Here's Why Dana Salah Shed Her King Deco Moniker to Embrace Her Arab Heritage | Savoir Flair
Music
Here's Why Dana Salah Shed Her King Deco Moniker to Embrace Her Arab Heritage
article DANA SALAH
by Grace Gordon 6-minute read August 11, 2021

"I felt that the Arab voice wasn't there in my music".

article DANA SALAH

Dana Salah has been on a journey. Not one that strides down a well-hewn path with clear markers along the way, but one that dips, dives, and even turns back on itself on occasion. Like many young Arabs, the Palestinian-Jordanian music artist was caught in a tension between tradition and modernity. Some choose one path, some choose the other, and some, like Dana, eventually find a way to braid the two together to become a fully realized self – brimming with beautiful dualities. 

After growing up in Amman, Jordan, graduating college at Duke, having studied economics and theatre, Dana landed a job at marketing agency Ogilvy in New York City. Although she had the type of job that tends to make parents proud, after five months she realized this wasn’t what she was supposed to be doing. She quit her corporate career, and embraced her creative side, working as a DJ, songwriting, and crafting music under the moniker King Deco

King Deco quickly made her mark with hits like ‘Castaway (Don’t Leave Me)’ and ‘Read My Lips’. Her career was taking off, and it was sky’s the limit for King Deco. But when COVID hit, Dana found herself stuck in the U.S., where she had ended up at her grandparent’s home in Michigan. In an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair, Dana relayed, “Michigan is the heart of Arab America. So, I really dove into that culture and saw how being so far away from home, Arabs in America remained tied to so many aspects of the Arab culture.”

This experience awoke something deep in her, and made her appreciate where she came from and who she was more than ever. “I felt that the Arab voice wasn't there in my music, not in my French, Spanish, or English songs,” she shared. “There was something missing. By the time I came back to Amman in  January of 2021, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to write in Arabic.” As fate would have it, Dana soon found her co-collaborator and producer, the person who would help her realize her new direction, Nasir Albashir. “We set up a Zoom meeting, and I wasn’t expecting anything. I thought, ‘I’ll talk to this guy for 15 minutes.’ But he was playing some music and it was so good that I ended up talking to him for like an hour and a half.” Next thing she knew, they were meeting in the studio and writing music together – in Arabic, of course.

When it comes to identity, it was acknowledging the different sides of herself that changed the course of her music, which is evident in the launch of her new single ‘Weino’. “I feel like even before COVID, there's the sweep of divide across the globe,” Dana said, “Everyone has started to become afraid of one another, and populism is on the rise. With ‘Weino’ I wanted to bring aspects I love about Latin and Western music with Arabic, culturally. I wanted to fuse that. Then with the music video, I merged the traditional and the modern.”


DANA SALAH


In ‘Weino’, you’ll pick up on an infectious Latin backbeat, fused with a song that sounds like it would be played at traditional Arab weddings, and scored over with Dana’s gorgeous pop vocals. Instead of eschewing her Arab roots, which many Arab artists do in order to be seen as progressive, Dana instead chose to situate her music video in a historic house in one of Amman’s oldest neighborhoods, Jabal al-Weibdeh. The music video was shot by Palestinian director Omar Rammal, and features some of Dana’s closest girlfriends. The fashion also speaks to the marriage of tradition and modernity as they sit dressed in authentically embroidered Palestinian and Jordanian dresses, matched with contemporary local designers like Savoir Flair fave Nafsika Skourti.

With the change of sound came another significant change. Dana shed her King Deco identity, and started working on music under her own name. “It's accepting who I am. I'm going to be everything that I am and forget whoever doesn't like it. At the same time, if I’m going to accept myself fully, it's also important to accept others fully.”

In ‘Weino’, the theme of acceptance is clear. Weino means “where is he”, but the he in question isn’t a single individual. “It’s asking ‘where is the guy who’s actually able to show up as himself’,” Dana shared. “Sometimes you meet someone, and they’re pretending to be something that they’re not. It’s actually more courageous to really show up as yourself and be vulnerable and show that you care.” 

I felt that the ARAB VOICE wasn't there in my music, not in my French, Spanish, or English songs.

article DANA SALAH

But the overlap between this theme and her own journey was not lost on the self-aware artist. “I think it's ironic because it coincides with the journey of me changing my name and showing up as myself as an artist. King Deco was a moniker that I used to feel empowered. At the time, I needed that courage to pursue my music.”

King Deco is part of her story for an important reason. It wasn’t a mask she hid behind, but a protective element that helped her realize the creative side of herself. When it no longer served her, she was able to put it down and take up her own name. But, that doesn’t mean King Deco is dead. “True empowerment really comes from showing up as yourself, but I felt like when I embraced my Arab identity I didn’t need the name anymore. I may come back to King Deco in some form later – maybe a surprise release or an EP.”

DANA SALAH

Part of showing up for herself means showing up for what she believes in, and as an independent artist, Dana has used her voice to speak truth to power. “Music can bring people closer through language and through identity. Yes, we're all so different, but we're also so very much the same. I’ve made music that I hope people across the region connect to, but I also hope people from the West connect to it too. I hope that this is a way to introduce them to the Arabic language, to Arabic music, and Arabic culture through the visuals, through the sounds, and through the song itself.”

‘Weino’ sees its worldwide debut today, and is available now on all streaming platforms.

Share This Story
Look 28 from Balenciaga‘s Fall 2022 Couture collection CHANEL | SAVOIR FLAIR HUBLOT | SAVOIR FLAIR
@savoirflair