Palestinian-Chilean Singer Elyanna Brings Arabic Pop to Canada
The up-and-coming artist, the first to play a set at Coachella in Arabic, played Toronto on her current North American tour. Billboard Canada caught up with her to ask her about her come-up.
Elian Marjieh, known as simply Elyanna, was in Toronto last night (Feb. 4), performing in front of an ecstatic sold-out crowd at The Opera House. She was there as part of her eponymous North American “ELYANNA TOUR,” which sees two Canadian stops: Toronto and an upcoming Montreal show at the Théâtre Bainfield on Feb. 6. Billboard Canada got a chance to meet up with her after the show to ask some questions backstage.
The proudly Palestinian-Chilean singer — best known for her hit single “Ana Lahale" featuring Lebanese-Canadian singer Massari, which boasts 23 million Spotify streams — finds her roots In the middle of a family of poets and musicians, in Palestine. As a child, she would accompany her brother during his piano lessons, soaking in the rhythm of the keys and quickly developing a love for music. She has since been creating her own music, eventually making it her career after a 2017 move to Los Angeles. It was then that, at 15 years old, home studio sessions became her calling.
That was, until she met with, in 2018, Nasri Atweh at a Los Angeles studio, where the idea of singing in her native Arabic was born.
“When I started at 15 years old, I had no idea that I was gonna sing in Arabic, that that was gonna be something I’d do in my life," Elyanna tells Billboard Canada.
Nasri is the frontman of Toronto-based band Magic! — whose single “Rude” peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 — and received a 2012 Best R&B album Grammy Award for his work on Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E album. This pivotal connection led to her signing with Wassim Slaiby’s management company SALXCO. Co-signs from artists as big as Lana Del Rey have shown a big North American breakout could be coming.
Since then, she has made it her mission to carve a path for Arabic music to flourish in the United States, by blending Arabic lyrics and Western melodies, essentially creating a genre of her own. Elyanna made history in 2023 when she became the first singer to perform a Coachella set entirely in Arabic.
“It’s such a confirmation doing Coachella in Arabic, selling out this tour, seeing everyone coming together. It says a lot about our culture, it shows we are craving it, that we want something to push the art, push the culture,” Elyanna says.
In Toronto, promoting her new video for "AL SHAM (الشام),"she played an electric performance accompanied by choreographed dances and colourful visuals. It was a family affair, as she was accompanied on stage by her brother Feras, throwing it back to their early days together on the piano. Throughout the night, her silky smooth vocals were on clear display, as fans sang with her word-for-word. In her encore, she expressed her love for Canada as she gave a final performance of her song “Ghareeb Alay.”
“I love Canada, I want to come here again and perform more. I want to come again to just chill," she says.
In this video, Elyanna talks about how she started, why she decided to sing in Arabic, and she shows off her infectious personality:
Production: Jackson Turner & Daniel Victor Louis
Videography: Ali El Moudi
Video Editor: Yasseen Ashri