What are your names?
Leila and Omnia Hegazy
What is the duo’s name?
How did you come up with it?
It’s our last name and it’s a tribute to our dad (Ashraf Hegazy), who passed away at the end of 2015. He always wanted us to work together. He was also Egyptian and we knew that we wanted our band name to reflect that in some way. We pronounce it (he-GAH-zee) with a hard “G” which is the Egyptian pronunciation (most Arabs would use a “J” sound instead).
What is your genre of music?
Give us a little bio about you as a duo and individuals.
Hegazy was born in Staten Island, NYC and features tight twin harmonies and soulful/retro grooves. We sometimes describe our music as Destiny’s Child meets Alabama Shakes, because of the rhythmic vocals and soulful guitar licks. Our first EP was recorded this past summer (2017) with Brooklyn arts collective, Mason Jar Music.
Before officially becoming a duo, we both had separate solo careers and our musical styles were pretty different. While I (Leila) got really into soul/jazz/R&B music and played showcases at SOBs and The Apollo Theater, Omnia was listening to a lot of Middle Eastern music and fusing it with the outspoken pop/rock songs she was writing. She went on to do news interviews on feminism in Islam, and became a pretty well-known activist in the NYC Muslim community. At the time, I was trying to stay away from politics entirely. But both of us have always been passionate about social justice and that’s something that is more important to us now than ever. We played at the UN a few months back, and while we don’t want to be pigeonholed as a “political band” our music will probably always contain some kind of social/political commentary.
At some point both of us hit a wall while writing/pursuing music careers alone, so we started working together more and pooling resources. In the past, we never listened when people told us that we should work together because we felt that our styles were too different. But after college becoming a duo just happened naturally. We were living together and writing songs in adjacent rooms, so our styles eventually met in the middle. We officially became a band after our dad passed away – things were already moving in that direction, and it was what he always wanted.
Are you signed?
Nope! Indie all the way.
You have a new EP ‘Young’ early 2018, what can we expect from it?
You can expect the EP to be light and soulful, but also challenging. All the songs reflect our experience(s) as millennials. Life is confusing enough when you’re in your 20s and trying to get on your feet – add Middle Eastern/Muslim, female, and, musician to that and you’ve got yourself a challenge in this current economic/political climate.
Describe each track in two words.
Alive – uplifting, unapologetic
Here To Stay – satirical, playful
Smolder – sexy, dark
Young – nostalgic, hopeful
Do you have any gigs coming up?
If so, where will you be heading?
Pianos (NYC) on Friday, 12/15. The Show starts at 7PM with Sol Liebeskind and Amira B at 8PM. We play at 9.
What made you go in to music?
We were introduced to music while attending NYC public school, and eventually took private music lessons. It kills us that school music programs are being cut because we would never have ended up pursuing music had it not been for those programs.
Do you play any instruments?
Yes. Leila – keys, Omnia – guitar/violin/cello
Who are your influences?
Aretha Franklin, Oum Kalthoum, Ella Fitzgerald, Destiny’s Child, Juanes, Billy Joel, Emily King, Alabama Shakes
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
Personal experience/observation and current events.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
Hopefully by then we’ll have several successful releases under our belt. This first EP is only the beginning for us. Ideally we’d be touring on a greater scale, selling out larger venues both nationally and abroad.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
Both of us practice yoga/meditation (Leila is a certified yoga instructor). It’s a really important part of our lives.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more in to the music scene?
There wasn’t really one song in particular – we were exposed to so many different types of music (Middle Eastern, soul, jazz, classical, etc.) and all of them contributed to us doing what we’re doing now. A lot of it was unintentional.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
Make the type of music that you’d enjoy listening to, not the type that you think people want to hear. You music has to feel authentic to you. Not everyone will get what you’re about and that’s okay. Focus on the people who get you, not the people who don’t.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
“Be present.” This is something we try to stick by and it’s always easier said than done. Especially since being indie musicians = constantly planning for the future.
What TV show would you love to hear your music on?
Master of None! It’s a super woke show that tackles so many issues and it takes place in our home city of New York.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
Post-cards with our band name/socials on them
Extra instrument cables
You come off tour:
Where do you go? Home. We’re secretly old ladies trapped in 20-something-year bodies.
Who do you see? Family/friends
What do you eat? Pizza, Udon, Sri Lankan food (our neighborhood in Staten Island has some of the most amazing Sri Lankan food in the US)
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?