Dena sings. Dena raps. Dena DJs. Dena writes songs, too, and has been doing so since she was 10 years old. But it wasn’t until the beginning of her twenties that the British-Egyptian decided to put everything she had into making music.
“I always wanted to pursue music, but growing up with Egyptian parents, it’s difficult to get them to understand that music can be a full time thing,” she told SceneNoise. “They wanted me to do it on the side and take up a career as a TV presenter or something in politics. I was always writing music, recording and going to open mic nights, but as I got older, I realised that music was what really made me happy and to just go after it 100%.”
Now 23, the young musician, who holds a degree in media management, has lived in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as Northern Island. Much of this life experience is revealed in her track ‘Yay’ which the Belfast-based artist dropped on November 9th this year.
Recorded at Start Together Studios in the Northern Irish capital, the track was produced by studio owner, Rocky O’Reily. Playing with elements of neo soul and old school r&b, the song was written by Dena herself and addresses several intertwined issues, including the entrapment of corporate life and the nine-to-five suit wearers who live to work, as well as the corruption of the media and how this is used as a tool to alter perspectives of the mass audience – a topic that’s nowadays probably more relevant than ever.
“Not all my tracks are so deep,” she explains. “Sometimes I just write about random stuff and hope people understand what on Earth I am trying to say.”
For the benefit of her art, she decided to settle in the city where she considers herself part of the new Belfast culture that's, in her opinion, outward-looking, less insular and inspires her in her musical development. “It has changed so much in my eyes from when I lived here when I was younger. It’s more culturally diverse. People from different countries are based here and everyone’s opening up. There are more rappers, more people doing r&band there’s a big African community of which I am part of,” the artist describes the evolving scene of the city. Here she has found a stable place that allows her to record, write and really focus on her art – on several different levels. She is the resident DJ at Funkarama, one of the biggest clubs in the city, and is also involved in the ‘Scratch My Progress’ programme at Belfast’s dedicated music hub, Oh Yeah Centre. The mentoring programme is now in its seventh edition and gives the opportunity to five acts to be supported by industry professionals for a period of nine months to finesse their talents. As for the near future, Dena has confirmed a music video release to her single ‘My G’ in February 2019 and has promised more neo soul mixed with old school vibes in the EP she plans to release in March next year.