is evident in my single “Wild Summer Hearts.”
Q. Which artist would you say resembles you the most?
A. I’ve gotten Lana Del Rey more times than anyone else, but I don’t think I sound like her at all. Our voices are completely different. It could be because of the 1960s-inspired persona and my slight avante-guard music production, but that’s just a matter of similar taste.
Q. What is Subspace, and how has it assisted your career?
A. Subspace is an Egyptian record label formed by Aly Samaha. It’s the reason I started writing original songs, and the reason for all my success so far. Subspace first contacted me when I was 18, after participating in the Sing Egyptian Women competition in Cairo. It was starting up, and saw something in me that I was still doubtful of. We signed a contract and began by artist development.
I had to grow up very fast and ask myself questions that most people my age would ask after they’ve finished college, but here I was deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started making demo songs with Subspace producer and music director Teknyk, which was frustrating and difficult for someone who didn’t know their musical identity and or what to write about.
After that, we started working on my sound and finding out what compliments me and what we should ditch. I then started coming up with a concept for my EP, and Subspace really helped me dig deep to express my vulnerability through my music.
I started writing and working with producers on the music, and soon enough - after many ups and downs of working as an English-singing musician in Egypt - we began recording.
Subpace released my EP at Virgin Megastore and on the internet (Itunes, Amazon, Spotify etc), and after that we started doing promotional live performances for the EP. Since then I’ve released a single under the label, and continue to work with it on many other projects.
Q. Where have you performed?
A. I’ve performed at TedXGUC, the AUC, Bikya Bookstore, the Cairo Opera House, the D-Caf Festival, Abdin Palace, O-Bar, Sing Egyptian Women, the Model U.N. closing ceremony, and many more.
Q. What has been your biggest break so far in your music career?
A. So far it’s been the hard work paying off slowly and steadily. The big break is yet to come.
Q. I read that your favorite track on your EP is “Doors of Perception.” Why is that?
A. “Doors Of Perception” means a lot to me. I was going through a tough time when I wrote that, and I had an epiphany about life and regained my inspiration. However, my favorite song would be “All We’ve Got” because we had so much fun working on it.
Q. Being an English-singing musician in an Arab country, do you find it hard to be accepted or to move forward in your career?
A. It’s definitely a setback on many levels, but I really found my niche market, and the amount of people who like to listen keep growing each day. So far I’ve been moving forward at a good pace, but I’m currently working on some Arabic songs as well to mix it up. I’m not limiting myself to only English.
Q. What are some of the obstacles you have faced as a musician?
A. Being able to self-assess and express when sometimes I don’t want to is my biggest obstacle, being a very private person. However, to keep doing this craft, I have to always be open and vulnerable so I can reach my audience at a personal level and always be honest in my art.
Q. What accomplishments do you hope to achieve with your music?
A. I hope to become an influential, inspirational figure because there are so many people who give a bad name to the industry. I want to be one of the people who do good with their success and change people’s lives.
Q. What are your set future plans?
A. Nothing set, but a few projects that are still in the brainstorming phase. I intend to grow as a musician and explore different grounds with these projects.
Q. On which social media platforms can people hear your music?
A. Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Reverb Nation and MySpace.