In Elyanna’s hit single “Ghareeb Alay,” there’s only one English lyric: “I am a superstar.”
“It rhymes,” Elyanna laughed, reflecting on the lyrical decision. “I felt like doing what I’m doing, I did it at such a young age that a lot of people changed with me … With this lyric, I’m saying, ‘You changed when they told you I am a superstar.’ ”
At just 21 years old, Elyanna made history at the 2023 Coachella Music and Arts Festival this year as the first artist to perform primarily in Arabic. Following her Weekend Two set, the Palestinian-Chilean artist sat down with The Daily Californian to discuss her artistry and blossoming career.
“My whole life, I’ve been dreaming to get a moment like this, and it happened. And I think there’s so much more to come,” Elyanna said. “Singing my own language, my own songs, doing my thing. I dance the way I dance, I do what I do.”
Dressed in a custom set by Egyptian designer Rafik Zaki, Elyanna did, in fact, look like a superstar. Though she appeared younger up close, she spoke with the confidence and focus of someone who’s been in the industry for years. For Elyanna, all she does is a work of art, and all her art is an extension of self.
“All I care about is art. I don’t think about anything else,” Elyanna said. “I make music because I love making music, and I think that definitely transfers when you hear my music.”
Blending Middle Eastern and Latin American sounds with upbeat pop, Elyanna nods to her roots while painting a distinct image of herself as an artist. “Ghareeb Alay” and “Ala Bali” entice with bouncy rhythms and a warm vibrato. In “Al Kawn Janni Maak,” Elyanna renders “La Vie En Rose” in Arabic with powerful, angelic vocals.
During her Coachella set, Elyanna incorporated belly dancing, Tableh and Derbakkeh drums and “a lot of guitar and rock sounds.” She even performed an Arabic mashup of “Earned It” and “Call Out My Name” by The Weeknd — whom she considers to be one of her biggest inspirations.
“I feel like I was creating art,” Elyanna said. “I want people to enjoy it, whether it’s in English, whether it’s in Spanish or Arabic, or any other language. I think that was the whole goal of this performance: I wanted them to feel me.”
When she was 15, Elyanna moved from Nazareth to San Diego, and she has since been signed to the newly formed Universal Arabic Music. Though she has a strong music team behind her, some of her closest collaborators include her mom and brother, and the latter even joined her on stage.
“My brother’s a pianist. He would always put on some chords, and I’d sit next to him and we would create melodies together,” Elyanna said. “Me and my brother and my mom, we would sit and write.”
When Elyanna makes music, she considers every element — from the accompanying visuals to how her sound will translate to the stage. She is very particular when it comes to artistry, yet she entrusted some of her creative vision to Lana Del Rey and her sister, Chuck Grant, for the “Al Kawn Janni Mawk” music video.
“A big thank you for Chuck, because she’s such a visionary and she saw my vision. She wanted to be part of something in Arabic, which is very unique. Not everybody gets that,” Elyanna said. “Lana is someone I look up to so much, and the fact that she was with me in the whole music set for hours and hours and she picked my dresses and gifted me my dresses, it means the world.”
Elyanna and her siblings are longtime Del Rey fans: They listened to her music in the car so frequently that their mom eventually threw the CD out the window. If Elyanna had to pick two albums, Ultraviolence and Born to Die would be her favorites. But as a whole, she finds herself inspired by Del Rey’s propensity for world-building and risk-taking.
In much the same way, Elyanna approaches each project with a unique vision in mind. When she writes a song, she doesn’t treat it as just a single: She views it as part of a larger project. For her next album, she’s trying out new sounds and saying things she never would in real life. She’s exceeding her own expectations and not settling for anything less.
“I would say this album I’m creating right now, it’s not out yet, but it’s one of the best pieces of art I’ve ever worked on in my life,” she said, before adding, “So far. There’s definitely going to be more.”
Elyanna’s star is on the rise, and Coachella is only part of her ascent. Even as she looks to the future, she expresses gratitude for those who have been with her along the way. “I have a team and a lot of fans that support me,” she smiled. “And they make me feel like a superstar.”