When we click on our playlist and compare Egyptian singer/songwriter Malak El Husseiny’s debut EP Alters (2014) with her new music, we can’t help but notice a growth in the music production. There are powerful vocals that are still angelic, and an overall maturity that is evident in the subject of songs and the lyrics.
We were met with a psychedelic fantasy as soon as we hit play on the new music video for Malak’s (who goes by her first name) single ‘Can’t Catch an Emotion’. We had seen Malak on the cover artwork holding a fishbowl before the release, and we wondered further about the meaning behind the symbolism after watching the video.
(Image credit: Henar Sherif and Adel Essam)
“The fish represents all different types of love,” shares Malak in an exclusive virtual interview with Cairo 360. “This song started out being very disconnected from myself, and then finding the fish, and following it down in the ocean,” She explains that her encounters with the fish represent how she faces her emotions eventually.
Malak had just turned 20 when she released Alters, and it was her first time writing, composing, recording, and publishing her own original music. “It was definitely an experimental phase. I wasn’t going into it being like ‘This is what I’m going to sound like for the rest of my life’, so I grew up, I listened to more music, and I developed my own sound. I definitely didn’t want to be put in a box,” she told us, and Malak surely stepped into foreign territory with the music video as she explores her emotions in the desert, on the beach, and, lastly, in the comfort of her bed.
One thing we have in common with Malak is our language. We’re both pretty outspoken English writers! “When I write, I’m only practising my art, so I express myself in English. The Arabic language is very hard to work with for me personally, and I like writing,” Malak explains. “The part that I get excited about is writing and making up a song, and then recording it. Then, the part where I put it out to the world is just like a by-product.”
Malak still releases Arabic music, and she’s not averse to recording music in her mother tongue. What she’s not interested in singing lyrics that she does not believe in, and we appreciate how she prioritises self-expression above all else. Her rendition of Ya Habibi Taala by Asmahan got stuck in our head for days, so tread carefully – especially if you’re a fan of the golden era.
The singer embraces her stardom by often coming out of the studio and stepping on stage, as she has performed across the country at all the venues you can think of, and even made an appearance at Egyptian designer Temraza’s fashion show in Beirut, Lebanon. She has opened for world-class acts such as the likes of Oscar and the Wolf, and Balthazar at Cairo Jazz Club, and she describes them as a “dream come true.”
“I had seen [Oscar and the Wolf] live just a year before at a music festival, and I was [in the] first row, and I was like ‘Oh my God, I want to play with them one day’ or ‘I want to be like that’, and every time I go to a concert, I feel that in my whole body. I want to be on stage!” she excitedly shares.
Rehearsing and preparing does not eliminate the nerves, as Malak describes that she felt nervous opening up for the international performers. Still, knowing that these were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, she let loose and had fun with it.
Watch our exclusive interview with Malak below:
Malak describes herself as a dreamer because she has so many interests ranging from painting, photography, and travelling, to writing, and music. To not forget about her goals, she made a list that included releasing an album, holding a solo art exhibition, travelling to India, and winning a Grammy. Talk about ambitions!
“Even the farfetched things, I wrote them down. If it can happen to someone else, it can happen to me! So I made it a point in my life that I do at least two or three a year!” During the tough times we face today across the world, she remains a solid reminder that dreams can become reality if we believe. “Everyone needs music to pull them through everything that’s going on,” and Malak has come to the rescue.
You can stream Can’t Catch an Emotion on Spotify here.