Zeyne Is Defying Genres

“It’s our turn now. Arabic music will become global music. What a time to be alive.”

Zeyne Is Defying Genres
Alexandria Gouveia

Her mother and grandmother have “the most amazing voices,” her eldest sister is a gifted pianist and she herself was classically trained when she was nine. Yet, if it wasn’t for the pandemic intervening Zeyne would’ve entered a career in PR. But as fate would have it, in place of press releases the world gets a new fusion of Arabic, pop, soul and RnB. 

Your music career was almost accidental right?

Yes, two years ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in London, but the pandemic put my plans on hold. I found myself back in Amman with lots of time on my hands. So I started doing covers and sharing them on Instagram. One thing led to another and I became involved in the Jordanian Female Artist Collective at Amman Jazz Festival. From there I connected with the brilliant producer Nasir Al Bashir and we started working on my first original track. I also co-wrote Issam Alnajjar’s first album with Universal Arabic Music.

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How does your heritage influence your sound?

I was born and raised in Amman, but I’m originally from Palestine, so it’s definitely influenced my content. We have such a rich and diverse cultural history, and it’s cool to see how that heritage is seeping into our pop culture in new ways.

Who are your musical influences?

Ziad and Elias Rahbani were decades ahead of their time musically. Fairuz’s supernatural voice and her sincere vulnerability has always resonated deeply with me. Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry on love and exile have also been an anchor and source of inspiration.

So where do the RnB and soul inspirations come from?

My formative global influences come from the early 1990s RnB and soul era, particularly Lauryn Hill. My current heroes are H.E.R, Wizkid and Jorja Smith. I want to reinvent RnB and soul music in Arabic. I’m looking to build a new sound – you can usually hear a fusion of Arabic, pop and RnB in most of my music. 

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Your second single “Nostalgia” was lauded for its unique storytelling on Palestine…

It talks about missing something you never had or experienced, and for me that was Palestine. Our generation inherited a lot of grief and loss towards our homeland – we’re lost between a romanticised memory and our blurred reality, leaving us in limbo. The last line of “Nostalgia’s” chorus is, ‘And now I don’t know what to do with all this nostalgia’, which is something I think about every day as a Palestinian. 

What’s your message to your Palestinian brothers and sisters?

While the media doesn’t do us justice, I believe that through our art, music, poetry, and other forms of expression via social media, we’ll be able to tell our truth. It’s my conviction that this generation of Palestinians will be the one that liberates Palestine.

What do you think of the current Arab music scene?

Now is the time to create music as Arab artists. We have the support of digital streaming platforms, labels, and people are generally more open to listen to new genres of Arabic music. Just like with Latin music, K-pop, and Afrobeats, it’s our turn now. I truly believe that Arabic music will be the next mainstream genre over the next couple of years. Arabic music will become global music – what a time to be alive! 


What’s your advice for aspiring musicians?

If you want to do something, do it fully and make sure you get out of your comfort zone. 

What’s next?

I’ve got a couple of singles coming out over the next few months. Hopefully I’ll follow them up with an EP. I’m also preparing for my live debut show.