Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Today, I’m stoked to be featuring the self-described daughter of the universe: Felukah.
Hey everyone! My name’s Nikki and I’m one of the women behind Full Potential. I’m a first generation Iranian-American with a strong passion for music and an even stronger aspiration to work in the music industry. After months of being on the team, I finally figured out how to fuse my love for music with FP’s mission to promote female agency in South West Asia / North Africa: SwanaSounds.
If you follow FP on Instagram you might’ve seen our 1st SwanaSounds post and/or checked out the SwanaSounds playlist on Spotify. In summary, I’ll be dropping 25 SwanaSounds each month & feature 1 artist on our blog. I’ll be diving into their music, their stories, and my personal reasons for being so drawn to them. Each and every one of these women inspire me.
I’m pretty much obsessed with Felukah, so she was an obvious first choice. She just looks like someone I’d shoot the shit with and smoke a spliff with. She’s got curly black hair and an eyebrow piercing. Always covered in silver jewelry. Rocks tomboy street attire and sneakers. Her look screams: “I’m unapologetically myself.” Oh, and she’s a muslim woman. Redefining gross stereotypes about what Muslim women looks like.
Felukah grew up in Cairo, Egypt, and moved to the States when she was 17 to pursue creative writing at Hunter College in New York. She worked as a babysitter, waitress, and tutor to get herself through school - and somehow managed to simultaneously focus on music. Going to open mic nights, connecting with creatives, building her brand, and seizing every opportunity to get her name out there.
Felukah stays woke as most great rappers do.
Before Felukah started rapping, she released self-published poetry chapbooks, “Other Beating Wings” and “Flowers for Zoë,” written under her pen-name Kahirati (“my Cairo” in Arabic). (Azeema). She is constantly educating herself and incorporating her intellectual growth into her work.
Hip-hop and rap first entered Felukah’s world when she moved to Harlem. The city's history of racial resistance reminded her of Cairo’s history of resisting state oppression and Western colonialism. Her passion for writing poetry evolved into a passion for rapping. And through rap she’s been able to expressively release the energy that she and her people have had pent up for days, months, and centuries. She represents her people’s release.
Here we are, five years later, and Felukah’s dropped two albums and one EP.
Tracks from most recent album, Dream 23, are currently featured on Spotify’s playlists like Arab X and Fresh Finds: The Wave (ironic since Felukah means sailboat in Arabic, and as Felukah would like to say, “she is always riding the wave”), and previously on Fresh Finds, Women W Bass, and New Music Friday Egypt.
Felukah has only continued growing, progressing, and improving her craft. She describes her musical progression as a manifestation of her ideas. An opportunity to go where the light guides her. And all I can say is, damn. I seriously respect her growth. The difference between the production quality of her first and second album is crazy impressive.
The song, “Ask the Bird in Cairo'' quickly gained traction and is now one of Feluka’s top streamed songs on Spotify. After listening to the track and watching the music video a few times, I definitely understand the hype. The song starts off with a smooth jazz beat. She uses her words to paint a picture of home and asks her audience to listen to what her soul is yearning for. At the same time, the music video pictures an apartment complex on an average street, in an average neighborhood. And she may have been telling a story about Cairo, but I heard a story about my own home. Actually, I felt it. “Ask the Bird in Cairo” transcends any one place or experience. It addresses a shared experience, a deeply emotional one. I mean, who doesn’t feel some attachment to home? Wherever and whatever home is to you. Especially if you’re in your mid-twenties living away from your family.
Felukah’s appreciation for collaboration is evident.
Every time she’s interviewed, Felukah talks about her plans to move back to Cairo and work with different Egyptian artists after finishing school. Part of her motive behind producing her album, Citadel was making connections with new artists - and she did. Felukah pitches her ideas and if there’s a vibe, they create.
In 2018, Felukah partnered with Musawah and released the song “I Won’t Wait.” Musawah ('equality'; in Arabic: مساواة) is a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family and family laws, led by Islamic feminists applying progressive interpretations of sacred texts usually referred as feminist tafsir. In the song, Feluka tells the stories of two women: Sultana and Hoda.
Sultana is married into a loveless, lack of compassion marriage with her cousin. Her family and community would resent her if she left.
Hoda believes that pleasing her husband is the only way she will be accepted into heaven. She later finds out her husband not only has a second wife, but she’s the age of their daughter.
Felukah follows with these lyrics:
She couldn’t believe how one law could serve a man
and destroy a women’s universe
Got a lot of love for my people, but I can’t neglect of diminish
The everyday struggles a women faces both on the streets and at home
Or even at school and on the job
Felukah refuses to confine herself to genres and labels.
In Dream 23, Felukah fuses lo-fi, R&B, neo soul, alternative and hip hop, all in just 12 songs. There seems to be a set of expectations and strict labels for women in the music industry, especially for female rappers. They get boxed into a label and are all assumed and set to have the same standards.
When it comes to her music and identity, Felukah identifies herself as being the “in between.”
She’s in between being a Western woman in Egypt and an Arab woman in America. Her music is in between genres. But, she embraces it. She refers to the “in between” as a place that exists, to allow existence. She doesn’t box herself into one genre or cultural identity group. She purposely chooses to embrace the middle.
“As time progressed, I came to learn myself as an Arab woman in a new context, and it’s been very refreshing for my psyche. It has also burdened my psyche, because I naturally grew less attached to my Egyptian roots. That’s why I choose to claim the space in between as where I truly belong. I am this, that, and neither at the same time. A true daughter of the universe.”
- Felukah (Entertainment)
I think music is the purest form of communication and the highest form of self-expression. And artists like Felukah are the reason why.
Everything from a song’s lyrics and sound to its album cover, embodies an artist's vision. It brings their human experience to life. And allows for their listeners to understand their message through a musical medium. That’s the unique power musicians have. They create a product that the listener identifies with. They put our feelings into words we couldn’t write, and sounds we couldn’t create.
Felukah’s music moves me; inspires me; opens my mind, opens my eyes.
Felukah is more than a gifted creative, she’s a dreamer. Someone who was able to tap into her soul, expand her passion for language and poetry into a project that presents so much opportunity for change. She expresses her message through a variety of mediums, simultaneously. Felukah without a doubt deserves our attention as a creative, a symbol of empowerment to the Arab and non-Arab women hesitant to start their careers in whatever industry they aspire to enter.