With her captivating multi-octave voice and persuasive cross-cultural message, vocalist and songwriter Mayssa Karaa defines a new era of musical inclusion. Her songs tell of a journey connecting her origins in the ancient land of Lebanon to her adopted home of Los Angeles, California. She is about to launch her full-length English solo debut, ‘Simple Cure’.
Growing up in Lebanon, Mayssa was trained in classical music. While she loved singing, a future in civil engineering was her life plan. It was the sage advice of a French conductor that guided her to a professional music career. “He told me, ‘When you meet God he’s going to tell you, ‘I gave you a gift–what did you do with it?’ That was the turning point in my career. Fortunately, my dad had already applied to Berklee College of Music in Boston for me and had an audition set up.”
On ‘Simple Cure’, Mayssa says that most of her lyrics have their origins in conversations. “I would speak with my producer Richard Jacques, tell him something that I remembered, and we would come up with the lines and hooks to relate these stories.” When you put all the songs of the album together, you will understand the full story that lays behind.
The songs range from piano-based simplicity to epic electronic orchestration. Among the highlights is “‘Simple Cure’,” which speaks to finding peace through the miraculous power of inner strength, even in the chaos of a modern world. As Mayssa sings, “Step in the air, breathe in the stars, the ‘Simple Cure’ is every heart.”
“Call Me a Stranger”–the album’s opening track really captures the story Mayssa tells on ‘Simple Cure’. “I went into the studio angry,” she remembers. “I have been in the U.S. for 11 years, almost half of my life, but sometimes I feel like I am in between two places, like I have lost a part of my identity. Every time I meet someone who doesn’t know about my part of the world, I am compelled to tell them about the richness of my culture and traditions.” After sharing these emotions with her producer, he suggested that she turn these truths into lyrics.
“Richard turned my anger into creativity,” Mayssa says.
Cinema audiences might identify Mayssa’s voice from the hit film American Hustle, where her Arabic version of the ’60s classic “White Rabbit” was a standout track on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack album. Television audiences might recognize her from the popular PBS Special, Enrico Caruso: His Life, His Cities, His Music, featuring Placido Domingo in Naples. (She is also featured in the follow-up that was released in the Spring of 2018.) International families might identify her with “The Arabic Alphabet Song” from Sesame Street that generated over 22 million YouTube views.
Melding Arabic influences into Western music is Mayssa’s forte: notable recordings in her catalog include a version of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” accompanied by the band’s Scott Page, to which both Roger Waters and David Gilmour granted their blessings. Mayssa traveled to Detroit, Michigan to honor Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legend Bob Seger. Fronting a band organized by the distinguished producer Don Was, she performed a haunting version of Seger’s “Turn the Page” in both English and Arabic during the 22nd Annual “Concert Of Colors” in 2014 at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI.
With the U.S. as her current home base, Mayssa, who sings in nine languages, has traveled the world performing music in a fusion of east and west, with key performances in palatial settings for the L.A. Philharmonic, as well as in the United Arab Emirates, in Belgrade, Serbia, at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, at the UNESCO in Paris, and stateside for featured concerts at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
With music as her passport, Mayssa says that it was never an intention to come to the U.S. and live inside of a bubble. “I came here to expand, to tell others about my culture and learn about theirs. What surprised me was how people here are open to learning about new cultures, and how free I felt. I was born and raised in Lebanon, but I am very much an American, too. I’m like you.”
Mayssa sums it up, saying, “The moral of the album’s story is that you leave your home looking for a better place in pursuit of happiness, away from what you’ve known your whole life. A different place maybe with more opportunities. You try to fit in a new ‘planet’ of strangers, and try to leave a part of you behind. Even though you’re possibly denying who you really are in order to be loved or accepted! After discovering the meaning of life through various experiences, you finally realize it’s what was shaped in your early life that made you who you are today. It will always be a part of you wherever you go, and you can’t let it go. People you encounter everywhere else will have to accept you the way you are and that you should embrace it instead of trying to change it: The ‘Simple Cure’ is you!
SOURCE: Official Bio