MINI : Beyond Native — Reem Ekay


Reem Ekay

Architect, singer and spoken word artist

You’re an architect, singer and spoken word artist – a discipline that encompasses word play and poetry. What does spoken word signify for you?

Every poet has their own definition. But for me, it stems from the culture of hip hop, which was partly based on MCing when it first started in the 1970s. MCs were recognised based on their lyrical skill. Spoken word gives me the ability to use my words to illustrate my story.


Which of the three – architecture, singing or spoken word – came first?

For the longest time I was a closet singer. The audience I had were the tiles in my shower. But I’ve always been writing and it’s something that comes to me naturally. Over the years courage and confidence allowed me to stand in front of an audience and perform.

Architecture was a happy accident. I grew up watching Oprah and loved the idea of make- overs. Then I got into the American University of Sharjah and got picked for the architectural programme. I found myself in it because I love creating experiences for people. Architecture helps orchestrate how people behave in specific places.


And how has architecture come to influence your practice as a singer and spoken word artist?

I feel a very deep correlation between these disciplines. With spoken word, it’s all about how you deliver the message: the sequence and the narrative. And that principle has a place in music and architecture as well.


You were born and raised in Dubai. Which aspects of the city influence your practice?

Growing up, Dubai was all I knew. I didn’t travel much and so I thought everywhere else was the same. Dubai is a beautiful melting pot. Culture was a bit hidden though. You had to look for it – like the old basketball game courts and skate parks at Wonderland. Right now, what inspires me is Design Days, Fashion Forward, Sole DXB – up and coming talent being showcased. The people, rather than places, are what inspire me.


What music do you listen to for inspiration?

I’m a rap head at heart. And sometimes this bounces off to neo-soul and RNB. I love Portuguese rap at the moment although I don’t understand the lyrics. For sure the Wu- Tang Clan is at the top of my list, as well as Lauryn Hill, Sade and the new generation of artists who mix various genres into their compositions. Back in the 1980s and 1990s genres also had a lot of layers and were pushing boundaries. They would surprise – there was less predictability.


MINI FASHION’s BEYOND NATIVE campaign highlights that background diversity is what leads to freshness of ideas. What’s your take on that?

I would say yes in the sense that what you associate with the idea of home is different from the person on your left. And sometimes there are cases where different cultures have similar habits and at other times not. But originality sometimes comes as overrated – instead of re-inventing the wheel, why don’t we build upon it? Because in the end, if you want to appeal to the masses you need to find a common ground that everyone will understand.


Meet the artists

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Graffiti artist

Basil AlHadi

Songwriter, DJ and the lead singer of Karrouhat

Find out more about MINI FASHION here.