She may be the great granddaughter of Egyptian legend Umm Kulthum’s sister, but that’s got nothing to do with why 17-year-old Sanaa Nabil is making headlines. When she found her love for music at the age of nine, Nabil took a focused route to developing her ability; she began to train in earnest at age 12 under the tutelage of maestro Salim Sahhab at the Cairo Opera House. Once she was confident, she took a bow at the TV show ‘Arabs Got Talent’.
Nabil, who took home the Golden Falcon from the music competition, now studies at the High Arab Music Institute. And to showcase her prowess, she’s headed to the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Classics concerts, where she’ll perform on February 6. Ahead of her show she spoke to Gulf News tabloid! about the pressures of growing up with a musical background, fashion and how to keep your nerves steady on a show like ‘Arabs Got Talent’.
These are excerpts from the conversation.
What can the audience look forward to from your show at Abu Dhabi Classics?
I will be singing a collection of the most famous songs from the golden age of Arabic classical music, including some of the best-known songs from Umm Kulthum, Fayza Ahmad, Layla Murad, Asmahan, Sayed Mikawi and Huriya Hassan. As for the exact songs, I will leave that as a surprise for my audience. I hope to be able to meet their expectations, especially with regards to Umm Kulthum. This, especially, represents a great responsibility for me.
Did you feel any pressure going into the industry?
I entered the art world at a young age, and I had to overcome certain pressures, especially with regards to being under the media spotlight — they were always eager to highlight any performance that I put on. This is not a negative pressure, as this encouraged me to focus more on my career. However, as I started at an early stage, I had to balance academic, personal and professional life. Fortunately, I managed to do this, thanks to the support of my parents.
You like to sing songs with messages — which songs by other artists are capturing your attention currently and why?
I devote myself to classical Arabic song, as these songs all hold a great message. These songs are the heritage of our ancestors, and to me that is very important. While the message did not change, the interpretation of the audience changed greatly. For me, I still find great art and values in the classical Arabic music.
What is inspiring you these days?
The music of our past still brings me great inspiration, as you will see in the show when I perform classics from some of the best-loved singers in Arabic tradition. But also, I strive for continuous success, and that encourages me to put more efforts into my career.
How would you define your fashion sense?
I do not have preferences in colour or designers, but I tend to choose decent outfits that suit my art and the musical genres I present. To me the music is the important thing, how I perform it and how the audience reacts to the performance.
If you did not sing, what would you do?
I cannot imagine a world where I could not sing. But if I really did not sing, I suppose I would be a [psychiatrist], it is somehow relevant to music as it is healing the soul and mind.
Any advice for other young people going into competitions like Arabs Got Talent? Any tips on how to keep the nerves at bay?
A: Focus on your dreams. The Arab youth needs more support and I would love to see national opera houses and other venues act as support for our next generation.
What’s next for you?
After Abu Dhabi Classics I will be flying to Britain to perform in London. That is also a very exciting opportunity to showcase the songs to a different audience once more. After that show, I will then return to Egypt to focus on my academic life, studying Classical Music at the Higher College of Music and Arts.
Don’t miss it!
Sanaa will be performing ‘Laylat Saltana’ by the group ‘Cordes Croisées’, formed by elite Egyptian musicians, on February 6 at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi. Tickets start at Dh75. Show starts 8pm.