Life On A Tightrope: A Story of Positivity from The Voice Israel’s First Palestinian Winner, Lina Makhul.

Photography: Jack Alexander
Hair & Makeup: Guy Tako

Words: Miles Holder

After receiving 62% of the overall vote, Lina Makhul first stormed to notoriety by becoming the first Palestinian winner of Israel’s, The Voice. Lina’s road to victory was not an easy one, however; during her acceptance speech Lina alluded to the cyber bullying that attempted to halt her ascension through the competition but emblematic of her always positive attitude, she mainly used the time to thank the Israeli public for voting in spite of their cultural differences.

That was 2013 and while Lina has made a name for herself in Israel, she is still relatively unknown on the global music scene – before today…With the release of Lina’s music video for track ‘Can’t Keep Falling’, FAULT travelled to Israel to photograph and interview Lina during her two-day music video shoot and to discuss just what it takes to become Israel’s most exciting new artist.

Meeting Lina, she is outgoing, fun, bubbly and talkative but despite her “devil may care” attitude, it’s clear that beneath her outward demeanour, she is an extremely focussed, business minded and determined musician who is no stranger to a hard work. Day one was a nineteen-hour video shoot in the middle of the Judean desert and not a minute went by when Lina wasn’t hard at work.

 

 

 

FAULT: How do you stay so positive?

Lina: I love doing what I do and I’m always positive because I’m living my one true dream.

Becoming the first Palestinian to win a major singing contest in Israel’s history while, a great feat, it also came at a price. Lina’s win saw her became the shared success story of two famously opposing houses – a large weight to bear for any nineteen-year-old.

 

FAULT: The Voice wasn’t the first time in your life that you faced persecution. How did you overcome the challenge of connecting with the Israeli public?

Lina: If you want to get to people’s heart, you must first allow them into your heart. I couldn’t force them to like me, it was about opening my heart to the audience and allowing them to make a decision on me through what they saw. We’re all people at the end of the day and I think that’s how I made people forget about the typecasting and political undertones of my being on The Voice.

 

FAULT: Do you ever fall into the trap of trying to please everyone at your own demise?

Lina: Yes, but it’s part of the everyday struggle of being a Palestinian in Isreal. I’ve always made it my mission to prove that Palestinians are really no different from Israelis. Our culture and language might be different but at the end of the day, we’re all citizens of the world and should see past it.

When I won The Voice I was only nineteen and I barely knew who I was but despite that, I was trying to please everyone and that made it was very difficult for me to find myself. I was always so scared to upset a group of people that I would lose all personality. It’s different now and I’m tired of it – my opinion is mine and mine alone and if I can go to sleep happy with what I’ve said that day, then I will continue to live my life this way.

I’ve realised that I don’t have to be the ambassador of anyone but myself and because I am such a supporter of my Palestinian roots and Israeli/ USA upbringing, they will all be proud of me for striving for success in all of their names.

 

 

Listening to tracks taken from Lina’s upcoming album, it’s no doubt that Lina can sing. While there are often negative connotations with television competitions winners, Lina’s vocal range and rich tones, place her on a par (and in many cases above) that of contemporary western musicians. This is as true with her up-tempo tracks as it is with her more sombre ballads, but don’t take my words on it alone – FAULT’s previous cover stars Adam Lambert and Alicia Keys have both also taken a liking to Lina.

 

Lina: I downloaded Alicia Keys’ latest album and I loved it for how real it was. She totally exposed herself and revealed so much. Her song Holy War just touched me so much as an American born Palestinian living in Israel, I just needed to record it. I wrote out the words in Arabic and just put everything out there and sang about a number of modern day issues which were weighing on my mind. About a month later, my phone freezes and I’m so confused but it turns out that I was just being inundated with messages from fans that Alicia Keys had shared my version with.

I just love her, I’ve loved all her music and even when I auditioned for The Voice I sang one of her songs.

In 2016, Queen and Adam Lambert brought their tour to Israel and hand picked a local talent that would embody their own personal flare of individualism – that person was Lina.

I got the call three months before the show from my manager but I honestly didn’t believe it would ever happen. I thought “no way, they’ll cancel on me”. It didn’t hit me until the concert that it was actually happening. Queen, Adam Lambert, fifty thousand people and I was so scared but the minute I went on stage I just snapped into action. I closed my eyes when I started singing and when I opened them I had the whole audience singing back to me.

 

FAULT: You’ve also gone on to cover ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ mixing Arabic and English lyrics on your album.

Lina: After the concert, I fell in love with the moment and I wanted to cherish it forever. I went back to the studio and the minute we were done I said “excuse me for a second I want to do something” and I started writing lyrics in Arabic to add to the song and everyone loved it and it felt so good that the lyrics just came out without me even putting pen to paper.

 

 

However, the time for covers is over and Lina is ready to release her original material. Above you’ll find Lina’s first music video for ‘Can’t Keep Falling’ which was co-written by Lina herself.

 

FAULT: Now that it’s out, how do you feel about the track?

Lina: I just love the song and not because it’s my song, it’s just me and I’d love it even if a different artist was singing it.

While ‘Can’t Keep Falling’ is a perfect choice and released at the right time as we enter the summer season, Lina’s album is also laden with personal musical numbers, none more personal than the albums title track ‘Walking On A Tightrope’. The track conveys Lina’s musical journey and her diverse cultural upbringing as she sings in both English and Arabic. The beautiful song penned by the legendary Karen Poole.

 

FAULT: Tell us the story behind ‘Walking On A Tightrope’

Lina: It all started when I was recording in London with Karen and she turns and says, “I feel like your whole life story has been you walking on this tightrope. You’re from Palestine but you won The Voice Israel and now you’re here in London being very careful with the words you say and trying to please so many people” and it just got to me on a deeper level. My life is a tightrope, one filled with ups and downs and shaky moments but that is also true for many different people out there.
As personal as the song is to me, it also rings true for many other people from different walks of life and it’s that shared experience that reinforces the notion that we are all bound by our similarities and not divided by them.

 

 

FAULT: You have a lot of personal songs on the album, is it hard to put so much of your story out there for public scrutiny?

Lina: After The Voice I was so scared to put out music that I wrote; I didn’t want people to know how I really felt, I just wanted people to know what I wanted them to know and let that be it. Now, I need to share my life with the audience. I want them to know who I am. It’s a privilege to have people care about my opinion so I owe it to my audience to be truthful.

FAULT: And Lastly, what is your FAULT?

Lina: I’m impatient and want everything to happen straight away! When I record a new song, I just want to release it there and then and for my fans to hear my whole album straight away but I’m learning the importance of taking it slow and releasing when my music is perfectly me.

 

Returning back to the UK, there is no doubt in our mind that Lina has a bright future in music ahead of her. With a strong first single and many equally as strong follow-ups to come in the near future, Lina has all the potential take the European and American music scene by storm. Be it her empathic songwriting,
her continued messages of unity, her powerhouse vocal or her fierce yet endearing personality – while no longer forcing it, Lina will continue to be a musician to mean so much to many different people.

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FAULT Feature: Broken City actress Alona Tal

The trouble with dreams is that for most people they are just that; dreams. Very few of us ever get to have their dream become their reality. Actress Alona Tal is one of those few.

Starring along side Hollywood A-listers Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta Jones and Mark Wahlberg in the new political thriller Broken City, Alona is far from the young girl she once was growing up in Israel dreaming of becoming a house cleaner.

After working in the Israeli film and TV industry throughout her adolescents, and during a stint in the Israeli Defence Force, Alona had a new dream, one that would take her to Hollywood…

FAULT: What was it about your character in Broken City that made you want to play her?
Alona: Because she is a woman trying to get by in a male driven environment. I can relate to that what with being in the military, coming to America, and working in the entertainment industry. And of course being in the company I was in. They’re people who represent what I’m after as an actress coming into this business. Being in a list of cast members that include those names was definitely a factor.

You were born in Israel, and we hear so many different stories, but can you tell me what it was really like for you growing up and living there?
I had a wonderful childhood coming from Israel. It’s like, where are you from?

Scotland.
So people have preconceived notions about what it’s like being in Scotland. ‘oh it rains, people drinking all the time,’ whatever – and sometimes it’s true, but not all of the time. Nobody walks around all the time with a helmet on their head like they’re going into battle, but there is definitely an air of awareness, which is different than in other places. When you’re in Hawaii resting on the beach you’re not going to be aware of the sort of things that you will when you’re in Israel. That’s really all it is. It’s a really incredible country that is just in an area that’s a little sensitive, but it has beautiful beaches, amazing food, and it is very progressive.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was about six I wanted to clean houses. I remember getting very angry with my mum when she wouldn’t give me the broom to sweep. But I don’t know what happened to that dream. I had always liked performing for my family, and it all just came about when I got a job on a movie in Israel. I don’t remember the moment when I decided that that’s what I wanted to do, It wasn’t a conscious decision to pursue anything with my life, but I knew that I was going to be an actress.

What prompted your move to America?
Every business has a Mecca, and for acting and creating it’s Los Angeles. I knew that very early on. I’d watched the movies and I saw the potential and opportunities, and even though I had a beautiful life in Israel and the work, I wanted to capitalise on those opportunities. So with the support of my sister, who encouraged me, I moved to Hollywood.

What was the dream back then? You would go to America and what would happen?

When I made the decision to come, I was apprehensive because I was going to be so far from home and my family and my friends, but my mother told me, ‘go for 4 years, and if nothing happens, come back.’ I was willing to work at anything. I was praying for the Gods – or whatever you want to call it – to give me a sign that I was making the right move, and then when I got to Los Angeles I got it – so I realised that it was the right path.

What was the sign?
I got a development deal with Warner Bros within the first week that I was in the casting line.

So now you have had that first dream realized, what is the dream now?
To keep working. To have fun. To keep making quality movies.

Are you living the American dream?
I don’t know if I’m living the American dream. I think that concept has changed in the past few years. I can only interpret that as a foreigner, and for me, the American dream is the opportunity to live with your personal concept of what you want for yourself to achieve. So I think if that is the definition, then I am well on my way to fulfilling the American dream… which is my dream… my own personal little dream.

All photography by Collin Stark