In support of local talents and the brilliant artists of our city, we bring to you our new segment: Talents of Amman!
So celebrate with us! One of our very own, Hana Malhas
Name: Hana Malhas, Singer-songwriter/performing musician
Facebook Fan page: www.facebook.com/hanamalhas
Hana liks to describe her music as borderless indie folk-pop. She chases summer every year from the US (her current residence) to Amman, Jordan (the hometown she hails from). She sings mostly in English and sometimes in Arabic and performs solo and/or with her band The Overthinkers (which varies from duo to full band) on stages in both the US and the Middle East, she is a storyteller with an expressive vocal delivery.
Her shows over the past year include three of her favorite venues: The Ark in Ann Arbor, Top of the Park at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival and the Citadel in Amman. Places performed include: Michigan (Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit, Dearborn, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Albion), New York City, Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Jordan (Amman), and Lebanon (Beirut).
Hana, tell us from the very beginning how did you get into this industry?
Just like anything else, you get into something once you start believing that what you love can become your reality.
How do you find the music scene in Amman?
Two cool things I've noticed about the Amman scene:
- There is a strong network of Amman musicians, filmmakers, poets, writers, artists and event organizers supporting each other in their work, even across genres. I've seen with others and experienced it myself. Personally, I loved collaborating with other songwriters (Yazan Al Rousan, Aziz Maraka) on songs, and I've shared the stage here with many talented musicians, either as part of my band The Overthinkers (this year it's Odai Shawagfeh and Ghalia Barghouthi) or as guest artists and co-headliners in the past few years, (such as Sahar Khalifeh, Yacoub Abu Goush, Wissam Tobeileh, Alaa Wardi, Dima Bawab and El Morraba3). Not to mention all the other behind-the-scenes individuals that help out.
- The public are thirsty for more live music, and are proud to support local artists.
I think those two things are driving the growth in the Amman music scene. But there's still a disconnect between the music scene and Amman as a community: there aren't enough dedicated performance spaces that are easily accessible to artists, and there is almost no government support for music development; building public awareness about it; music education and subsidies; or live music initiatives. National festivals could be doing so much more to promote local independent artists. It's also a bad sign when a city decides to disband its national orchestra and raise taxes on musical instruments - what does that say about the value it places on music development?
Did you receive support from your Jordanian fans?
Yes! My first official solo gig was at Jara in 2008 - and the audience was amazing. I love playing shows here and seeing both familiar and new faces. In 2011, I got to play my first gig in New York City, and the audience was at least 40% Jordanian, I felt the love! I'm always excited when someone comes up to after a show to tell me they're from Amman (this has happened several times in Michigan). Also, when I launched a kickstarter fundraiser for the current album, there were so many Jordanian backers! I am humbled by that kind of genuine support.
Where is your favorite hang out in Amman?
I'm partial to kitchens and balconies. I also like walking outdoors, especially on Amman summer nights - so I love the areas of Amman that are more pedestrian-friendly, like Jabal Weibdeh and Rainbow street.
Who is your favorite Jordanian and foreign talent?
I think Amman has such talented comedians, my favorite is Wissam Tobeileh because he combines comedy with an insane musical talent.
Foreign talent - I love the work of filmmaker/director/actor Nadine Labaki.
Where have you performed? How did fans interact with you differently at performances in different countries?
I've performed in the US (multiple cities in the midwest and east coast), in Amman, and Beirut. I'm heading to Cairo for the first time in August with my band The Overthinkers to promote the new album, and there is tentative talk of a Europe tour later down the line.
The differences in the audiences has less to do with the country I'm in and more to do with the type of venue - listening room, bars, outdoor festivals, universities, coffee shop, big stages, small stages. Understanding the needs of your audience comes with the territory of being a performing musician. I like trying to find that common ground with each audience to connect on through music. Sometimes it works, and when it does, it's great!
Where can people listen to your music?
I have two CDs out, the current release 'Hana Malhas and the Overthinkers' (June, 2012), and the debut full-length 'Shapeshift' (2010).
You can buy physical CDs from a show! I've got two shows coming up in Amman - August 5th 2012 at Bargo's, and Aug 24th 2012 at Blue Fig.
You can also pick up CDs anytime from Turtle Green or Bargos
If you're more digital, you can stream the music from:
To download/purchase digital copies:
Do you think one can have a solid career in Jordan in music?
No matter where you are, it really depends on what you choose to do in music - production, performance, touring, licensing, scoring, teaching, etc. I think nowadays the independent artist has to have multiple things going on in order to sustain a music career. It also helps to have a team that believes in what you do. But Jordan does have its limitations of market size, and the fact that there isn't an established regional network to support growth beyond Jordan into surrounding countries. In short, you can be based in Jordan but to have a sustainable music career, you can't limit your music activity to its borders (in my opinion).
You live abroad, how has this shaped your music career?
Sometimes I feel like I live in a bridge since I travel so much between the US and Jordan.
In terms of the impact of living and performing in the US:
1) First of all, I have a new album out (June 2012)! 'Hana Malhas and the Overthinkers'. Being in the US really shaped how this album was put together. It was co-produced by Michelle Chamuel, an amazingly talented vocalist, arranger, producer (www.thickglassesmusic.com). Also, my first music video was filmed in Michigan (directed by Ali Saloum) http://youtu.be/h1iicLLf77k. The first album 'Shapeshift' was also affected by me being abroad, it featured 17 artists from Jordan and the US.
2) The visibility of female musicians (touring artists, sound-engineers, bands) is higher there than it is here. So it was really helpful to have successful female peers in the independent music scene that I could interact with and learn from. Also, I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan - a place with so much talent and support for music. That helped me develop as an artist.
3) The ability to perform and tour in the US was invaluable – I learned so much! I also got to meet and open for nationally touring artists that I really admire and visit cities I'd never been to before. Not to mention the breathtaking live shows I got to attend as a listener – I'm so grateful for those, so inspirational.
What inspires you to write songs?
It can be anything from a phrase in a book to a look on someones's face to a melody you can't get out of your head. Always emotionally driven.
Favorite cover you sang?
A lighthearted rendition of MJ's dirty diana I did with friends in Pjs (I was in Pjs they weren't) http://youtu.be/E6ndcCPgJGE, and this spontaneous basement recording of a relatively obscure song for The Frames called Rise http://youtu.be/MNJwkkuye-4
Finally, tell us your ultimate dream?
'Ultimate' requires too much commitment and planning. Let's take it a step at a time and see what comes up along the way. But, I do confess that I daydream about hearing one of my songs on a movie soundtrack. And going on tour with an internationally touring artist that I really admire. And finding that crucial balance between comfortable and stylish when it comes to shoes.
Know of a talent you want to see on our next Talents of Amman?