Podcast: ‘My mum tried to help rebuild Libya, I respect that’

Music Month continues on Róisín Meets with singer Farah Elle

Farah Elle's music is unusual for an Irish artist in its mix of bright pop and Middle Eastern-style phrasing

Farah Elle's music is unusual for an Irish artist in its mix of bright pop and Middle Eastern-style phrasing

 

“I don’t know what it’s like to go and try to rebuild a country, so I just have to respect that,” says Farah El Neihum, better known by her stage name, Farah Elle, about her mother Dr Fatima Hamroush.

Dr Hamroush, a consultant ophthalmologist, moved her family to Ireland from Libya in 1996 when Farah was two years old and when the Libyan civil war broke out in 2000, she was an active member of the opposition, setting up the Irish Libyan Emergency Aid organisation.

After Colonel Gaddafi was ousted from power in 2011, Dr Hamroush was appointed Minister for Health in the Libyan Transitional Government, which meant leaving Elle and her two brothers to their own devises at home in Julianstown, Co. Meath, while she spent a chaotic year in Benghazi trying to rebuild the country.

“I was 17, doing my Leaving Cert and within two days of her being nominated she had to go and she was just gone…There was no time to process what was going on,” she told Róisín Ingle on the latest Róisín Meets podcast.

Theirs was a very unique situation and while it was difficult, Elle is incredibly proud of her mother who she refers to as a "rock 'n' roll ninja" and queen of the art of the mix-tape.

Being brought up Muslim, music was not a massive part of Elle’s childhood but she has strong memories of those mix-tapes her mother would make for long car journeys, with songs by Abba and Boney M, as well as her father’s good signing voice.

She got her first proper keyboard as a 12-year-old, taught herself to play and has been banging out tunes on it ever since.

After years of weekend schooling in the Mosque in Clonskeagh, Elle is fluent in Arabic and goes between it and English in many of her songs. In this podcast you will hear her perform four of them live in studio: Rajeen, Sunblock, Holiday and Laundry.

To listen to Farah Elle speak to Róisín Ingle about music, her fascinating family, growing up Muslim in Ireland, and more, go to www.irishtimes.com/podcasts iTunes, Soundcloud or your preferred podcast app.

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