Coachella Festival: Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna makes history with Arabic-language set

Coachella Festival: Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna makes history with Arabic-language set
Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean singer, made history this weekend by becoming the first artist to perform a set at the American music festival Coachella entirely in Arabic.
2 min read
17 April, 2023
Elyanna sang her hit Ana Lahale as well as an Arabic cover of La Vie en Rose called Al Kawn Janni Mawk [source: Getty]

Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna became the first artist to perform a set at the Coachella Festival in the Colorado Desert entirely in Arabic over the weekend. 

The iconic American music festival kicked off in Indio, California on 14 April with three days of shows, followed by a second weekend of performances later this month. 

Elyanna performed on Saturday 15 April, debuting a new single "Janene Orr" and singing Egyptian songs from her childhood alongside her brother Feras on the keyboard.

The 21-year-old waved a keffiyeh, a scarf widely viewed as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, to the loud cheer of fans. 

"I'm so grateful to sing my language and bring my culture my music, and my dancing to a festival like Coachella," the singer wrote on Instagram. 

In an interview with ABC News before her show, Elyanna said: "It's a big responsibility. I'm representing my culture, but I'm really working very hard.

"The performance is all about our instruments and the performance is all about our vocal skills and our attitude as Arab girls," she said. 

"It’s just representation. The performance is my culture, it’s who I am.

Amar Mustafa, a popular online blogger who writes about Middle East women's history, wrote on Twitter: "Historic. Arabic music across the diaspora has probably only been heard in homes or parties... to hear it in very mainstream spaces such as Coachella is incredible. Elyanna is making waves, she killed her set." 

Lema, who describes herself as a Palestinian diplomat based in Ramallah and Brussels, wrote on social media: "On a happy note: First Palestinian Arab female at #Coachell. Our Elyanna what a performance." 

The singer, whose legal name is Elian Marjieh, is known for blending genres and cultures with her music. 

She grew up in Nazareth and in Chile.

She moved to Los Angeles with her family to pursue her music career, where she signed with Universal Arabic Music. 

Her performance at Coachella coincides with National Arab American Heritage Month. First recognised by President Joe Biden in April 2021, this initiative seeks to celebrate the diverse culture and contributions of Arab Americans in the US.