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Interview with The Artist Leena Qasim

One of the few Sudanese “The Voice” Contestants and a talented artist!

Mohammed Saad

While recording a new song she invited me to attend it, I noticed the rising singer Leena Qasim’s interest in the finer details of what she does despite the prevailing atmosphere in Sudan.

Leena started singing in the early years of life and her star rose during her participation in the “The Voice” program, and then she came to Sudan to start her true career through a different color of modern singing. I asked her about:

When you compare music in the past and now, do you see any changes?

In the past music was developed and updated, but now it’s more of an individual effort. For example me as an individual, I would have to strive to innovate something new, think outside the box or even try ideas from different countries.

Do you think the government doesn’t give priority to arts or doesn’t regard it as important to a certain extent after the revolution, taking into regard that the ministry of culture, different societies used to sponsor artists and musicians in the past?

On the contrary, I think there is more care given now; I participated in the signing of the peace accord in Juba, last year in October. Many of us flew there on private planes, and so I witnessed a lot of care and attention is given to us from the ministry of Culture.

Are you a member of the Artists Union?

I went there a couple of times and know a few people there but I am still not a member yet; however, I am planning to be one very soon.

You mentioned that you participated in the Juba peace agreement; do you think art can play a role in the democratic transition by sending a message to society?

Of course, because art is a message and you can easily send any message as you have a lot of people who would listen. If an artist says anything he will definitely be heard and influence society.

Do you have any plans to carry out concerning the democratic transition?

Honestly, I am not into politics that much.

You don’t have to talk about issues as a politician, but as a member of the Sudanese society, can you use your platform to raise awareness of certain issues, for example, many artists sang patriotic songs and supported revolutions?

Of course, there are times where the artists have to be with the people, you have to be with the people because the people are what made you, so you undoubtedly have to stand by them when they need you to.

So is it being afraid of a backlash or pleasing them or as a result of believing in the cause?

No, it’s not a fear of backlash, but rather supporting the people because you are one of them.  You add your voice to their voice, and give your platform to them to speak through you.

Do you think we can export Sudanese art, where it can be known not only domestically but internationally as well? And why hasn’t that happened yet?

Sudanese art or songs, in particular, hasn’t spread because of the Sudanese audience themselves. For example, many artists who try to cover songs receive harsh criticism from people who think songs should be left as they are, especially classic and well known songs.

Suppose we revived Sudanese songs and the Sudanese audience accepted that, what would be the second step?

It would then spread internationally, through social media like Instagram, many people will listen to these songs and share them. Then demand for Sudanese artists/ musicians will rise and some will perform in concerts in different countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia, many Sudanese artists participated in Riyadh Season like Mr. Mohamed Al Amin. So we are not  aiming to change the song rather revive it.

Currently, music is more of an industry than a personal talent, where are you on a personal level from this industry, abroad there are music companies that sponsor new artists and talent until they become superstars, they counsel  you on the smallest details and might interfere in your life sometimes ?

As they say, I trust my gut, I say what I think is right. As for music production companies, I don’t pay attention to much of what they say. Many times you feel something is right and it eventually turns out to be right, not everything that is proposed or said to you suits you, so I do my own assessment and also ask people who are close to me.

Is it friendship advice or professional?

No, it’s I seek professional advice, but so far I don’t have a music production company sponsoring me.

How do new upcoming artists, like yourself, finance themselves, before revenue was from cassette tapes and CDs that were sold? For example, do you pay to record your song?

Yes, I pay for everything. In order to appear now a days there is a promotional cost you have to incur.

So you finance that from your own resources?

Yes, I finance everything from A to Z, and you have to be patient because it may be successful and it may not, it all depends on your persistence.

How do you finance your songs? Does the revenue come from parties, concerts, and events?

Yes, before I used to upload my songs on social media and YouTube, now I am starting to sing at events and parties.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

That’s a good question, I sing Sudanese, Egyptian, gulf songs and this can be a two-edged sword, many people think I do a very good job in all of them which confuses me whether I should continue singing Sudanese songs or stick to something else. But after I participated in the voice, I decided to sing Arabic songs, but I later discovered that’s wrong. Because if you sing an Egyptian song that takes from your identity and there is nothing worse than an artist without an identity. Even if I had as talented as Um Kalthum. That’s why I decided to come back to Sudan and sing Sudanese songs because it’s my identity. Then after that, I can sing songs from other countries.

So you want to continue singing Sudanese songs?

Yes but with my style.

That’s a step and a foundation for plans, but what if you want to become international, do you have a plan?

Yes, I discovered Sudanese music has deep meanings in its lyrics beautiful rhymes, and instrumentals, like we stern music. So you can make a song that everyone around the world can listen to. So if you can develop the song with the same pentatonic scale, you can reach an audience. After the voice, I discovered that I gained many followers from many countries.

What about revenue from social media?

Yes, I do make money from my YouTube channel; I launched it in Saudi Arabia where it is monetized.

Tell us about the opera you participated in?

It’s called al Dhamir al Araby “The Arabic Conscience”, in light of the recent events in Jerusalem and Sudan I am going to upload a two-minute clip of it.

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