Farrah El Dibany: the captivating voice of Arabia with deep roots in her home of Alexandria, blooms into an international star, sending shockwaves from Paris to the world.
As she sits down calmly for our interview, her extraordinary confidence, unusual for a woman of her age, makes me feel both eager and excited, with her warm and charming nature shining through her Egyptian features putting me immediately at ease. Fresh from the stage where she performed La Marseillaise at the Champ de Mars to celebrate the re-election of French President, Emmanuel Macron, Farrah El Dibany arrives two days later at our Parisian studio, walking into a vivid 80s daydream as the cover star of our summer issue. The poses and looks genuinely embody the Egyptian mezzo-soprano’s ambitious and daring spirit interwoven with her endless nostalgia–where the past makes its presence known within each corner of the present’s space.
Hailing from Alexandria in Egypt, Farrah made her way into international stardom. “It all started in Alexandria, Egypt, where I was born and raised. It was there that I began to sing and my talent was discovered,” Farrah reveals. “My first ever soloist performance was with Bibliotheca Alexandrina Orchestra,” she recalls fondly. It was in that beautiful Mediterranean city on the north coast of Egypt that Farrah first fell in love with music and ventured into the realm of singing. Farrah took singing lessons at the German school in Alexandria, she then joined the Arts Center of the Library in 2005, before attending the Berlin’s Hanns Eisler School of Music. She would go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Berlin’s Technische Universität and a master’s degree from Berlin University of the Arts.
Despite Farrah’s increasing global attention, the singer continues to express a great deal of pride in her own country. “In 2019, the President of Egypt honoured me during the World Youth Form which he organises every year. Since then I have received much recognition within my country, which I give credit to for all of my achievements,” she tells me. I can feel the gratitude expressed through every word. Farrah continues: “Egypt has contributed enormously towards shaping me into who I am today. Spending my early years in Alexandria made me a cosmopolitan person and exposed me to many cultures. Growing up in such a diverse and multicultural environment taught me tolerance, I learned not to focus on the differences between myself and others but rather to look at what we may share.” Egypt is often referred to, in the Arab world, as “Masr Umm Eldounya” which directly translates to “Egypt is the mother of the world”. This phrase is commonly used when someone gives praise to the country; Farrah attributes this to the fact that “many emerging talents come to Egypt to pursue their dreams of becoming famed artists. This is because it is a multicultural hub where everyone is welcome, a place where talents are embraced and all types of art and music are celebrated”.
Farrah’s gratitude and appreciation for her own country where her roots were planted are what have guided her to universality. “If you don’t have a sense of belonging to a certain place or country, you cannot be an international or universal star because that is the core of global recognition. It makes you open to the world,” Farrah explains. She carries Egypt in her heart wherever she goes and onto every stage on which she performs. She continues with great pride: “I feel extremely connected to my roots and very Egyptian. I have been able to reach a global audience and have been so well received because people can see that I have an identity and they certainly appreciate that.” This worldwide success is evident through a significant career journey with many prominent highlights, including Farrah becoming the first Arab artist-in-residence at the prestigious Opéra National de Paris, founded by King Louis XIV in 1669.
With her recent performance, Farrah also became the first foreign artist to ever perform the national anthem following a presidential victory in France. It is impossible not to think back to that glorious evening at the foot of the majestic Eiffel Tower and at the Champ de Mars on the 24th of April 2022 and wonder how it all began. Farrah looks at me with a wide grin and says: “I was invited to perform only one day before the election and it was not even certain that I would sing–for example if Macron didn’t win! This time the vote was very close and it could have gone either way!” As Farrah recalls that moment, her face begins to show the same excitement mixed with anxiousness that she must have felt.
“It was mentally difficult to wait for the results; dealing with the anticipation of whether I was going to perform or not,” she adds. To perform the French national anthem in front of such a large crowd including the President of France himself, certainly had a remarkable impact on Farrah–she tells me: “I felt very nervous and it got even worse when I stepped onto the stage as the audience had started to sing before I even got to the microphone.” She continues, smiling: “But then I found myself singing away with them, foregoing the tonality I had rehearsed previously; it was very organic and spontaneous. I was focused on simply enjoying the incredible moment.” “I had chills running down my spine as I was singing the French national anthem to the people of France, a country that has given me so much, where I have been greatly appreciated and awarded. I was sincerely thankful to be in such a privileged position. I felt proud as Farrah the singer, the Egyptian and the Arab.”
Dazzling in a glamorous red gown designed by Gemy Maalouf who is a fellow Arab woman, Farrah portrayed a vibrant example of the enchanting allure that Arab women often possess. Farrah firmly believes in the potential and talent held by women in the region, she also believes that their accomplishments deserve international recognition. She explains to me: “I witness this every day with new achievements from Arab women across the globe. Making us all proud. We are different and unique, and have a lot to offer, possessing great potential and a strong sense of ambition.” Being one of those women who rose to international prominence,
Farrah’s journey has required a lot of perseverance. Farrah admits that “being patient, being persistent and doing things with love and care, without any negative competitive energy within you, is absolutely what paves the pathway to fame and success”. She explains that “if you constantly compare yourself to others, you will never reach your full potential. A certain level of mental strength is required to compete with yourself instead of others”. This awareness of what she wants and what she must do to get there, along with her unparalleled musical talent, is certainly what has propelled Farrah towards success and triumph within her career. “Music is a universal language”–a traditional saying that profoundly resonates with Farrah. “You can feel and connect to a song without even understanding the lyrics, hence why many people enjoy music from different parts of the world regardless of their background or culture,” she explains. “When I perform in concerts with a multicultural audience, I don’t have to worry because I know that music is a universal language that they all understand, my voice is the means that connects them.”
Farrah, like any other passionate artist, aspires to leave an impact on the world through her music. She strives to attract the younger generation to opera by offering a non-cliché perspective on the art form. “This genre of music is known to be more appreciated by the older generation but, from my personal experience, I see that young people have a growing interest in opera. I feel that the demand for concerts in the Middle East is bigger than ever before. People are now keen to include opera as part of their event, especially in Egypt, Saudi and UAE where it is growing in popularity and attracting a younger audience,” Farrah reveals. However, her mark on this world goes beyond the stage, Farrah has championed philanthropic work through several initiatives including inspiring refugees to sing with UNHCR, as well as encouraging children to read in Arabic with the Save the Children organisation.
Besides her ongoing quest to win the hearts of her growing fanbase and to keep satisfying the opera lovers around the world, Farrah adds “to become the best version of myself”, when I ask her what she ultimately wants to accomplish in life, with that same confidence she sported during all the interview. The young star, whose roots remain strong as ever in her homeland, is certainly determined to continue her promising journey of blossoming even further into the universe.