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Interview: Hanouneh

Interview: Hanouneh

Interview: Hanouneh

By on - 4 comments

"Many Jamaicans are very aware of their own Gaza/Gully conflict, and they became interested when I played my tunes about the real Gaza"



Swedish singer Hanouneh dropped her debut album 'Love & War' in February. It’s an album that tells stories of her experiences from the real Gaza set to sounds of roots reggae, dancehall, RnB and hip-hop.

Hanouneh is a Swedish singer whose music springs from a broad range of different influences and topics. According to herself she is rooted in jazz and had an upbringing where music was a natural part of life.

“I have always had music around me. My father and my uncles have all been into jazz and my brother and my cousins also play instruments,” says Hanouneh, and continues:

“This has both influenced me and restrained me. I believe that I have got a strong musicality from this, but that it has also kept me back because of the pressure from being surrounded by skilled people that can value your work.”

A Macy Gray story

She says that she has always created music, but that it took a long time before she started singing professionally. Why she started singing is, according to herself, a Macy Gray story.

“I have heard that her career started when she had to put vocals on a demo with her own compositions, because the original singer did not show up,” she says, and makes an example:

“It was a lot easier when I did jazz with the old folks. Singing covers are not as hard and self exposing as when you sing your own material.”

Moving to Palestine

HanounehHanna Cinthio, Hanouneh’s real name, was born and raised in Skåne, in the southern part of Sweden. When she was 17 years old she left Sweden and moved to Jerusalem and lived with a Palestinian family. She learned Arabic and stayed for several years. In 2000 she got a job at a law firm in Gaza City.

“I was curious about the area. It was a big surprise to experience the environment and the mood during this optimistic and positive time. This was in the year 2000. The people waited for the Palestinian state to be independent. There was a great belief in the future,” she says, and adds:

“A few weeks into 2001 the whole infrastructure was torn down by the Israelian bombings. People lost their safety and confidence.”

The same year as the bombings she went back to Sweden settled in Skåne again and started to make music.

Jamaican interest in the real Gaza

Even though she left Palestine her music is heavily influenced by her experiences from living in both Jerusalem and Gaza City.

“The influences have been more on content, like awareness and my lyrics. It is not so much in the music. I have yet to explore the oriental music tradition through my own creation. I hope to do it eventually though,” says explains.

Some of her songs have got wide attention. Gaza/New Year’s Eve is about the bombings on New Years Eve during the Gaza war in 2008 and Real Gaza me Seh became something of an anthem during the attacks on the Ship to Gaza convoy in 2010.

Real Gaza Me Seh has also been noted in Jamaica, partly because of its topic and the meaning of the term Gaza, a term that is used in Jamaica when referring to Vybz Kartel and his posse of artists like Popcaan.

Hanouneh recently got home from her first visit to Jamaica and got the chance to talk about her experiences of the real Gaza, which gained interest among artists and producers.

“Many Jamaicans are very aware of their own Gaza/Gully conflict, and they became interested when I played my tunes about the real Gaza. Interestingly enough, Real Gaza me Seh was well received among both Gaza Empire and Alliance. We were instantly talking about doing a remix of the tune.”

Swedish production

In Jamaica, dancehall reigns nowadays. And even if 'Love & War' is influenced by contemporary Jamaican music, it’s mostly based on one drop riddims produced by mainly Swedish talents, such as Tremendous Lix, Viktorious, Lance-A-Lot and Doobie Sounds. Hanouneh says that the producers have had an enormous influence on the album.

Hanouneh - Love and War“We have extremely talented producers in Sweden. The ones I have worked with all have their own style, and it has been very fulfilling to work with not just the rootsy and organic songs, but also with clean and complex stuff, such as Tremendous Lix productions or Viktorious digital dub,” she says, and continues:

“This album is a summary of different collaborations, and I think that it is great that all these different styles are gathered on one album.”

Hanouneh says that it hasn’t been an easy road completing the album. It was much harder than she had expected.

“I worked with a person and our collaboration did not last which meant that I had to put out the album on my own label. I had the intention to rework some of the tunes before the release, but because of the crashed collaboration I had to put them out in the condition they were in. The alternative would have been to screw it all,” she says, and adds:

“On the other hand, it now feels like a great success to have completed everything on my own and keeping control over the final product.”

Open to new projects and ideas

There are several projects ahead and Hanouneh has many new ideas. She is attracted by the idea of working long-term and focused with one band or with one producer and jointly produce an album.

The first step is however live gigs this summer with The Awakening Band, and she hopes to do concerts outside of Sweden.

“I will also put some effort in a mixtape project that I discussed with some artists and producers when I visited Jamaica. On a longer term I also want to continue recording and put out new music. The collaboration with Tremendous Lix is already going. But I have to wait and see. So far life has been unpredictable and offered a lot of surprises, so I keep all doors open.”

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Read comments (4)

Posted by MrQuick on 09.05.2011
A Swedish singer changing her name to an Arabic name and singing in fake patwa? She seems like she has severe schizophrenia issues...

Posted by wonluv on 09.08.2011
Look here mi rate dis girl. The NYE tune brought me to tears. She talkin the real in a language she feel. The shit that's going on need its own language anyway. Mr Quick, don't b so quick to judge.

Posted by disya on 09.14.2011
I think the album on the whole is great and there is clearly a story behind every track. Cool style and wicked lyrics too. MrQuick did you even listen? As for the patwa comment isn't that something which could be said about basically all non-Caribbean reggae? To me it seems more like adapting the flow to the style of music.

Posted by i.rebel on 09.30.2011
The album is BIG so is the TUNE also the messages are true+deep!
I speak fake patois myself, I know no other english as I learned it with dictionary and reggae records-that pronounce drove my school teachers mad.

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