Under the rain in her single ‘Point of No Return’; in a bathtub bathed in green light for ‘The Snake’, the song that made her famous, immersed in dystopian atmospheres, Lana Lubany (Instagram) delivers a poignant sound where rap and Andalusian accents mix. Her first album, ‘The Holy Land’, is a collection of eight songs, each one a step in a journey of healing and self-discovery.
Lana Lubany was born and raised in Yafa, before moving to London, first for her studies, then to simply live and start her career. On her choice of settling in the UK, the singer and songwriter confides that she had “a very good childhood in Yafa”. “If you know Yafa… It’s very… very pretty, it’s absolutely gorgeous,” she says. “I’m lucky to have been able to grow up there, although I had some issues in terms of identity, but that also made me who I am, so I can only be grateful for it. But I don’t feel like I connect to it over there anymore.” Lubany has always been in-between. “My grandma is American, from New Jersey. She doesn’t speak Arabic, she always thought she was leaving and she never learned the language. So, growing up, I also had that part of my identity,” she notes, adding: “I never felt like I belong anywhere, until I moved to London. I’m not even a quarter English or anything. But London is a very welcoming city and I feel like I definitely belong here. It feels like home, so yes, I think that home is where the heart is, as corny as that sounds.”
As for her founding moment as a musician, Lubany remembers doing a show while she was a child: “this is like a key moment that I just remember. I was about nine years old, I had a piano recital and my piano teacher asked me if I wanted to sing. And I said yes, because I was confident as a little kid. And I rehearsed for it and I forgot all the words on stage. It felt really good, as people went up to me on stage and were like “Oh my God, you were amazing!”. And I just fell in love with singing, I joined a choir when I was 11, and that kind of solidified things. My mum always tells me that when I was 12, I told her that when I grew up I wanted to be a famous singer and move to the US, which I haven’t done yet, but that’s the other part I’m working on.”
A successful singer today despite a difficult start, Lubany admits she never considered taking a different path, “Never! Never ever!” she exclaims. “It’s not a safe career. And it’s not for everyone. It requires a lot, it’s hard. My mum encouraged me, although she was afraid. But she always said to me you need to have a “Plan B”. Obviously, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Ever. I want to be making music for the rest of my life, because it’s such a beautiful thing to be doing, and so fun,” says the star in the making.
There’s a perception that making music is incredibly demanding, that artists spend their lives in basement studios, under the harsh glare of artificial lights. Lubany laughs heartily, she doesn’t live that life, “I don’t have one routine, my life is kind of whatever happens, happens! One constant is that I go to the gym. I also started dancing. I do train my voice, though, practice singing or rehearse for night shows that are coming up. I have a general goal on my list to have one new song per week right now, so I can play it, listen to it and, you know, figure out if I like it or not and maybe develop it further. I just want to be making a lot more music and evolving in terms of my sounds and stuff,” she confides.
Very few are the artists who are free of influence and who find their own sensitivity from which they develop their own voice. “I’m definitely into Rosalia,” says Lubany. “She’s amazing. I think her music, definitely, is timeless. I love Billie Eilish’s music as well… There is a Spanish vibe in my own music. It’s just something that happened. I don’t play guitar, but Ben Thomson, my producer, does, and we just jam, so he plays and I sing and that’s how we write the songs. We kind of fell into the Andalusian sound, which is really difficult to play, and he’s really good at guitar. I don’t know whether it is going to fully continue, but I definitely like where it went.”
“I’ve been listening to more Arabic music recently, just to get the vibe,” she says, “because it was always in the background, but I never chose to listen to Arabic music enough, growing up. I like Fayrouz very much. I wouldn’t say she influences me a lot but, in terms of the Arabic side, she would be my favourite so far. I also really like old jazz music, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, beautiful voices my grandmother loves. Finding one reference is pretty difficult. My general rule for a song is that it can be played on one instrument, because that means it’s a good song.”
The Snake, the first song that really grew Lubany’s audience, merged her musical loves with her native tongue, “A couple years ago I didn’t have much going for me. So, it was kind of out of desperation. I needed to do something different,” says Lubany. “I decided to give singing some Arabic lyrics a shot and introducing music from the Arab world, and I wrote one song before I wrote ‘The Snake’. And I was like, OK, it’s kind of a vibe, and I like it. When I wrote The Snake, I wanted it to work like a concept project, which is the project that I’m releasing soon” she tells YUNG, explaining that her idea at the time was to call it ‘The Holy Land’. The title came to her mind because it’s where she is from, and the EP and album project was to deliver a full narrative divided into chapters: “I wanted the first song of Holy Land to be called The Snake and, by the time, it was like, OK, I’m going to make The Snake a bilingual thing. And it just happened, and when I showed it to people, I knew something about that song was different, and when I released it, I knew that doing bilingual was actually cool.”
Although there was a risk that bilingual lyrics would reduce her appeal and her audience, Lubany did not hesitate: “I didn’t have much of an audience before I released The Snake, in February of 2022, a year ago,” she explains. “I had maybe a dozen fans, mainly friends and family. I don’t know… It’s one of those things where you take your chance and either it works or it doesn’t. And I believed that The Snake was a good song and that it was going to have some sort of a purpose, and my purpose was initially for The Snake to start growing a community of like-minded people that would eventually become fans, and I’d just keep on releasing music and building that community. And yes, it has happened faster than I planned,” she says.
Blending Arabic music with Andalusian rhythms, rap tracks and a spacey sound, Lana Lubany delivers a multicultural opus that, in the end, she says, is a journey into the inner self. “I released one more song since Clones [released in late 2022]: ‘Point of No Return’. All my songs so far are part of a concept project called ‘The Holy Land’ and it’s basically a story about my personal journey from losing myself to finding myself,” she tells Yung. “I feel that many people can relate to it, a coming of age story. Each song represents a phase, like a chapter in this book. It goes from letting the bad into your world, to falling into temptation and dancing with the bad, and then realising that the bad is bad and letting that affect you mentally and falling into a deep pit with no way out, a point of no return, and then kind of overpowering that and coming to terms with things and empowering yourself and eventually finding yourself. And, for me, I found myself back at the start, back in my roots,” confides Lubany.
Every career needs a lucky moment, a trigger that sometimes has nothing to do with the planned path. For Lana Lubany, it was a video with her mother, which went viral on TikTok, that suddenly made her known to the general public. “My video with my mum? I think it’s really cool! I never thought to do a video with my mum or my family, but then I thought “why not?””, says the singer. “We were in Paris, and we were going to go explore the city or something, and she was like “Lana we need to go!”, and I was like “Please mum, just listen to the song!”. And she loves it, she loves the song. My mum’s always been my biggest supporter, and my biggest critic as well, because she wants the best for me, and she will always tell me the truth. I used to not accept her criticism. Nowadays, I’m a bit more open to it. She always told me to sing in both languages, to combine something, make something new. I was like “What? Mum, you don’t know anything!” but she was right. So yes, I think it’s great that that’s the video that went viral because it started with my mum… and with TikTok!” says Lubany.
Criticism from her mother aside, what’s the most challenging thing Lubany has faced in her career so far? “It was getting my foot in the door” she says: “I think it’s really difficult, as an outsider with no connections, coming into the music industry. And also because of that, I didn’t have much guidance. I didn’t know that I was supposed to do “A” and that I was doing “B”. So, it took me a long time to find my sound and to learn what the right things to do are.”
So, then how did she find her way? “I’d been trying for three years and it wasn’t working, and so I wondered what I’m doing wrong. So, I started to analyse myself and my actions to figure out what was wrong and I realised that I wasn’t working smart. So, I decided to kind of clear my head, take care of my mental health, do some healing and figure out what I really want in life, and the little details that come with what I want. So, I set my goals, and then I kind of broke it down and figured out how to get where I want to go, and that really helped me. And… I started doing the right things!”
In music, as in the arts in general, the rule is that many are called, but few are chosen. Lubany had to take the bull by the horns and seriously shake things up to get on the right track. “During Covid, in 2021, I really had nothing going for me and, well, Covid itself was a very difficult time. It was so uncertain. So, I decided to do something about it. I had to. I wasn’t happy anymore. So, I decided to kind of take a step back and work on myself, because I know I’m really strong, and I am really strong mentally. I didn’t like seeing myself not strong. I started working out that year,” she explains. And then, it began to happen. “ I went to LA for a couple of months. So, I was in a new environment, and it was very helpful. I did the healing in 2021 and I wrote ‘The Snake’ the same year, and then, in 2022, I was ready to tackle everything, and my life changed.” What, aside from the healing, got things moving? “TikTok! And also meeting Suhel Nafar, a producer in the music industry in L.A. I reached out to him because I didn’t know anybody, and he introduced me to Abed Hadhoud, and I met Abed, I loved Abed, I absolutely love him, he’s one of the best people I know. And he really believed in me before anybody else did, which I really appreciate. We decided with Abed to release ‘The Snake’ in February 2022. And then TikTok made it famous! So TikTok really changed everything for me.”
With her foot firmly in the door, Lubany is looking to grow, “Now, I’ve got my management with Ali Raymond, founder of Beatnik Creative, and also Nathalie Gardner-Roberts and Sarah Rodriguez, who help me out in many ways, and it was great finding the right people. I was very cautious in choosing my management because I really wanted people who believed in me, who kind of shared the same vision, same goals, et cetera. I think that I found the right people pretty quickly after ‘The Snake’, that went viral and started everything,” says Lubany, who proudly announces: “I have another song coming out, I think, at the end of March, early April, and I have the EP coming out with eight songs. My first body of work! If I could release it tomorrow, I would.” Before I leave her with Nathalie, her manager, I ask her for a single piece of advice that she’d give to someone who wanted to start a career in music. “Obviously always be yourself, accept yourself and be unapologetic about it,” she says, adding: “Don’t try to do something that’s unnatural to you. Do everything from within. There can’t be copy-paste when being true to being yourself. Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday and not to anybody else.”
This interview is a cover story for YUNG: The Anniversary Issue, which will soon be available where all great magazines are sold.