While many young women her age are singing about parties and boyfriends over the same beats as everyone else, New York singer-songwriter Omnia tackles weightier world issues head-on with grace and passion. Combining modern pop styles with the rich flavors of her Mediterranean heritage, the East-meets-West result is fresh, engaging music with a message of empowerment.
Shortly after releasing an official music video for her song “Grace” on International Women’s Day (see the video over on the Lyrical Venus Tumblr), Omnia took the time to answer some questions for Lyrical Venus. Read on for her answers, and tune in to the Lyrical Venus Radio Hour on Tuesday, 3/27/12 at 9am Central to hear a featured set of Omnia’s music. And of course you can always check out her website to hear and learn more!
1. What inspired you to start writing songs? Has your source of inspiration changed?
I started writing songs when I was 11 with my twin sister Leila, who is also a musician. Before I played the guitar, I would stand at the piano while my sister played and we would sing until what we were singing would turn into a song. We wrote a few songs together and then she started writing songs on her own. I’ll admit that the need to write songs started with the need to compete with my sister. We’re identical twins and we’ve been compared to each other our whole lives. But now my inspiration comes from my need to talk about issues that matter to me. A lot of people tend to only write about their own experiences, and while a lot of my songs are based on my own narrative, I also enjoy being an observer and telling other people’s stories.
2. Where is your favorite place to sing?
My favorite place to sing is The Bitter End in Greenwich Village. It’s one of the first venues in New York City that I performed at, and it’s where I feel at home. The sound there is always amazing and it’s just all-around great place for a singer/songwriter.
3. What’s the hardest thing about performing? What’s the best thing?
Performing forces you to live in the moment. We spend most of lives planning out the future: what we’re doing next week, next month, a year from now, five years from now. When I’m performing, I have no choice but to focus on the now, which is a beautiful thing. The flipside of that though is that leaving your personal life at the door is very difficult. When you have a bad day or you’re not feeling completely yourself, you still have a commitment to your audience. It is your job to give them a good show, whether you’re feeling one hundred percent or not.
4. What things are you passionate about besides music?
I’m that girl at the dinner table who will argue about politics until you have no strength yet. In another life, I’d probably want to be a politician (most likely the first female president). I’m passionate about freedom and the fact that all people deserve to experience it, so any violation of human rights makes my blood boil. I’m also a feminist. Maybe it stems from being a woman in a very sexist music industry. I’m sure my Middle Eastern heritage also has something to do with it. We’re not living in an equal society when women are still stoned and the sound guy still patronizes me (when in fact I went to school for music production and know he’s being lazy).
5. What is one instrument you would really like to play but don’t (yet)?
I’d love to play oud (it’s essentially a Middle Eastern lute). It’s sort of a mix of the instruments I already play: it’s like the guitar in the sense that you play with a pick, and it’s like the violin in the sense that it’s fretless. And unlike the guitar, which has frets, you can play quartertones and semitones (the notes in between the notes), so there are more options. My father just came home from visiting family in Egypt and was amazing enough to bring one home for me, so I’ve just begun to dabble. Can’t wait to start recording and performing with it. Just need to get the hang of tuning it first (it’s ridiculously complex).
6. How to you pick yourself up when you’re feeling down?
Some of my darkest moments were dealt with by writing a song about the situation. It’s usually my way of making sense of things and figuring out where I am in the universe. And if I can’t write, then I talk to my mother. She’s a gentle soul and my best friend, and just being around her eases my mind.
7. What are you proud of with your new album?
I’m very proud of the songwriting, arranging, and the production on The Jailbird EP. I studied music production at the Clive Davis Institute at NYU because I wanted the outcome of my recordings to be in my hands, and it’s the most amazing feeling to be in control of your own work. This is a weird way to put it, but writing music is like having children. You write a song and it is born. If the song is well arranged and well produced, you’ve raised it well. And hopefully one day it will make you proud.
8. Any new projects currently or on the horizon?
I’m currently recording my next project (not sure whether it will be a full-length or an EP just yet). Also planning on recording Arabic vocals to some of my previous singles from “The Jailbird EP” and releasing an Arabic EP so that I can go and tour in the Middle East.
9. Your video, “Grace” celebrates the beauty and grace of women, who are some of your heroines from the past and present and why?
My biggest heroine is my mother. It sounds so cliche, but she is simply the most selfless human being I have ever encountered and I would be nowhere without her. I’m also a big admirer of Muslim reformer and activist Irshad Manji. She is not afraid to say the truth, even if many around her don’t want to hear it. She is one of my personal mentors, and has inspired me to exhibit “moral courage” in my own work, despite what the consequences could ultimately be. And I greatly admire all of the women who have been on the frontlines of the fight for gender equality in the Middle East. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Tawakkol Karman from Yemen comes to mind. There are so many brave souls who make me proud to be a woman today, and my list could easily take up this whole page.
10. If you could create a musical super group with any artists, living or dead, who would you choose and what would they play?
I’m into so many different styles of music that it’s really hard to imagine putting all of those different people together into one cohesive group. I would love to jam with India.Arie, because that is a chick with a guitar AND soul. And I would love to jam with Juanes. That man can shred, and at the same time his lyrics have such profound social commentary (at least the older songs do). And if somehow I could bring Oum Kalthoum back, I would love to understand how she provoked such reactions in her audience and touched so many lives. And Stevie Wonder. That man exudes musicality.
1. What’s your favorite sandwich?
Roast beef sandwich with swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and a little bit of light Mayo. Italian bread is ideal. =)
2. What’s your favorite hot drink?
I love hot chocolate. Particularly with cinnamon and nutmeg. =)
3. Do you have any pets or a favorite animal?
I have a fat cat named Cleo, who is very much like a little person (well maybe not little, but you get the idea). She snores, she whines, and she has feelings just like anyone else. But she makes a good roommate.
|Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/omniavids|