Qatar has a new singing sensation whose melodious voice is keeping the cultural harmony of this Arab country alive and intact as people get fascinated by what unique she has to offer. Most importantly, she is the first female English artist to emerge from here.
Her songs are about delving into one’s inner self which is what we all seek to do to discover our true selves. No wonder her debut album “Paint” has enthused everybody wherever it has been released. She is none other than the gorgeous Dana Al-Fardan, who is a great mom too.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, she takes us through her amazing journey from a gemologist to a musician.
What prompted you to sing and make it a career for yourself?
I have been playing music and writing songs for as long as I can remember. I have never actually had any formal training, but music has always provided a platform for me to define myself. As a consequence, it always has and always will occupy a huge segment of my life. I never thought about taking it to the next level until one day, during my pregnancy, I woke up and felt compelled to compile all the material I have written and continue writing new material to put together into an album. I felt it was what I needed to do to feel complete. It was always a part of what I needed to accomplish, and I could no longer ignore it.
What type of music do you love listening to? Who have been your all time favorite musicians whom you look up to?
A whole range of music, but what really drives me is alternative rock. I’m constantly putting together alternative rock playlists to fuel my workouts. They consist of Radiohead (I love “Karma Police”), Smashing Pumpkins, Aerosmith (The song “Blind Man” also appears to be a favorite of my daughter!). Having said that, I’m also deeply inspired by Sia, specifically her album “Day Too Soon” plus Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album “Stadium Arcadium,” as each song features an extremely powerful relationship between the lyrics and the music. I love their writing style. Recently, I’ve been listening to “Imagine Dragons” a lot. As far as debut albums go, they really got it right.
What inspired your debut album “Paint”? And what’s the theme at the core of it?
Paint is about introspection. It’s about looking inside yourself and uncovering the different layers of paint that make up the whole. It’s about personal growth. It seeks to resolve the conflict between self-preservation and self-awareness. We often avoid the various truths, or realities that make up the finished product — that is the individual. Once we have a better conception of who we are, the next hurdle is to project and express that. My writing is essentially inspired by engaging an indispensable dialogue about who I am and what I want; resolving to take control of my life and actively directing my path to where I want it to head.
How much are your songs influenced by the Middle Eastern music?
I grew up listening to a whole variety of music. I used to and still listen to Fairuz a lot. Some of her songs (Ya Ana Y Ana) are on my daughter’s bed time play list. Her music has a melancholy and compelling sense of urgency. I feel like her music features the kind of sound that transcends cultural classification. It’s purely universal. I’m greatly inspired by that. Music is a language that does not discriminate and brings a whole range of people together under a common roof. I’m influenced by whatever music moves me.
How does it feel to be seen as the first female English artist coming from Qatar?
It’s an honor. The greatest feeling is when people tell me that they’re enjoying my music.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
There is not one source of inspiration, as music for me is essentially about my interaction with the world. It could come from unexpected places like from a random song, an occurrence, or a movie or somebody said something, etc. The most constant source though has been my daughter. I’m currently writing a bunch of lullabies for her.
What has the response to your album been like so far?
I’ve been incredibly pleased with the response. Especially knowing how nervous I was about initially sending my work to my manager when I put together the material for the album. It is the most honest body of work I’ve ever produced and I’m incredibly touched at how people have responded to it. People have been moved by it and it feels so wonderfully surreal.
Besides loving music, you have a great deal of passion for jewelry too. Are you still into it, or given up on it completely?
Like every woman, I love jewelry! I went to London to pursue my post graduate studies in gemology so that I could join the family business. My sister is the designer and the jeweler in the family though. My calling is music, and always will be. However, given that it’s a family business, it will always be a part of me.
What was the atmosphere like at home while you were growing up? Was it music-friendly?
My mother used to take us to musical shows all the time during our visits to London when I was little. I have been to see Grease, Starlight Express, Miss Saigon, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Saturday Night Fever, and many others. My sisters and I tried to recreate the musicals at home all the time. We used to break into song and dance anywhere and everywhere.
What was the first reaction of your parents when they came to know that you wanted to become a singer? And how do they feel about it now?
I was always writing and playing music, but the idea of actually singing kind of came out of nowhere. So naturally, they were taken aback but they had faith in my decision, particularly my mother. She has been a real pillar of strength throughout this beautiful journey.
How vibrant is the musical scene in Qatar today and what are the challenges ahead?
There is a lot of potential and fair amount of support. I am very excited at the possibilities that lie ahead.
Are you working on a second album, or anything exciting at present? What are your future goals now?
Yes I am, and I’ve just finished writing it! I am really excited about getting back into the recording studio again. I plan to do that sometime toward the end of this year. I wouldn’t be releasing the album before another year and a half though. Till then, I plan on promoting this one, and contributing to a growing music scene in Doha. There are a couple of exciting projects I am working on to make that happen which I will hopefully unveil in the course of 2014!