In this vast universe, nothing is static. Everything has the unlimited capacity for change. Palestinian born and Toronto-based Singer-Songwriter Merna (formerly known as Ayah) blissfully spreads her wings in a space and time where evolution is imminent. After creating magical soundscapes with the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jill Scott) and James Poyser (The Roots), she brazenly forays into uncharted sonic territory and with her dynamic opus The Calling featuring stellar production by Makai Black and executive producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest, Lucy Pearl). Evolution never sounded so sweet.
On The Calling, Merna skillfully sheds the skin of her former self, makes peace with the ghosts of her past, and births a masterpiece in the process. The Calling is equal parts redemption and testimony, chronicling a young woman’s journey to self love, acceptance, and strength. And with the help of producers Makai Black and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Merna stretches out on sonic beds that cull from her wide range of musical influences.
Merna explains, “Musically, I always aim to break my own ground and delve a little more into my history and things that I’ve been influenced by. For example, there are sounds and rhythms on this album that are African and Arab inspired. Not a lot of people know that my first ever band in Abu Dhabi was a Rock band, and that I’m classically trained in piano.”
Thematically, the album sources the raw and honest introspection she’d been experiencing while in New York City. Moving between Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Seattle, and Toronto during her formative years proved to be a gift and a curse. Citing separation anxiety as a threatening force in certain areas of her life, Merna miraculously decided to break from a part of herself that she’d taken years to cultivate: Ayah. She chose to relinquish Ayah for Merna, her birth name which means ‘beloved’ in Arabic.
The Calling opens with “Young & Reckless,” an edgy anthem outlining the self indulgent tendencies of contemporary youth culture. “Intervention (Superman)” finds Merna floating on a blissful cloud of blind faith against a sky of drums and soaring strings. The album hits poignant note on “All I Want (I Wonder),” which was inspired by one of Hip-Hop’s most beloved outcasts: Andre 3000. But the song’s deeper meaning points to the increasingly desensitized state of the general populous. Merna takes a crash course in Trip-Hop on the Ali Shaheed Muhammad-produced “The Reason.” The song magnificently shifts gears in syncopation and crescendo, birthing the makings of a dynamic new world opera. Merna and Ali Shaheed Muhammad return on a hopeful note with the shimmering “A Little More,” an earthy piano ballad that rings with enough soul wrenching passion to give Adele a run for her money – produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammad, with piano by Raymond Angry.
Though the creative process for The Calling involved a deep purging of emotions and vulnerability, the result is a monumental work of art that is destined to be one of the most talked about albums of the year. An album that offers us a glimpse at the evolution of one of the most brilliant artists in recent history. She says, “This album is extremely personal. Truly a reflection of my life. I’m always evolving as a person. Merna is coming full circle. Every part of my universe connected.”
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