On Music and Palestine: A Conversation with Saint Levant, the Region’s Rising Star

From Jerusalem to the world

by

Far from being an unfamiliar face on social media, Saint Levant is on a stellar mission to put Palestine on the map and make the country’s culture shine past its geographic borders. Think of it as a self-assigned task that the young creative is closely following to the letter—and he’s making it happen through music. 

It’s a late post-Eid evening from where I am. Stomachs are full of end-of-Ramadan delicacies and Cairo is slowly heading towards postprandial somnolence. On the multi-hyphenate’s side, it’s early in the AM, around 9 o’clock to be precise. Saint Levant has been up for a while already as he’s just come back from physio-therapy. I already had a sense of how ambitious and rigorous the Jerusalem-born artist was from the last time we caught up in August. This proved it further. 

“I’m a very disciplined person and I love it,” he says. “That’s my flex. I go to the gym every day from this time to this time, I don’t use social media during the day, and when I do, it’s for an hour only as a creator, I post, reply to everyone and immediately get off,” he continues. 

Today, you’ll find him posting mostly about the music he makes. But for the months prior, he was known as Marwan Abdelhamid. The 21-year-old had made a name for himself by actively challenging pro-zionist narratives through short yet pragmatic explanatory videos about the conflict and was in the early stages of his musical adventures. Eventually, he released “Haifa in a Tesla”: a tribute track dedicated to upholding his Palestinian heritage while sharply targeting the suffocating measures imposed by the occupying forces of his homeland. Now, he’s Saint Levant full time. 

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 
Une publication partagée par Saint Levant (@saintlevant)

“The choice of name ultimately comes down to branding. It’s an obvious play of words using Yves Saint Laurent’s heritage while nodding back to my own: the Levant. It’s an homage to the whole sub-region that I’m from as I’m not too big into borders drawn by colonialists. Can I be in Lebanon, Jordan or Palestine, I feel at home regardless of the country. And I just really rate the name, it rolls, it’s nice”, the fourth year International Relations student told MILLE.

“The switch happened when I had a quarter-life crisis. Although I’m 21, I was asking myself what I wanted to do with my life,” he explains. “I was doing so much at the same time. I was building a startup, making videos and other types of content all while making music on the low.”

“I was thinking about how I didn’t want to be 80 years old and look back at the past with regret for not having tried out whatever I wanted to try out,” he continued. 

Since then, music has been his clear priority. Levant revved his engine by keeping on his meteoric rise and pushed his sonic vision to the furthest of his abilities. Lyrically more than capable, some might say that it’s his own musical compass, or his multicultural background, that’s been steering him to tap into all kinds of different rhythms. From hard hitting Drill to hip moving dancehall, he’s jumped onto most, not to say all, genres of music you can think of to perfect his skills, master his craft and appeal to the widest possible audience. And while you might assume his goal is superstardom, Saint Levant is actually on a mission to give back to his own community.

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Saint Levant (@saintlevant)

“The ultimate aim is to be able build a university and maybe get into politics. Music is cool but doesn’t help with geopolitics. Look at Bob Marley, no one was bigger than him: he was all about uniting people but nothing really happened. I want to actually be able to sign agreements or deals that matter,” he says. 

“All of what I do goes under my 2048 umbrella. It’s like my own OVO. It should nod back to the century that’s gone by since the Nakba and theorise what Palestine would look like if it would be free. It’s a whole ethos,” 

He’s already working on making it all happen. “I launched a fellowship through it and there’s so much more that’s coming on the way including a fashion brand, making a magazine, publishing my own book and so on. It takes time but hopefully everything will materialize,” he explains.

At this stage, Saint Levant still considers himself at a grassroot level. The artist, and aspiring politician is working to build a strong team and distinctly tailored artistic direction for him to follow through with. 

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Saint Levant (@saintlevant)

“I’m at 0.5 of my career. One of my biggest music inspirations is Hamza,” he says. “Put him on any track and he’ll kill it. Nothing that he comes up with feels forced. He adds his own elements to whatever genre he goes into. That’s what I want to be able to do,” he says. 

Speaking on other sources of inspiration, Saint Levant adds: “Tyler the creator is also someone that I look up to. Not necessarily always in a sonic form but it’s the fact that he has ideas and does whatever to make them happen. I mean, he went Italy for two months to make a fragrance.”

Full of ambition and savant plans for the future, Levant’s next steps are definitely some to keep a close eye on. With graduation being the next milestone to get out of the way, playing live, moving around the world and meeting new creatives are some of the things we can expect the young creative to be doing in the times to come. At just 21-years-old, the young Palestinian artist is already making a name for himself. 

Share this article