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Born of Egyptian and Lebanese decent, NEeMA’s presence on and off stage is as powerful and charismatic, as her voice is honest and unique. She has traveled extensively, having shared time with the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, having worked with street children in Egypt, as well as having had the privilege of working with the Tribal Elders of Wekweti, an isolated First Nation community in northern Canada. No doubt these experiences helped her develop the ability to communicate her stories through poetry and song, focusing on those themes that are dear to the human heart. NEeMA has recently completed her second album, Watching You Think, a collection of twelve musical stories that seamlessly meld elements of world music, folk and jazz with a good measure of pop. Produced in association with Leonard Cohen and Pierre Marchand (Sarah McLachlan, Ron Sexsmith), Watching You Think contains songs of love, life and simple observations that read like parables and sound instantly familiar. Listeners will find themselves singing along effortlessly by the second chorus. NEeMA’s uninhibited and authentic style is complemented perfectly by some of Montreal's best musicians, who add nuance to every mood and emotion of Watching You Think. Musicians include Howard Bilerman, Tim Kingsbury (Arcade Fire), Tom Mennier (Martha and Rufus Wainwright), Joe Grass and Miles Perkin (Lhasa de Sela), and Gurpreet Chana (Nelly Furtado). Also involved in the album’s production are Haig V and Fred Bouchard. About the songs on Watching You Think For NEeMA a song always begins with a seed - a lyric or a melody. On several occasions she has found herself singing a chorus of a yet to be written song. “The more I write songs, the more I realize it’s about uncovering the story that wants to be told, not writing the one I have in mind.” Speaking to the musicianship on the album, NEeMA finished writing “Unspoken” while doing a solo tour of Ireland - driving though the luscious greenery between concerts. She began singing it at shows without musical accompaniment, but when it came time to record the track in studio it became clear after a few rehearsals that the talent of the assembled musicians would only add to the final track. In NEeMA’s own words, “I love the new life this song took in the studio.” NEeMA did not envision collaborating with producers on the album; it just evolved that way. Discussions were born out of friendships with both Pierre and Leonard and seeking their input and expertise was a natural process. “I learned from both of them the importance of starting over if something isn’t working,” NEeMA explains, “or holding on to something when the magic is already there.” Leonard Cohen has said of NEeMA, “in the midst of all the static, a voice of true feeling arises - a rare event!” Cohen also drew the portrait of NEeMA that serves as the album’s cover art. The album was mixed and partially recorded at Pierre Marchand’s studio in Montreal. He has described NEeMA as “an inspiring presence,” adding, “her evocative lyrics and warm voice paint beautiful, timeless stories and portraits.” The track “Running” was initially recorded as a demo in NEeMA’s living room. She tried to recapture the feeling of this first recording at three different studios with various musicians but ended up using the version she had done at home. NEeMA explains, “I love the intimacy it captured.” “Escape” was written while NEeMA was living in Los Angeles. She was staying in the house of a guitar maker and was sitting in his studio surrounded by dozens of guitars. “I found the environment inspiring,” explains NEeMA, “I picked up an electric guitar for the first time ever - and this song poured out if it!” “Elsa's Lullaby” began as a poem. While touring Canada a few years ago NEeMA brought her beloved canine companion Elsa along. She met a young girl who fell in love with Elsa and told her ‘you must have so many songs written about her!’ She had none at the time. “Thus began a poem that went on for pages and pages and basically wrote itself- all I had to do was watch her.” A little musical history Since the successful independent release of NEeMA’s debut album Masì Cho in 2006, she has toured Canada, Ireland, Australia, England and the US. In the summer of 2007 she performed over 33 concerts including Nova Scotia’s Privateer Days Festival and the South Country Fair Festival in Alberta. Other highlights include her 2008 concert at the Electric Picnic Festival in Ireland, the 2008 Winterfolk Festival in Toronto and Canadian Music Week, and two sold-out shows at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2009. Masi Cho was nominated for a MIMI (Montreal International Music Initiative) in the World & Roots category and her song The Risk advanced to the second round of judging in the 2006 International Songwriting Competition held in Nashville.

My Artists Sessions

Friday, March 18

8:00pm CDT