“I’ve been preparing for this day… I knew it was going to happen because I was going to make it happen“, London based Palestinian-American singer, songwriter and musician Lana Lubany tells me over Zoom on a sunny afternoon in mid-March 2022. Her TikTok video showing her mum reacting to her English-Arabic song “THE SNAKE” at that point had over 5 million views, and was growing every second – along with the Spotify streams and her followers. “I really want this, and I’ve wanted this my entire life. I want to be the biggest pop star in the world, and that’s just it. I’m very ambitious and I’ll work hard for it.”
I came across Lana one evening on TikTok, scrolling through my for you page, a normal nightly ritual for me. Lana’s video showing her mum reacting to her bilingual song “THE SNAKE” , and it’s the Arabic-English R&B pop song you need in your life.
Growing up, Lana sang in a peace choir, which gave her a lot stage experience and singing experience, ultimately solidifying her love for not only singing, but eventually creating and writing her own music and songs. “I just love making music and making people cry with my music”, she laughs while telling me. “That’s something that I actually love doing – I realised I love doing that. I like making people feel things, whether it’s happy, sad or they want to dance.”
Lana has been trying to break into the industry for years, and thanks to “THE SNAKE“, she feels as if she’s finally in her lane and finally found her sound. Lana has been releasing music since 2017, with her debut single “One of a Kind“, and an EP under her belt in 2020, she recounts how the “Devil in My Eden” EP helped lead her into her current ongoing project: “THE HOLY LAND”:
“I mean, the EP project I released in 2020 was a little experiment where I made 1 minute songs to see what happens with it. But concept wise, it didn’t really have a purpose, it was just random songs that I just created and put out. I’m an artist […] I like for my music to have a purpose. So I thought of “THE HOLY LAND” because that’s where I’m from. And I’m from a very complicated place – but I don’t want to make it political or anything – I just want to talk about my experiences growing up… and a lot of my environment growing up was based on religion. I’m not religious, but I like some of the metaphors you can take out of the stories in the Bible.”
Using the Bible inspiration for “THE SNAKE“, Lana managed to create a song dripping with a venomous yet alluring melody, with scales only seen in Arabic music and a tune that will be going around in your head for days – in the best way. “I just took the snake from the Bible and made it a metaphor for losing your innocence and realising that there is bad in the world. We all go through that. We all are born innocent and then something happens and you’re like “oh, shit!”. There’s more bullshit in the world than I thought. So that was kind of the idea with “THE SNAKE”.
Lana wrote co-wrote and co-produced the track with music producer Ben Thomson, as well as Lana’s sister Karine Lubany, who helped provide one of the lines in “THE SNAKE”, but not without some disagreements. “Ben and I made the song completely from scratch. It was made with no reference in mind, we were just like: “let’s create from the heart” – and that’s exactly what we did. I think we had a disagreement right before we wrote it – I knew I wanted to write a song called “THE SNAKE” and I had the first four lines. But they had a different melody and I wrote them on different chords. So Ben and I had a little disagreement, and then he started playing guitar and I was like “OK…” and I started singing, like really annoyed. I started singing over that – I sang those lyrics but with a different melody. He’s incredible at like composing, he’s insane. I love working with him. It just came together so beautifully… we wrote most of it there, except for one part that I wrote when I was back home… It was a beautiful, bittersweet session because I love it when something amazing comes out of bad stuff, you know what I mean? It came from the heart.”
And it seems that people who have heard the track and can feel it’s depth and the love that has been poured into it. With millions of views on TikTok and over 1 million Spotify streams, Lana has managed to bring what she has dubbed as “A-Pop” into the mainstream music scene – but it’s been a long time coming. “My mom has been begging me to do that for years [write an Arabic song]… The reaction was so different to “THE SNAKE” versus my old stuff. So I knew there was something there and I wanted to explore that further. So I started kinda writing Arabic verses in my music, or adding Arabic words here and there […] I think that that is something that is really special. I look at K-Pop as an example, right? It’s everywhere! And it’s not like a little niche, it is so huge. Why not make A-Pop a thing, you know what I mean?”
While looking through Lana’s Instagram and TikTok, I noticed that she had replied to almost every single comment on her posts and videos, sharing people posting the song online and taking the time to thank them. Collaboration and interaction with the people who follow and support her is integral to Lana – she even made a separate TikTok account to write songs with her followers, truly creating a strong sense of community with those who interact with Lana.
What’s even more admirable than Lana’s dedication and genuine love for her fans and followers, is the extent and reach of “THE SNAKE”, which has reached people from all across the globe. Lana explains the types of comments she’s been receiving on the video: “So, most of my demographic on TikTok and on Spotify is Western, like UK, US, Canada, France… a lot of Europe and the States – the States is the biggest, actually. Which is crazy […] But a lot of those people in the comments have been saying: “I don’t understand Arabic but this is so beautiful”. There were even a couple of people who covered the song, and they don’t even speak Arabic but they do sing the Arabic part – crazy! It feels so good. I grew up being ashamed of my language because of where I grew up, and to be honest, to have it be accepted… something I wrote – in ARABIC! – is incredible.”
Lana has turned the music world on it’s head, flipped it over and spun it around – and around again. With “THE SNAKE”, Lana has not only shattered any notions of stereotypes of music in the Middle East, but has modernised it while respecting its core – an incredible scale, poetic lyrics and emotive melodies – and I’m sure that there is so much more to come from Lana. She’s one to keep an eye out for – and don’t be surprised if you see her popping up on your TV, phone screen or on Spotify or Apple Music’s home pages. She’s a rare talent, and one I feel so blessed to have discovered.
You can keep up to date with Lana via TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. If you’re in London in May, make sure to catch her opening for ANDREA on the 6th, live at The Water Rats – tickets available here.
Written by Tala Woods.
Written by infostoryofsong