Music can be the gateway to someone’s life as for the multidisciplinary artist, Felukah, it is the embodiment of who she is. Channelling heartbreak, culture, identity, hopes and dreams into her sound, she frees herself from the shackles of realities and embraces vulnerability. Kicking off with mix tapes like Acid Battery on Soundcloud, she now has hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify and two albums alongside many singles released. Her music is the roadmap to her self-discovery, and we are all a part of that journey.
What had started as a liking for literature quickly transformed into a love for music as a neo-soul artist, Felukah, navigated her late adolescence in New York City. Born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, the artist has been exceptional in the literature field and was encouraged by her high school teacher to pursue a degree abroad. So, she packed up and moved to the Big Apple to study Creative Writing at Hunter College and worked two part-time jobs to pay her bills. She wrote and performed poetry in her free time, whilst dabbling in music. What was just a side hustle soon became her calling as she delved deeper into blurring the lines between poetry and music, the multidisciplinary artist touches the hearts of many people through her sound or, as dubbed by her fans, “Felukah’s Egyptian Heartbeat”. With her new album The Love Serum coming out soon, join us as we sit down with the musician and know her and her work a little more. You can stream Neighbourhood the first single of the album now.
I love your stage name, Felukah, and even more the meaning behind it. Can you please tell us more about the birth of Felukah and what she means to you?
It all started when I was sitting with my mum in our balcony back in Cairo, bouncing stage names back and forth. She’s the one who thought up Felukah. We were looking for a word in Arabic that would be easily pronounced in the West—the philosophy around the name unfolded organically after that. Just like a felucca that’s sailing along the river, I want to embody an ebb and flow in my verse. Artistically and psychologically, I choose to stay open and explore where the wind takes me… it’s a very peaceful paradigm that I write in. Even if the emotion I’m grappling with is unkind or un-pretty, the paradigm itself is rooted in authenticity and nature.
You once mentioned that you have a “Nile River way of thinking” can you explain what you mean by that?
To me, the new nile river way of thinking is all about vision. There is soul and drive embedded in that vision. It’s time to address real issues in the various systems we subscribe to, and to remember that we can create realities for us, by us. Commentary and art that is for us, by us. Process is just as important as product, and I’m ready as ever to share both with the world.
How has being an expat impacted your creativity? And how do you portray that identity in your work and through your art?
Cairo is home and that goes without saying. I was born and raised there— I only moved out to New York in 2017. Nonetheless, it’s crazy how the city took me in and lifted me up almost overnight. As time progressed, I came to learn myself as an Arab woman in a new context, and it’s been very refreshing for my psyche. It has also burdened my psyche, because I naturally grew less attached to my Egyptian roots. That’s why I choose to claim the space in between as where I truly belong. I am this, that, and neither at the same time. A true daughter of the universe. I like to think my work taps into that hybridity by nature.
What is Felukah’s blueprint? Who is she in a world that relies on labels to understand one another?
Felukah is an essence  — a way of being, as well. I hope people can connect to my music in whichever way feels natural to them, however it resonates. Music that’s been created from one heart is meant to travel straight to another. Artists create so that people can inhabit that creation as a world of its own; that’s what I hope to inspire in people on this journey. That level of trust.
What do you say to the fan who said this “is it soul? Is it jazz? Is it hip-hop? No, it’s Felukah’s Egyptian heartbeat” under one of your posts? Does that resonate with your wish to be genre-less?
Ahh, that fills me with so much love. I’m glad people are receiving the hybridity of what we do around here. I love jazz, hip hop, R&B and so much else. What’s not to love about good music? I’ve got e-girl rap energy in me and indie folk tendencies. I’m here for all of it. The fact that people are catching onto this genre-less future is very motivating.
You have mentioned in another interview how you started to make music to let out the frustration and pent-up emotions from a heartbreak 2 years ago. Can you tell us more about it?
Damn. Yeah, it wasn’t super pretty. I think I started making music to release energy that had built up over the course of that relationship and ones before it—I was just really excited about exploring my feelings through art. Writing, rapping and singing about heartache made it far more relatable and digestible to me and the people around me. We all benefited from turning that pain into power.
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What is your favourite song of yours, to date, and why?
At the moment, my favourite song is Neighborhood, recently. It’s the first single of many from my upcoming album and I can’t wait for people to dive into this new world that sucked me in both musically and lyrically. I’ve got a lot in store and Neighborhood is the perfect intro to it all.
You said on an Instagram story post “Everything I do is for all the women in me” can you elaborate on what you mean here?
Most of what we know as history was told from the perspective of men in power. Where is the documented lived experience of women and girls? Social-climbing, working class, average women? What about women in power? What about women who have been silenced by society, their culture or family? When I experience joy, I am experiencing it for all the women who have come before me and will come after me. How I talk, walk or dress is for the freedoms and liberties of the women in me screaming for change. Demanding that my presence be felt, my freedoms granted, and my boundaries respected.
A lot of your work has had an underlying political essence to them, because of your identity as an Arab woman in a predominantly male-dominated scene, and you talk a bit about this in your single Mesh Hastanna with Rama Duwaji. Can you tell us more about the song and the importance of the message you are conveying here?
Working on Mesh Hastanna with Rama was both fulfilling and challenging. I pushed myself to write that full Arabic track and also made sure to highlight real life examples of women facing injustices in the Muslim family. It was also emotionally strenuous diving into that role; but then, some of the most meaningful work is also the most difficult to create. Those feelings we’re too comfortable with pushing away rather than embracing; that’s what I sat with for this project and I’m so glad that I did.
The rap scene, especially in the Middle East and North Africa region, is heavily dominated by men- how do you navigate through it as an Egyptian female rapper and what are the challenges you face?
Without a doubt there’s limitations—but these limitations are there to be pushed. I’ve had to deal with my own limitations and insecurities as a majorly underrepresented Arab woman in America, and as a Westernised Egyptian in Cairo. Creating my own blueprint for this music flex has been and continues to be difficult, but it is incredibly rewarding and motivating at the same time. I rise to the occasion of setting my own scene for this in between. It may have been seen as taboo or risqué to be a female rapper at some point but embedded in our culture is storytelling and folklore. If you look at it that way, we were born with material for the mic. I think having more women in the industry in Egypt and surrounding Arab countries will definitely enhance our collective sound emanating to the rest of the world.
Your second and most recent album is Dream 23, can you talk to us more about it and the creative process behind making the album?
Dream 23 was so beautiful to work on and present to the world. The music is vibrational, energetic and calm at the same time— a quality I've always admired about timeless hip hop and R&B records. We served old school flows on new school beats, lofi energy on heated topics like women's empowerment, self-discovery and cultural pride. The album lyrically and sonically explores space in the first half and earth in the other, validating the dream world and the real world equally. It is split in so many ways: sonically, culturally and spiritually. In this project I’m really trying to pay homage to both Egyptian roots and New York culture with each turn around the sun. Since I’d spun 22 times already, the album encompassed my own Dream 23. In another sense, the title can symbolise the sheer multiplicity of being; I could’ve chosen to chase one dream like rap, but instead it’s something more like 23 dreams— my interests multiply and deepen over time. I’m now 24 and thinking about the next dream.
Also, one of my personal favourite songs from that album has to be 22 + 1, can you tell us about the inspiration behind it and the significance of the + 1?
It’s kind of funny how it started out; I thought I was turning 23 like a week away from my birthday last year. Did the math and it turned out I was turning 22 (just finished the 22nd solar spin) but in my mind, I was embarking on the 23rd year of life. So, wasn’t I turning 23? It’s all quite funny to me, how we’ve come to measure our time on this earth. The way I see it now, we’re all exactly our age +1 because we’re spinning on that +1 rotation right now. It’s just a fun and abundant way of looking at one’s existence, I feel.
What plans do you have for the upcoming years and what should we be on the look out for?
Word on the street is it’s Felukah Szn. I’ve got some heat ready to be rolled out, so stay close to the boat. That’s all I can say.
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