wears the trousers magazine

introducing ayah marar


voice on the verge #36: ayah marar 

visit Ayah on Myspace

Jordan-born Ayah Marar relocated to London at the heady, energetic age of 18, and began her quest for world domination shortly thereafter. Sassy, smart and talented, she recorded her first song ‘Let Me Know’ with Scottish chart-botherer Calvin Harris back in 2004. Currently working on both Calvin’s new record and her own much anticipated debut, she’s also the voice behind the chorus to Jack Peñate’s recent hit ‘Tonight’s Today’ and even more recent single ‘Be The One’. Toddla T and Nextmen have also requested her presence on their respective upcoming albums, and she’s become a growing force in the drum and bass community, featuring on Fabio & Grooverider’s Radio 1 show and co-owning the successful d&b imprint Lucky Devil Music.

Ayah’s new single ‘My Spy’ (out July 6th) is already enjoying lots of airplay on MTV Arabia and on playlists across the Middle East, and should spark off her rich, soulful vocals just in time for the UK summer season. Counting everything from Sam Cooke and Rage Against The Machine to Prince and Peter Tosh as influences, Ayah clearly knows her music and isn’t afraid to add her own raunchy, assertive magic to the mix. She isn’t just an amazing voice though – she’s a personality, complete with informed opinions, honest critiques, cracking humour and excellent taste in early ’80s cartoons. Read on and find out for yourself…

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What’s your middle name?

This is pretty special. In the Middle East, you get your dad and grandad’s names as your own middle names. So mine is Oussama Tawfiq.

What were you like at school?

Very talkative. My mum would come to parent meetings and be told by the teachers that I talked too much in class, but when asked what was going on I always knew so they couldn’t tell me off.

What’s your earliest memory?

I’ve recently been getting flashbacks of a time at nursery school when we were taken to a farm to check out the animals. I decided it would be a good idea to wait until my teacher and 30 screaming children went into a huge chicken pen full of demented chicks, lock the gate behind them and wander off to have a look at the other animals on my own. They were in there for around 45 minutes before anyone let them out. I was made to stand in a corner when we got back to school until my mum arrived. She thought it was hilarious, incidentally.

What did you listen to when you were growing up?

Music in the Marar household was an interesting soundclash to say the least. My dad was into Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills & Nash and early Elton John, with some traditional Arabic music thrown in for good measure. Mum was into Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, The Beatles, Eric Clapton etc. In the midst of this, I emerged with a love of jazz, funk, soul, hip hop and reggae.

Who was your childhood idol?

I had a huge girl crush on Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee lady. I thought she was the most interesting and selfless person in the world and I wanted to be her quite badly.

What would you tell your 18 year old self if you could go back in time?

I was, and still am to an extent, a pretty trusting sort of person. Although I’d never be intentionally off-key to anyone, I’d probably tell a young me that not everyone deserves the love and trust that they’re given, so it’s best to save it for those that are deserving. That way you don’t wear yourself out emotionally.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever worked and what was so bad about it?

I once worked at a big lingerie chain in Leamington Spa. I thought it might turn out to be pretty glamorous, but the reality was I was stuck in a tiny back room with no windows, steaming underwear to hang up in the shop. I even had to eat my lunch in there!

What did you want to be until you decided to become a musician…if you ever did ‘decide’ that is!

I really wanted to be an investigative reporter when I was young, until I realised that all news stations are governed by their own political agenda. I loved the idea of travelling around the world and the danger and excitement that could come with being in that line of work. I never really decided to be a musician though, it’s just been there my whole life in one way or another.

Which female musicians have most inspired you?

Erykah Badu was probably one of the first artists that made me want to be a proper performer as well as a musician. She takes her work seriously enough to be considered a talented artist, but also puts on such a show. She’s inspirational.

Which artist would you most like to work with – your dream collaboration?

I would probably kill someone to work with Prince. There’s no other artist that has been such a big influence on both pop and underground music and I adore him.

What’s your favourite song to cover and why?

My guitarist, Rami, and I decided to do a cover of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’ at an acoustic night once. I loved the puzzled looks on people’s faces when the riff came in and started ringing bells in their heads, and then everyone joined in. Also, Zack de la Rocha was my one-sided teenage love affair!

Have you ever written a song that wasn’t in English? If so, was it difficult?

It’s so hard to write a song in Arabic! I’ve tried! I think the main problem is that you have classical and colloquial Arabic. I couldn’t get away with classical as it comes across as old fashioned, and it’s not so easy to sing as you speak. Might happen one day though!

If you could star in any TV show, past or current, which would it be and what kind of character would you play?

I was obsessed with, and wanted to be Arcee, a female Autobot Transformer in the cartoon series. She was bright pink, but she was also a badass. She was a gunner and an excellent marksman. I’d love to be the voice of a cartoon someday too.

What’s your top household tip?

Clean as you go! It makes life a lot easier. I’m pretty serious about keeping a clean house, it’s my mother’s OCD legacy. Whistling while you work is a winner too.

What are your pet hates?

You know those thin bits of sticky film that you get on the face of a new phone or watch? Well, they make me crazy. Especially when people leave them on for ages, or worse still, when they try to peel them off then decide against it, and you’re left with an infuriating upturned corner. It’s getting me upset just thinking about it. Otherwise, I’m pretty easy going!

What’s the biggest problem facing the world today and do you have any ideas on how it could be addressed?

I think the biggest issue is that the world is run, for the most part, by selfish people out for personal gain. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look out for yourself and your family, but when you’re given a position of power, there should be a balance. It can only change if people change their attitudes and think of the greater good instead of their castles and moats.

What’s your favourite quote?

“You only get a little spark of madness. Don’t lose it.” – Robin Williams

What’s your tipple?

My own creation of dark rum, pineapple and coconut juice, lime, brown sugar and lots of ice. Too nice.

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

It’s still too early to tell but I always feel proud of myself and all womankind when I sort my car out. Nothing fancy, just getting the wheels pumped, filling the windscreen washer, that sort of thing. Very empowering.

Tick tock, tick tock. What you waiting, what you waiting for?

Probably the 322 bus that stops on my road but only comes by if you’re very lucky, and the minute you light a fag, obviously.

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Charlotte Richardson Andrews


1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

I totally agree with her pet hate!

Comment by Michelle

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