Above the Clouds with Aya Metwalli

“Existential, contemplative and confused”

Aya Metwalli‘s music is all about the journey it takes you to. She sings about birds, mornings, trees, the universe, water, travelling and her relationship with beauty. You can escape with her music when you want to feel peace and love.

She defines her music as existential, contemplative and confused. “People tell me you aren’t focused on what’s important, but that’s not true. My music is all about the idea of your relationship with the universe. I didn’t want to talk about the revolution and I don’t consider myself patriotic. My relationship isn’t with the country it’s with the universe. Borders, religions, cities isn’t important to me the most important is the whole world and the souls of human beings regardless their ideologies”, she introduces herself.

We discovered Aya when she performed at TedxCairo and saw her perform at Bikya Book Café.  She started to sing when she was 5 in the school choir and played the guitar after her sweet 16. “I never thought that I’m going to sing my own originals. I did covers in my own room and uploaded them on Youtube, then they got people’s attention”, she tells.

Aya has more than a hundred thousand followers on twitter, and when we asked her how come, she laughed, “It’s creepy! I don’t think these people know anything about me in the first place. The only thing that makes senseis that twitter suggests me to people who follow certain artists and my twitter handle just appears to them so they click and follow. Most of them are from the Gulf by the way. I don’t say anything important at all on twitter”.

A music teacher in the morning and an artist by night, Aya felt a responsibility towards her music although she never imagined herself as a fulltime artist, “I want a fulltime job like everyone else, I’m more comfortable with routine. I also want to create a certain identity first before I make an actual album but it’s in the pipeline”, she tells. Although Aya is a talented songwriter, she has only written four songs from everything she sang or performed. “I sometimes sing lyrics that were written by friends. I sang some songs written by Salam Yousry, director of The Choir Project. I’ve written Soal Wel Salam, Ramad Nogoom and Sahwa Bela Sabah”, she adds.

Like many young artists, Aya doesn’t get the support she needs, “there are very limited outlets to perform and I feel that I’m imprisoned in a very small circle, it’s always the same crowd and I can’t breathe”, we are told. Indie and underground have been under the spotlight for a couple of years now. People are starting to shift towards other young and fresh artists who have something to say. “It’s good that underground artists do TV commercials so that they can reach the mass, but there are real underground artists who do bedroom projects like me. We are all independent but we aren’t all underground. We are independent because we aren’t supported financially”, she explains.

Although the Internet and Youtube create a large audience, it’s very hard to make music for a living in Egypt. “You’re going to compromise and it will end up as pure business not music. I don’t want to turn my art into a business. Also if I made an effort in a studio album, I think I deserve to sell it”, she states.

Style is important for any female artist, even if she as an Indie artist, the music scene today gives huge importance to style. Think Lana Del Rey and Julia Stone who amaze their fans with their iconic and one of a kind style. “I’m the last person who can think about looks. I don’t deal with myself as a woman I’m more of a ‘creature’.By default, musicians have a certain look they don’t intend”, she says.

For a musician like Aya, a busy and crowded Cairo isn’t that much of an inspiration. There are so many distractions that can pull your creativity off your mind, “Even if you are alone in a quiet room, you know there is so much going on out there. Air conditioners, neighbor, noise and so on. I only feel the quiet when I go away and travel to remote places like Sinai. Sometimes an artist needs to feel quietness other times noise can be an inspiration”, she wraps up.

Listen to Aya Metwalli : https://soundcloud.com/amtwll

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