Palestinian born and Toronto-based singer/songwriter Merna (formerly known as Ayah) is presenting her global experience on the new album The Calling. The 10-track LP was inspired by African and Arab sounds and rhythms, and it also contains elements of rock, soul, and classical music.
After living in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Seattle, and Toronto, Merna used her time in New York City as a basis for the themes confronted on The Calling. The classically trained pianist further embraced an NYC tone by recruiting Brooklyn's Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest to executive produce the album.
"The Calling is a marvelous and haunting dance of voice and poetry that unmask the magnificent and dreadful aspects of love," states Muhammad. "Merna's voice is both soulful and zesty. She sings with a sense of urgency and calm. My ears are a ringing with The Calling."
In the latest edition of "Three Questions," AllHipHop.com spoke with Merna to find out why she killed off "Ayah" in favor of her birth name, which ATCQ tracks would make her must have playlist, and what career path would likely have been her plan-b option.
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Why did Merna kill Ayah?
One had to die for the other to live. Human nature is so that we feel like we need to hold on to things: materials, people, ideas, egos, etc. We're so scared of death when it is a part of life, as is evolution.
You worked with Ali Shaheed Muhammad on your album. What are your five favorite A Tribe Called Quest songs and why?
Just 5? Okay. “Bonita Applebum” - the samples are brilliant. The chords, sweet. Love and Hip Hop at its finest. “Find A Way” - isn't it interesting how the world works? DJ Jazzy Jeff and I sampled this on our mixtape right before I met Ali. Always loved the storytelling on this, indicative of the chase early in relationships.
“Can I Kick it?” Yes, you can. The ultimate call and answer and original turn up. “Electric Relaxation” - sexy record, storytelling on point. “Check the Rhime” - “And a middle finger to the punk emcees.” Well, that's pretty self-explanatory. Too many of those around, and I'm hype. Shout out to having high musical standards.
ATCQ always delivered. They set the tone for many really. Production was always so catchy, signature, and feel good, with flows to match. You know how music can transport you to a place and time in your life? Tribe brings me back to Toronto in the 2000's when I first moved back, when parties were fun, and the vibe was always right. I miss that.
If being a musician hadn't been your calling, what profession do you think you may have pursued?
Definitely something in the social sector. I'm really passionate and fascinated by love versus the human mind, and how that affects the world and society, culture, politics, etc.