“I might be the most Irish person you’ll ever meet, but I am fluent in Arabic, as well as having grown up with a Muslim background,” explains recent BIMM Dublin graduate, Farah Elle. The Libyan-born singer-songwriter is single-handedly plotting her rise to musical stardom, after releasing her spectacular new single ‘Silk’ and being named the Irish Times ‘new artist of the week’.
We recently caught up with Farah to discuss growing up, learning the piano aged 12 and her four years at BIMM. We’ve always admired Farah’s unique sound – her work blends elements of traditional of Arabic song with contemporary electronic production. But Farah admits that it wasn’t until writing ‘Silk’ that she saw a connection between her Muslim background and musical style:
“People were telling me that there was a kind of foreign essence to my sound that they couldn’t quite pinpoint. Then I wrote Silk and everything became a bit clearer. Evidently, a person’s roots are a huge part of where their self-expression stems from.”
It’s a sound that’s been described as ‘unusual’ by some, but Farah admits she’s taking it as a compliment.
“I suppose that means it’s not what people are usually used to hearing – which hopefully is a good thing,” she revealed.
It certainly is, and it seems the music press are taking note too. The Irish Times recently named Farah Elle their ‘new artist of the week’ in a round up of Ireland’s best new music. The feature praises her “mix of bright pop and Middle Eastern-style phrasing”. In fact, it was a famous Arabian song called ‘Farewell Shalibiye’ that provided inspiration for the song. After hearing a bluesy cover of the track in her teens, she began to imagine what it would sound like with a more ‘beat-driven direction’.
Farah moved to Ireland when she was just two years old. Growing up, she was surrounded by music. Her childhood was soundtracked by everything from Hip Hop and Heavy Metal to recordings of the Quran. At the tender age of 11, she began learning the piano on a toy set of keys. Aged 12, her mother bought her a real piano, and she continued to self-teach herself, as she explained:
“The reason why I chose to teach myself was that I thought that lessons made it feel like homework. I composed piano music until I was 14, with dreams of writing music for films. Then I started singing as a result of writing poems and realising that they could be lyrics.”
Farah spent her teens on a path of self-discovery, unlocking her creative interests through fashion, subcultures and music, before joining BIMM Dublin to study Songwriting.
“What I liked about BIMM was how you were around so many other musicians, which meant that you had other people to share your passion with. It also enables you to jam your ideas out with like-minded people, which can be terrifying but is overall quite an important thing to do for expanding your ideas,” she revealed.
The artist also kindly shared her advice for prospective BIMM students and other musicians.
“Take pride in what you do, no matter what it is. It’s so easy to feel disheartened by the things around you,” she quipped.
So what lessons has she learned herself? We put the question to Farah:
“About writer’s block – If we don’t reap, then we sow. It’s very true and important to take note of. We are always creating something, even if we feel like we are not. A fine tea has to brew!”
Wise words from an artist who has a very promising career ahead of her. Farah is currently in the process of writing her debut album. She’s keeping tight-lipped about things, but we’re told to expect the unexpected.
You can watch Farah’s stunning live performance of ‘Silk’ at our BIMM Dublin Live & Lyrical event at The Button February in the video above.