Keep New Times Free

Whisperlights' "Ulna Habenaha," Explained by the Band

The Whisperlights have released plenty of catchy songs between their debut EP, Wake up Dead, and their upcoming full-length album, Surfaces. The new album explores new sounds with violinist/singer Tobie Milford picking up a guitar on tracks that shift away from themes of death to subtle love songs.

What makes the album particularly unique is "Ulna Habenaha," a song sang entirely in Arabic that translates to "We said we loved her." The song is showing up more and more frequently on their setlist.

After the jump, Wasef El-Kharouf explains the background of "Ulna Habenaha," along with a stream of the song.

Wasef gave me a quick Arabic lesson to help explain the song. "Us Arabs transliterate Arabic lettering into Latin using numbers because the numbers look like our letters that represent certain sounds that don't exist in English."

"It's about the guilt I felt after realizing that when my little sister needed me to understand her the most, when she was going through a difficult time in her later teens, I thought I was doing the right thing by being distant because I thought I was a bad influence on her. It ended up backfiring and caused a little rift between us for a couple of years. Ultimately, it's about trying to understand someone rather than insist on a particular fix.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

'7elweh, bass za3laneh', the 'she's beautiful but she's sad' line comes from these two guys who were walking behind her in downtown Geneva speaking to one another in Arabic not knowing that she understood them. That tends to happen a lot in multi-national Geneva. One of the guys said she was pretty and his friend said, 'Yeah, but she's sad', then he started clapping and singing it in stereotypical Arab fashion. My sister then looked behind her and said, 'Min shoftak' -- 'it's from looking at your face.'"

Singer/guitarist Illya Riske adds, "I had this progression, I brought it in and we started playing it, and then one day Wasef started singing along to it. When we stopped, he was like, 'I dunno about that,' and I screamed, 'No, that's perfect! That's exactly how it needs to sound!'"

The Whisperlights' Surfaces CD Release party is scheduled for Tuesday, June 28 at The Duce.

Ulna Habenaha by Awesomefossum

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.