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Dana Salah: Embracing the Arab Identity Through a Fusion of Heritage & Music

She was able to reconcile her authentic self as opposed to the stereotypical expectations of female Arab artists

Jerusalem24 – The music scene in Jordan has been growing exponentially in the last few years, producing names that are taking the Arab music arena by storm. One rising star is Dana Salah, a Palestinian Jordanian artist, who has been thriving in delivering her own hybrid identity through a fusion of Arab and western cultural aspects in her music.

Dana grew up in Amman, Jordan, graduated high school to go to Duke University in the US, and study economics and theatre, she was able to land a job at marketing agency Ogilvy in New York City, a job very far from where she stands now. Dana’s journey in music began in 2014, working as a DJ under the moniker “King Deco”, “my parents weren’t the most thrilled when I wanted to pursue a career in music. So, I felt like I needed the separation between my art and what I was doing, between my career and who I was as a person. So, I created the moniker King Deco, and I started out DJ-ing and songwriting for other artists. Then I decided that I wanted to start writing and producing my own music” Dana said.

It can be seen in her music videos as king Deco, like the hit “Castaway”, that Salah incorporated her heritage in the brand including ancient Rome, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and aquatic elements of her city. She believes that her heritage always made its way to her music and art, without being aware of it.

Prior to moving back to Amman Dana realized that she wanted to merge her culture and art. “I started thinking that I’m proud of what I have accomplished as a musician.  I’m still who I am, still, the girl born and raised in Jordan. But I make music, so I felt I didn’t need the separation, but rather more”.

In 2019, dana realized that there was a lot of separation happening in the world when Trump was president at the time, and populism was sweeping over Europe, “we were focusing too much on our differences as supposed to our similarities. Music is definitely a universal language; you can listen to any song in any language and connect with it on some level”.

When Dana started writing music again after taking a break, it felt important to her to draw people in, and not only introduce them to the Arabic culture but rather the Arabic culture through their own cultures to connect with it.

Dana was able to reconcile her authentic self as opposed to the stereotypical expectations of Arab female artists, so writing music in Arabic, enabled her to fuse what she learned in the west with her Arabic heritage.

Before deciding to change her name, Dana was meant to tour Europe with a Spanish and French song she recorded, and as she was recording Dana found so much overlap between Spanish and Arab music, “I wanted to merge the two not sure how to do so yet since I wasn’t writing in Arabic”. However, when she started writing in Arabic, she wanted to incorporate all these things she learned into the music she was making, in her hit “Weino” with over 1million views, she says “we had to have a Latin backbeat, and I wanted the snare sound to be an Arabic sound, so we choose the Tableh”.

She adds that Omar Rammal, Director of “Weino”, who grew up in Palestine, was talking about the olives fields and heard the song “Tloulahi ya Dalyia” in a song, so he wanted to have grape leaves in the music video, which came to be a big collaborative process.

Her recent single, “Mishtaa“, a heart-break song, co-written by her and producer Nasir al-Bashir, is about the idea of missing someone or something which can come in so many different forms, not necessarily in heartbreak, she explains, “in 2020 I was stuck in the US, in Michigan with my family, the heart of Arab America, I realized that Arab Americans hold on so tightly to their roots and their longing to the Middle East, which I also experienced, and it reflected in my songwriting”.

Dana says that she’s able to see who listens to her music through Spotify and Anghami and that her music made its way to different countries she didn’t expect.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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