Malak is set to release her debut EP Circus Saturday night January 16 at LIVE! on Elgin.

Malak may not be a household name to most readers, but she has one of the most powerful and beautiful voices in town. She is quickly establishing herself as a versatile musician in the Ottawa scene, having already performed in various high profile events. Her sound crosses and melds genres, from jazz to classical to pop and more. For a taste of it you can stream the EP at the end of the article and you can get more information on the show here.

We sat down with Malak for a quick interview ahead of the EP release show to talk about her story and her music.

You are not originally from Ottawa, do you mind elaborating a little bit on the journey that brought you to the nation’s capital?

I lived in Cairo, Egypt until I was 16, and began voice lessons at age 7. For 9 years I studied with some of the country’s most renowned classical, jazz and pop vocal trainers. I won multiple national and international awards in the Middle East as well as Europe (Italy, Germany, Greece). I moved to Ottawa in 2011 in order to further my music education in Carleton University’s music program, as well as my career. Canada is bursting at the seams with opportunities, especially for artists. I am fortunate to be living somewhere where art can be freely expressed in all its forms and where the community truly supports its local artists and takes pride in them.

How has this background shaped your art?

Having lived in a country that experienced a lot of turmoil, especially in the revolution which began in 2011, I always took an interest in people; how they react to situations and deal with issues in their lives, and how everyone has a unique way of expressing their love towards one another. This interest in people’s individual stories inspires most of my songs. I love taking someone’s story and writing and composing as if from their perspective. It’s like writing a little autobiography for someone else.

Photo by Willow Lamoureux
Photo by Willow Lamoureux

You have named your debut EP “Circus,” and this is clearly a theme in your art. What is it about circuses that inspire you?

When I think of a circus, I don’t imagine the happy circus that one would take their family to. The circus that I refer to in my song and art in general is a colourful but dangerous place. It is a metaphor for the dark place that exists in all our minds. Everyone has their demons, and my imagined circus is the place that houses all of them, camouflaged in bright clown costumes and performing hypnotic acrobatics to be attractive. Circus is about someone who fights these inner demons but loses, and gives in to their temptations.

Can you speak to the process of making Circus? How long has it been in the works, where was it recorded, who have you collaborated with?

Circus has been around a year in the making, and it was recorded at the Gallery Recording Studio.

The beginning of the process was very experimental, deciding which of my songs should go on the album and testing out different methods for expressing each one. I was very fortunate to have Dean Watson producing this album. With every new song he and I would sit for hours orchestrating it and finding a unique sound that would effectively express it. And the result was a colourful collection of quality composed and recorded songs. I am grateful to have worked with someone with his level of skill and I am looking forward to recording my next full length album with Dean at the Gallery Recording Studio, which is already in progress.

It was also a delight and an honour to have many of Ottawa’s local talent included in the EP. “Sam Wants a Bang” was arranged by Ed Lister, who also played keys with Michel Delage on drums and JP Lapensee on bass. Raphael Weinroth-Browne of The Visit composed and performed cello for Circus – for which Mike Giamberardino of Tribe Royal recorded drums – and Mannequin. Talented pianist and songwriter, Dan Robidoux is present in all five songs on the EP. He will be appearing at the EP Release on Saturday, January 16th, as well as Justine Walker who recorded drums for Greed and will be playing drums for the show. The violin in Owe You is played by Robin Evans.

What should people expect when they attend a Malak show?

A powerful and entertaining performance. I enjoy expressing a wide array of personas during in my shows. Because my songs are about people’s stories, I enjoy telling them as if they are coming from the people themselves, which allows for a playful variety of tone and mood all through the show. I perform for my audience and from the heart, and you can guarantee there is never a dull moment in a Malak show.

What makes Saturday night’s show extra special?

If you attend this Saturday’s EP Release at Live! On Elgin, you will be contributing to charity. All merch sale profits from the show will be going to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in collaboration with Inner Wheel Club of Ottawa, so not only will you get lots of awesome music, but you’ll also be supporting a good cause. On that note I would like to briefly mention the importance of supporting your local artist. When you go to any arts event including shows, galleries, plays, etc. not only is it an enriching experience, but you are also keeping art in your community alive. Without the audience to share the art with, artists would not exist.

1 Comment

  • Great interview with an amazing woman. Malak’s passion for music and vibrant energy comes through her work. Her EP is magical! I wish I could have been at the debut.

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