The Artists’ thread: In a series of interviews with whom we’ve crossed paths on the SA journey so far, we will dive deeper into some relationships that have become interwoven into some of our milestones by adding new dimensions to our design and artisanal basis. This thread is dedicated to the artists and visionaries with whom our ties go deeper than mere collaborations.
We open this thread with the majestic voice behind The Elephant in the Room, Lynn Adib.
Lynn is a singer and composer who has been dressed in our designs, has sung for one of our most cherished projects, and has won over the hearts of everyone in the SA family after spending a day with us in the atelier.
Born in Damascus, Lynn embarked on her musical journey when she joined the Choir of Joy through which she was introduced to Byzantine chanting and several other forms of traditional Syrian music. She carried these learnings of her culture and its musical language throughout her journey, even after she discovered and dived deep into the world of jazz. Rooted in the authenticity of her culture’s traditional music and inspired by the endless potential of modern music, Lynn grew to become a singer and composer of modern Arabic music.
- How old were you when you began your musical journey?
I was 5 years old when I joined the Choir of Joy and began to discover the many forms that the traditional music of my culture can take. This included the Byzantine chant and other forms of music outside the religious realm, to which I was exposed to in the many concerts we’d hold locally. This was my beginning of everything because it felt like I was learning the region through its music while collecting my first few experiences of performing as a soloist.
- How did you discover your style?
When I was about 18 or 19, I was amazed by the freedom and flexibility of jazz as I delved into it and even sang with a jazz band for a while, but I was more keen on exploring it than adopting it as a style back then. In the midst of finishing pharmacy school and trying to figure out my next big step, I moved to France because I got accepted into a masters pharmacy program as well as a local jazz school. This led me to join the national conservatory in France, where I studied some more jazz and started to explore what I could do with my learnings in music so far.
All I can say about my style at this point is that it’s a mix of tradition and modernity – it sways between the traditional Arabic music I grew up to and the more contemporary, modern forms of music. I’d call it modern Arabic music, but I would also say I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s a learning process that involves a lot of discovery.
- If there was a point in your journey where you could say you found your voice, what would it be?
Although France was supposed to be a pit stop before making my way to UC Berkely, I found myself fully immersed in the tide of everything that was coming along and happening for me. I also met who would later become the father of my daughter, so that was another reason why I stayed.
When my partner passed away in April of 2017, I was in the process of pulling myself out of the tragedy of it all when things started to clear up for me. Having been hovering between pharmacy and music – wondering whether I should I take my music to a professional level – this was my call to let my voice and my sounds out into the world and bring it closer to the forefront of my life.
It always feels so strange to say, but it’s the most tragic events that tend to wake something in you that had been dormant, bring it to the surface, and stop you from hesitating. And it’s even stranger to think that even after all this time, France still feels like a pit stop on a journey leading me somewhere else.
- Does it ever whey heavy on you as an artist to carry your culture and its traditional sounds into the changing modern world?
I wouldn’t say heavy because I find myself belonging easily in both worlds, but I would say there is some pressure from communicating where you’re from when it’s so misunderstood in the modern world because there comes a sense of responsibility.
The West has come to know Syria as little more than politically conflicted, so the reason why I stay authentic and communicate the musical sounds of my culture is because it’s through our art that the world will see what truly defines us as a people.
So yes, there may be some pressure, but I think a lot of artists would agree that there’s also a lot of fulfillment in staying true to yourself where it’s easier to conform. In times like these, I believe artists play a huge role in bridging our region and the rest of world, to show more than the stereotypical conceptions of us.
- Can you tell us a little more about your relationship with Salim and the brand before/leading up to the day you spent in the atelier?
Meeting Salim for the first time was one of those occasional encounters where you feel a strange sense of harmony. I had gotten a glimpse of his work through social media and already admired it, but as I learned more about the background and purpose behind his work, it spoke to me on so many levels.
With time, my bond with Salim felt like I had a brother filled with so much passion and so many dreams that truly inspired me.
And when I visited the atelier, this bond grew much deeper as I met the team and witnessed the level of respect and appreciation they have for each other and for the work they do.
- How would you say your art as a musician and Salim’s art as a designer complement one another?
Salim and I share this desire to let our roots and identities guide our work as we navigate it through the modern world, so the connection came naturally.
There is something about the craftsmanship at the basis of his work – the women who work so intricately with their hands, their stories, and their investment in these designs – that brings me back to my point on authenticity.
Through this framework of production, Salim communicates so many aspects of his culture without conforming to the fast pace or generic tastes of the modern world. With that, we come to share this purpose of honest communication.
So I would say it’s at the essence of it that our two fields of art come to complement one another.
- Can you give us a glimpse into your conversation with Salim on your collaboration for The Elephant in the Room?
I actually remember that conversation vividly because as I sat in a café listening to Salim describe this project to me, he did it so well that I was already visualizing the designs he had come up with.
The idea of it was so beautifully bizarre that the conversation didn’t even feel like we were arranging a collaboration as much as it was an engaging conversation.
The project brought up a lot of thoughts about how difficult it can be to grow up in such traditional environments as ours, but also about how empowering it is to embrace what it makes of you.
After meeting Salim’s mother, I understood better why this project spoke to him so much. She made me realize how much strength and potential you can instill when you teach your child how to truly embrace their identity in an environment where they stand out.
Having learned this and knowing Salim, I received his description of The Elephant in the Room with such a rounded comprehension that had me hooked.
- What does it mean for you to have a voice during times like these?
Art will not stop wars or magically create peace, but I do believe it’s what keeps us from giving in to the cruelty of it all and accepting it.
It’s a privilege for me to be able to sing for my country and the region, and I hope to reach new parts of the world with the voice.
Since I first started to take my music more seriously, it truly felt like a political act to take center stage as an Arab woman singing in my mother tongue and being proud of it all.
Coming from such a misconceived part of the world, it means a lot for me to be an ambassador for all the beautiful things that make it what it truly is.
Interviewed and written by Serene Sbaity
Documented and photographed by Mohamad Al Rifai