Lebanese-American Singer, Mayssa Karaa, receives National award for her vocal performance of “White Rabbit”- Arabic rendition in the film American Hustle
Lebanon’s Cultural Minister Gaby Layoun honored Mayssa Karaa with a national cultural award at the American Hustle premiere held in Beirut, Lebanon.
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Lebanon’s Cultural Minister Gaby Layoun honored Mayssa Karaa with a national cultural award at the American Hustle premiere held in Beirut, Lebanon. “She has created a significant artistic bridge between our culture and audiences around the world. She has made an impact both in Hollywood and as a role model for young women here and abroad. In a world filled with sad days, this is one that brings us great joy and pride for Lebanon”.
Karaa, 24 and recent graduate of Berklee College of music was chosen late last year to sing this new rendition Arabic adaptation of the iconic song by Jefferson Airplane “White Rabbit”. The song was written and produced in Arabic by renowned composers and music producers Dawn Elder, Mark Batson, Hanin Omar under the direction of American Hustle’s music supervisor Susan Jacobs. This is the first time Arabic lyrics are highlighted in such a manor in a major Hollywood film. This is a testament to David O’ Russell’s creative intellect. Mayssa Karaa’s vocal performance in Arabic not only surprises audiences but her powerful and haunting vocals have been hailed by critics internationally as one of the movie’s most dynamic songs. Her voice conveys the intensity of a pivotal scene featuring Robert De Niro, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jenifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Karaa’s voice not only stays true to Slick’s iconic performance, but finds its own unique color and powerful tone making the scene memorable. “This is who I am,” says Mayssa, “not Middle Eastern all the way, not rock all the way. I am creating my own style.”
Born in 1989, near the close of a 15-year conflict in Lebanon, Mayssa began singing at very early age in Beirut with her local school choir, and at the age of 7 singled out by the school’s music director as one of the most talented out of hundreds. Recognizing her artistic talent, her parents encouraged her to pursue a musical education and enrolled her into the Conservatory of Beirut alongside her regular studies. Soon after, Mayssa was performing at a variety of events for non-profit charities including UNESCO.
In 2006, as a new conflict embroiled Lebanon, Mayssa and her family felt it would safer for them to return to the United States. Mayssa’s father was convinced that music was his daughter’s true calling—and insisted she takes an opportunity to audition at the Berklee College of Music. On her first audition, Mayssa was given admission to this prestigious music institute. Karaa’s talents now had the opportunity to flourish and be nurtured. Berklee is alma mater to many of America’s top artists. Balancing her Arabic music roots with her classical background, Mayssa found powerful new allies to champion her artistic development, including performing at the French consulate for French diplomats and at the Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall for World War II veterans in 2010 .
Through another unexpected turn of events, Mayssa was introduced to Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito, who had come to Boston to perform. After a short audition, she soon began touring with him, establishing a lasting bond between them. In the summer of 2013, she joined him in Naples to perform in the forthcoming documentary, “Enrico Caruso: His Life, His Music, His City.”
In her final year at Berklee, Mayssa became a student of the Luminary Arabic music composer, educator Simon Shaheen. Shaheen too recognized an outsized talent, and began including Mayssa in his own concerts tours around the United States and Canada.
At Christmas time in 2011, Mayssa returned to Beirut to give her first official concert at the American University of Beirut’s Assembly Hall, joined by two other exceptional Berklee students for a sold out audience. In 2012, she received her degree from the Legendary Glen Fry and members of the Eagles. Mayssa soon began touring US cities with the Berklee World Strings Orchestra and sang a challenging piece by Hafez Nazeri, in Persian featuring the poetry of Rumi.
At Berklee, Mayssa also delved into Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European music. With her song writing skills sharpening, she recorded her first pop rock song called “Winter to Spring,” a collaborative project with two other Berklee students. Through these experiences, Mayssa’s voice has matured to become a staggeringly powerful instrument.
Mayssa’s manager, and co-author of the Arabic Adaptation of “White Rabbit” Dawn Elder says, “Mayssa has the capability to cross over like no other artist before her. The unique colors, perfect intonation, range and grittiness in her voice would be enough alone to make her a stand out star, but it is her versatility in both English, Arabic, not to mention Italian, French and Persian that makes her a one of a kind. This is rather unprecedented especially between Arabic, and English. Her passion for rock music and desire to bring an organic fusion with Middle Eastern music to her songs is both refreshing and exciting.”. I knew she was the perfect voice for this song, and collaboration. Mayssa Karaa has gone on to perform the song at numerous premieres for American Hustle from New York to Dubai, stunning audiences with her amazing voice and charisma. O’ Russell, Cooper, Adams, and audiences alike are thrilled with this rendition and what it brings to the movie.