Twin Power: Hegazy Sisters Sing Against Stereotypes



Sun, 17 Dec 2017 - 11:13 GMT


Sun, 17 Dec 2017 - 11:13 GMT

Dedicating their music to fighting social, political and cultural stereotypes, twin sisters and duo singers Omnia and Leila Hegazy decided to blend their individual styles of R&B and pop-rock to send a message of empowerment, urging their audience to follow their “dreams without caring about people’s opinions and [stereo types],” explains Leila.

Born in San Diego, California, to an Italian mother and an Egyptian father, each of the twins started pursuing her own solo music career at a very early age. Omnia was 10 when she chose the violin and later on picked up an acoustic guitar and started to write her own songs, while her sister played the piano.

The twins maintained parallel careers as solo artists until they graduated college, and then united musically in 2012. On their website Leila is described as “a vocally driven R&B singer and Omnia [is] a rebellious pop-rock artist,” but they managed to combine their individual styles and form a duo in 2016. In commemoration of their late father who always insisted they were stronger together, the sisters joined forces as “HEGAZY” band.

The sisters talk to Egypt Today about their mission to fight wrong social and political concepts and stereotypes in different cultures, using the power of music.

Tell us about your first works and how you think you have developed throughout the years.

Leila: My debut was a short Extended Play (EP) called “The Black and White,” recorded by Grammy-nominated producer Joseph Ferry, while my second release was a full album called “Looking Glass”. After our father passed away in 2016, we began to form our duo band and soon after produced “Of that Record” and “Alive.”

Omnia: My first EP was Jailbird in 2012. The album revolves around feminist themes and women’s rights, as I am greatly inspired by some women I have met in my life, who have given up on their dreams when they [were] married [off] early. My second album, “Judgment Day,” in 2013, is about political freedom and child marriage, as I was influenced by the ongoing Arab Spring at the time.

Both of us have different music styles; we attended different high schools and colleges, which was crucial for our development as individuals and for our duo band later. We also used to listen to diverse types of music, besides working as solo artists in different genres.

When we combine our different individual styles, we create very powerful and totally different art from what we are both used to, a meeting in the middle of our styles. You write your songs as well, tell us more about that.

Omnia: We write our songs separately. What we do is that one of us starts writing a song and the other finishes it. We also sit together to formulate the ideas and go back and forth over lyrics.

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How does your audience react when they find out you are Arab women?

Omnia: I initially met some difficulties being a female guitarist, as men in the band thought I would not be professional and serious in my work.

As Arab women, we chose to team up as “Hegazy” because it is an Egyptian name and we are proud to be Egyptians, even though some people feel weird about our name and sometimes mock it.

Leila: … But our audience is not racist toward us for being Arabs, as many of them like Arab music; they are liberal and open-minded. They are against stereotypes and that is why they agree with our songs, through which we try to fight such concepts.

How is your music contributing to changing stereotypes, especially the ones you face?

Omnia: We have not yet produced many albums to be able to actually change the

stereotype … Yet, what we are doing is using our songs and writing to combat the stereotypes we face. We are hoping to challenge prejudiced people with their [set] minds and very restrictive thoughts without arguing with them.

Do you think that stereotypes could affect the society?

Omnia: Of course, that’s why we have just released a documentary-style music video “Alive,” where we follow, with a camera crew, five people during their day-jobs, passions and their side hustles. Through each of these characters, we criticize those who judge others based on how they look from the outside, which, in most cases, is untrue.

In the video, each of them does what they love, which is considered by some as contradictory to their appearances. For example, there is a woman wearing a hijab and singing, running and playing music, which is contrary to what people think of a Muslim woman who does not have anything to do with music.

Omnia: We have not only tackled Arab stereotypes in the documentary but we also address other cultures. One scene features an Asian man listening to hip-hop music, even though Asian males are stereotypically associated with some specific kinds of music.

Art has no limits; it is one of the ways to break stereotypes and borders between people. People nowadays listen to everything and are affected by music that[evokes] their emotions regardless of its genres.

However, people stereotype musical genres by referring them to their origins. For example, classical music is a style of art produced and rooted in Western tradition, or jazz and blues are another style found in the culture of black Americans. But that does not mean that white Americans do not listen to jazz and blues or vice versa.

Of course, some people prefer a certain type of music because it is what they and their
parents grew up listening to, but that does not mean that they do not like listening to other kinds of music.

Are you planning to release any albums soon?

Omnia: In a couple of weeks, we will release “Here to Stay.” And, in February 2018 we will produce our EP “Young,” focusing mainly on the problems youth face after college, including economic uncertainty, loan debts, jobs, as well as their concerns figuring out what they would do in their future. We try to encourage them to have a place in the world and to be outspoken.



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