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‘I want to run so people can walk’: Elyanna on making music, sharing culture

The Herald sat down with the Spring Weekend 2024 artist to talk about her performance and relationship with music.

<p>Elyanna, A Palestinian-Chilean artist whose songs are predominantly in Arabic, is the second artist to perform in a language other than English in Spring Weekend history.</p>

Elyanna, A Palestinian-Chilean artist whose songs are predominantly in Arabic, is the second artist to perform in a language other than English in Spring Weekend history.

Shrouded in fog and billowing white fabric, Elyanna took the stage for Spring Weekend 2024 and mesmerized audience members with her captivating voice and alluring movement. Her eyes cut straight through the Main Green; her stage presence was all-encompassing and infectious. She sang mostly in Arabic, conveying a passion beyond language barriers through her performance.

As the second artist to perform in a language other than English in Spring Weekend history, Elian Marjieh — known professionally as Elyanna — is a Palestinian-Chilean singer-songwriter making a global name for herself at only 22. Following requests sent to interview each Spring Weekend artist, Elyanna and her team did not hesitate to share some of her experiences.

The Herald sat down with Elyanna after her Spring Weekend set to discuss her creative inspirations and her background as an artist. She entered the Blue Room still wearing her stage outfit, but is young enough to have been typing away at a paper in her sweatpants like any Brown student.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Herald: How did the performance go? What did you think of Brown students as an audience?

Elyanna: As my first university gig, I was really surprised at how many people came and watched. I’m just so happy to be here, and I really loved it. It’s such an honor being here at Brown University. I think the crowd was amazing and I had the best time with them. They were really vibing even though they didn’t understand everything I was saying. They were jamming and having a good time, which made me have a very good time. 

I love how everyone was wearing their keffiyeh as well and their belly dance scarves. I saw lots of different cultures there, and that made me happy because they’re here to support and see a different kind of art, which I love. As you know, I’m also 22, so I can relate to how they act or feel, and that excites me a lot.

What’s it like to be so young and in the music industry?

It’s always been a dream for me to do this — to be a performer and an artist. I am a new artist, and I’m aware of that, but it feels like I’ve been doing it for so long. It’s not an easy thing to do, but at the end of the day, if you’re passionate and if you do it for the love of it, you’ll get what you want.

How did you first get into music?

I started singing when I was seven years old, and my brother was the one that discovered my talent. I always wanted to be a singer, and I still don’t know why … I just loved it. I’d perform around in my hometown Nazareth, in school, any opportunity I could get. When I moved to San Diego at 15 years old, I was discovered by a producer named Nasri. I got into the studio for the first time when I was 15 and I think that’s when I started doing music professionally. 

How does your relationship with your family impact your music?

It’s funny because I feel like some things are just meant to be. Being a singer and having my family around me, I think each person has a role in my life and a role in anything we do.  

We’ve been doing this since we were super young. My brother has been my creative director since we were seven and nine. My sister has been styling me since we were that young. My mom has been writing since then as well. We’re just now on a bigger platform — nothing has changed. We’re just growing and we’re just learning. 


I’m also grateful for the people I work with on my team. I care so much about the people around me and I care about energy a lot. I know they want me to be happy as well. That energy is what you need. 

You recently released your first album, “Woledto” — how does that feel?

I’m excited and happy — I mean, this is my first album ever. So it was very special for me to create. It was a lot of work and detail and up-and-down emotions. We took our time when it came to creating this album. I wanted it to feel timeless and different. I really wanted to create this whole new thing, a whole new genre, and it’s a vision that me and my brother had for a long time. I feel like creating it was such a process, but I learned so much from it. 

When you talk about your own genre, what are you going for?

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To be honest, there’s no name for my genre yet. It’s really a mix of my background and things that I was just inspired by growing up. I’m also part Chilean, so I’m very inspired by my Chilean side as well. I’m very inspired by my Palestinian side and by the world in general. For now, we can call it the “Elyanna” genre. I’m excited to keep creating and trying things, even when I do my English records or hopefully one day my Spanish records. I want to always make sure my music has this identity. 

You were the first person at Coachella to sing a full set in Arabic, and I’m sure you did so at other places as well. What is it like to be the person breaking down some of these language barriers? 

Sometimes it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than being an artist. It’s more like a message that tells me to do this. When I started doing music, I personally did not want to sing in Arabic. I just found myself connecting to my roots more than ever when I came (to San Diego) and was far away from home. I wanted to remember my inspirations like Palestinian weddings and my grandpa and a lot of different things that inspired me growing up. I know my taste in music now and what I like. It’s because of what I grew up listening to and what I grew up around.

I’m honored to be the first and I want to make sure that I’m not the last. I want to run so people can walk. 

After just finishing your first tour, do you have any favorite moments that stick out to you?

After every show, I would go outside and my fans would be waiting for me, and it was freezing. Sometimes I would not have the best show. When I would have these days, to make myself feel better, I would just go outside and say hi to them, and nothing felt bad anymore. I was just happy to see them. Connecting with my fans is very special to me. 

Do you have a preference between singing on stage or off?

I love being onstage. I really think of the live performance even before creating the song. I’m always grabbing inspirations and building on them until it’s showtime. 

What are you most excited about right now, music or non-music-related? 

I’m very happy that I dropped an album and that people are receiving it well. I’m also excited to perform my album at a lot of upcoming festivals like Governors Ball and Lollapalooza.

If it’s not music-related, I’m excited to find myself slowly and find the things that I love because I’m still discovering — just like everyone else our age. I’m learning something new every day.

Isabel Hahn

Isabel Hahn is an Arts & Culture section editor who concentrates in English and Behavioral Decision Sciences. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, reading, and journaling.

Rya Vallabhaneni

Rya is an arts & culture section editor from Albany, NY. She is a junior studying English and Literary Arts, and her favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.

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