People used to call twins Omnia and Leila Hegazy “Thing One” and “Thing Two.” But they were never interchangeable. In fact, each sister went on to have unique journeys in adolescence and in music, attending different schools, nurturing distinct creative visions, and pursuing very different artistic trajectories.
During that complex and confusing post-college transitional time, they lost their father, and the HEGAZY twins also found they had lost their need to be separate. In finding each other, Omnia and Leila discovered a creatively fertile new era. Today, the Staten Island, New York-based twins meet as the group HEGAZY, and issue the exhilarating debut EP Young, produced by Brooklyn-based arts collective Mason Jar Music (Feist, Lake Street Dive, Lucius, Fleet Foxes).
“I think it was in the air that we would become a band, but it unfolded slowly, like we were almost the last to know,” says Leila with a good-natured laugh. “Our father insisted through our lives that we would be stronger as a group, but we were stubborn.” Omnia adds: “Using his name was a way to memorialize him, and a way to shout out our Egyptian heritage which we are very proud of.”
Leila and Omnia blend together in a pop-soul vibe with touches of jazz, indie rock, classic R&B, blues, and folk. Their tracks brim with ethereal atmospherics, simmering B3 organ grooves, dirty rock n’ roll guitars, and infectious pop hooks. HEGAZY’s telepathic vocal interlace is a rarity, the twins weave in and out of phrases, swapping melodies and harmonies, and matching nuances like vibrato and embellishments with what can only be called a wonder of genetic precision. HEGAZY’s lyrics are bold, playful, and insightful looks into the millennial mindset, post-college enlightenment, romance, and politics and race in the current landscape. The tracks on Young would fit comfortably on playlists alongside artists such as Emily King, Gary Clark Jr., Lake Street Dive, Alabama Shakes, and St. Paul & The Broken Bones.
Since HEGAZY’s 2016 official union, the sisters have performed at many venerated NYC venues, including Rockwood Music Hall, Mercury Lounge, and an appearance at the United Nations where the duo performed its pro-immigrant anthem “Here To Stay.” That track, and the euphoric “Alive,” a feel-good ode to following dreams and rising above society’s expectations, are the first two singles released from Young, and have garnered HEGAZY acclaim and prime feature spots. To date, marquee press highlights include coverage in Pop Matters, Inspirer, Buzznet, The Deli, and Lemonade Magazine.
Previously, the twins had successful disparate solo careers with Leila becoming known for her strong R&B soprano vocals and soulful grooves, while Omnia was widely recognized by music and TV media for her unapologetic and sometimes political pop-rock songs. Leila’s highlights in this era have been performing at sanctums of soul such as SOBs and the Apollo Theater, and earning a degree in Studio Composition from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College. She released an EP recorded by Grammy-nominated producer Dr. Joseph Ferry and issued a debut album. Parallel to this, Omnia created a stir with her fiery folk, garnering press from prominent media outlets in both the US and the Middle East, including Fox News, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat. For college, Omnia attended the Clive Davis Institute while balancing a heavy schedule of gigs in the vibrant Lower East Side indie folk scene.
The twins have distinct identities within HEGAZY. Leila’s lyrics tend to be metaphorical, and Omnia’s are viscerally direct. Leila is an accomplished pianist and brings to the duo formal music school training, and her soulfully strong R&B vocal stylings. Omnia was always “the girl with the guitar,” and, within HEGAZY, concentrates on her instrumental prowess on violin and guitar—her bluesy guitar licks lend HEGAZY tracks a soulful edge. Her vocals are the edgy low alto ones, and she also shares lead vocals with Leila. In addition, Omnia is business-minded and tech-savvy.
Omnia and Leila grew up in Staten Island, New York with their Brooklyn-Italian mother and Egyptian father. The Hegazy family wasn’t musical, but, it seemed, the twins were born with an affinity for music. By grammar school Leila and Omnia were self-proclaimed “band nerds.”
Up until high school, the two had merged identities, and even wrote songs together, but wisely opted to attend separate high schools and colleges. This time apart was crucial for the twins’ development as individuals.
The sisters maintained this space after college but would still contend with awkward moments like someone hugging the wrong person after one twin’s gig. After years of being physically apart, in 2012 the sisters found themselves sharing an apartment. While writing songs in adjacent rooms, their sounds eventually began to meet in the middle, and, with the careful prodding of those closest to them, they began to collaborate. When their father passed away days before the start of 2016, Leila and Omnia officially came together in HEGAZY.
On HEGAZYs debut, Young, the duo balance moments of levity with sharp social commentary, and offer a window into that weird time after college but before jaded adulthood kicks in. The four-song EP opens with the sweetly epiphanic “Alive” which, with slow-burn soulfulness and mesmerizing throwback touches of the Hammond B3, offers a rousing time-is-now messaging. Omnia wrote the song about her own time living a double life working a 9-to5 job and slowly seeing the grind sap her of what she loved the most, music. The accompanying music video was shot documentary style, following five real people in NYC around with a camera crew and chronicling that exhaust cycle of balancing day-jobs with passions and side hustles.
The timely “Here To Stay” uses playful lyrics for biting political commentary tying in with the US immigrant rights movement (#HereToStay). The song is slinky and seething, glowering with a haunting pop-R&B aesthetic, evocative lyrics, stinging wit, and vocals that mind the line between honeyed R&B and silky jazz. Leila says: “On ‘Here To Stay’ we explored stereotypes people have about immigrants, and their fears. The idea is to shine a light on the absurdity of xenophobia while also flipping what people say about us on its head in a way that is empowering.” The song’s accompanying video concentrates on diverse groups of children harmoniously at play, offering forth a subtly powerful message: racism is taught.
The tracks “Smolder” and “Young” exude sleek jazzy touches and a cinematic atmosphere. “Smolder” grapples with the maturation of young love, and the disappointment and reflection that happens after the butterflies in the belly pass and you have to grapple with reality. “Young” features sophisticated jazz-informed songcraft and lush orchestration.
Up next, the twins will be releasing more music and they will embark on a US tour. Mulling over their legacy as a family and as artists, Omnia says: “I’m proud of us that we knew who we were as kids and stuck to our paths.” Leila adds: “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
“If you’re looking for songs with a soul, and talented artists with something meaningful to say, HEGAZY is the answer to your prayers.” – Babetalk
“All in all, HEGAZY have succeeded in creating a tight four-track package that is simply a joy to listen to.” – Good Music Matters (Review of the Young EP)
“Their [HEGAZY’s] smooth blend of pop and soul has an immediate effect.” – Teal Cheese
“Twins Leila and Omnia Hegazy are not only proving to the world that two is better than one, but also that music with a message can still be entertaining and fun.” – Talk Nerdy With Us
“Hegazy’s music is proof that, at the end of the day, a social message truly is a spiritual one…” – Diandra Reviews It All