Artist Spotlight: Hanna Barakat —
September 22, 2019

Artist Spotlight: Hanna Barakat

TODO Austin: Please tell us about your background and family history; your upbringing and how you fell into a music path

I have to say, my upbringing was most definitely unconventional. My mother is from Oklahoma and my father is from Lebanon. I happened to be born in Dallas, TX. I was homeschooled for the majority of my under-teen years, mostly traveling with my family. My father frequently worked overseas, and we, as a family, would travel with him and spend extended periods of time wherever he was called to work. We visited Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, France, Ireland, Wales, England, and many more amazing places over the course of my tender years, and I absolutely loved it. I loved experiencing different worlds, traveling on planes, trains, buses, and long ferry rides… I take that back, the ferries were terrible! On these excursions, I explored different landscapes, food, people, cultures, customs, and religions. I was exposed to so many different things, to the point where “different” was absolutely normal. And to me, that is what I take away from all that movement across the globe. I was exposed to so many different perspectives and that made a lasting impression on me.

I can’t say anything in my upbringing prepared me for my musical journey, specifically, but music was most certainly always with me. My sister and I always stayed current on the pop icons of the time, whether we were listening on our Walkmans or CD players, we always had our music with us, blasting and singing along without a care in the world!

TODO Austin: Was there ever a defining moment that led you to fully dive into your music career?

Music has always been in my blood. I cannot remember a time that I wasn’t humming and singing my days away. I do know that my acceptance into Berklee College of Music was a very validating and pivotal moment in my life and my trajectory. I knew I wanted to pursue music as my career, but I was still very young and had no clue what was in store for me. My experiences, performances, and musical community at Berklee left a phenomenal mark on me. It was a very strenuous time in my life, but It only drove me harder towards my ultimate goal of being a professional musician on the world stage.

TODO Austin: Help the audience understand your work by describing your musical concept and genre(s) 

I have never found the precise words to place my sound in one specific genre, for narrative content or for sonic reasons. Some songs travel through the complexity of relationships, the balance of strengths, messy breakups that resolve with constantly falling back into old habits with ones significant others yet again. While other songs touch on anguishing sociopolitical situations that plague the world today. I want to bring awareness to these situations, both personal and global, not by forcing any specific point of view or political agenda, but by pushing for love, understanding, and acceptance of all the other humans walking this earth together. Throughout history, there have been unnatural walls physically erected, or socially accepted and perpetuated, in order to divide people. I want to tear those walls down. All of them.  Through my music, with rock guitars, heavy drums, deep rhythmic bass lines, and my intricate vocal melodic lines and punchy harmony stacks, I have chosen to forge Arabic instruments like the oud, kanun, frame drum, and riqq, into my sonic landscape, where I feel they so naturally and appropriately belong. One fan described my earlier work as a fusion between Amy Lee of Evanescence and Fairuz, a Lebanese traditional music and pop icon. That was the most glorious comparison and compliment anyone could ever give me and my music!

TODO Austin: Who are your artistic heroes and influences?

It was definitely the powerful voices of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Amy Lee of Evanescence that made me want to be a rock artist. They were not your typical rock singers. They had such powerful voices that could pierce your emotional flesh, make you want to run 10 miles, all while delivering their performances with such exquisite precious fierce voices. Its safe to say they are my longstanding heroes!

My musical heroes take their place in my life in waves, during my formative years, Whitney Houston, Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey gave me something to sing along to! In times of struggle and heartache, like during all of my terrible years of middle school and high-school, bands like Linkin Park, Staind, Evanescence, A Perfect Circle, Incubus, System of A Down, Nickleback, POD, Disturbed, Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, and the like were my lifeline. They were so influential on me both emotionally and musically. They tapped into my current state of being and pulled me through more difficult periods than I can count.

TODO Austin: How does your ancestry influence your lyrics and your work as a whole?

My background plays a significant role in my creative process, both musically and conceptually, because my background is me. My history and my family’s history shaped me. I’ve always been so intrigued by my heritage, from the culture, politics, customs, food, and most importantly the music. The situation in the middle east is very tumultuous. After graduating in 2010, I actually moved to Lebanon to engross myself in the culture, gain understanding, study arabic, and just be in it all. It was a wildly profound and life altering experience for me, both good and bad, and i could go on and on about it, but what I can say for sure is that I grew in so many ways while living there. My perspective on life changed entirely. I was also exposed to so many things that I have since been compelled to write about. It was always in my blood and now it’s under my tongue in many of my songs.

TODO Austin: In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Austin music community?

Austin is a beautiful city with many opportunities to thrive, and I’ve managed to live here as a full time musician for the last 4.5 years. The quality of life offered in Austin is hard to compare. I’m grateful that there are so many opportunities to perform, cover and original music. I’m grateful music is a part of the daily conversation here. That’s truly unique for any city.

I find that the biggest weakness in the musical population here is a lack of community and union when it comes to pay standards and performance expectations. I feel that musicians are not actively working together to better the conditions, pay, quality of performance, etc, as much as we all could be. Talking about pay or any kind of comp is not really common, as people feel like they have to keep it a secret or under wraps, when in reality, sharing information like that can help others not get taken advantage of. There are so many venues and so many musicians to go around. For example, some musicians have day jobs and are willing to play for free, or close to it, essentially. That is a huge hindrance in progress for full time working musicians here. I wish we could find a way to share information openly without feeling threatened, agree on some basic standards that have to be met in order to engage in a working relationship with bars, promoters, venues, restaurants, etc. There are so many unique voices here, and I feel like there is a strength that needs to be tapped into in this community, to better the situation and have more people thriving in the community as a whole.

TODO Austin: Do you have a project in the works and when should the public expect your next release?

Over this past year, I produced my debut record, and I am so happy to say I now have three singles released, my title track single is coming out July 19th, and my debut record, Siren, is due out on August 16th, 2019! The CD Release Concert and party will be taking place at Come and take it on August 30th! I absolutely cannot wait to share it!

The album was produced by John Moyer, bassist from famed hard rock band, Disturbed, and mixed by Martin Nessi (Michael Jackson estate, Ariana Grande, Josh Groban, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson), and mastered by Ted Jansen of Sterling Sound (Disturbed, Evanescence, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Halestorm, Pat Metheny).

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