Dragging lost memories of the war she’d survived in Lebanon, Maya Marie Hawie, aka New Pharaohs, has released her debut album called Antelias with songs of love and war.
Her music can be described as bubbly, dreamy, emotional, yet sad and yearning, a beautiful voice that easily captures the ears and touches the hearts.
Listening to some of her songs triggered the question, “Is she the Lebanese Lana Del Rey?”
Half Lebanese, half British, Maya said that her fondest moments in Lebanon were spent by the beach, in fish restaurants, or in the mountains watching over beautiful views. That was, of course, before the war changed the course of her life.
Reflections From The War
“Life in Lebanon was happy and exciting […] however, the beginnings of war began to creep in. I remember vividly the sound of shelling and we began to sleep on mattresses in the corridors of our apartment.”
Soon, her friends, both Lebanese and foreigners, began fleeing the country. But her family tried to stay as long as they could.
“The thing with war is that you never know when or if it’s going to fully engulf you and, when it does start, you have no idea if it will last for 6 months or 10 years.”
With uncertainty surrounding the war, her family eventually decided they could not endure the war much longer and were able to make it out with the last evacuation of British citizens.
Since then, Maya has returned many times to Lebanon. In fact, there was one point in her life after fleeing when she attended school in both Limassol (Cyprus) and her old school in Lebanon (she would take the ferry back to Beirut with her dad).
“At the time, we foolishly thought the war would end soon. But it didn’t. And, sitting in those empty classrooms in Rabweh with just a couple of other school children, I realized that life would never be the same.”
Many of her classmates had emigrated while some of them lost their lives to the war.
“Break times were very strange, only a dozen or so girls walking the empty echoing corridors to the deserted playground. It was almost silent and it felt haunted despite the sunshine. Time had slowed down for the first time in my life and the nuns’ sadness was infectious.”
Healing With Music
As an early teen in London, she started off with classical piano, wanting to play Beethoven like the other English girls.
“Later on, when I noticed that cute guys played in bands (Oasis, Weezer, Blur, etc), I wanted to impress them so I started singing and writing my own indie-pop songs. I was going to be like Blondie,” she told The961.
She started her own band at 17, leading and singing in a band of men in their late 20s and early 30s. But soon it was time to go to university and she had to put her music on hold until after she graduated.
That’s when she started ‘Sohodolls’, her band that got signed to Alan McGee’s label. “He’s the legendary Scottish manager who discovered and signed Oasis. I just went up to him at his club in Notting Hill and gave him my CD.”
McGee signed her band to his label and they began touring to many countries, including Europe, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and the US.
“My music got onto Gossip Girl three times, Californication, Nip/Tuck, Vampire Diaries, Max Factor adverts, the film The Vow (starring Channing Tatum), and then Budweiser used one of my songs for their national Super Bowl adverts in 2013.”
Alas, it was time to drift from the band and work on her own thing. “I sharpened my writing skills, writing for UK pop stars in Girls Aloud, and had a number one hit in Korea and Japan, writing for the mega girl band ‘Twice’,” she explained.
By the time the Syrian war started, images from the destruction brought back to her repressed memories of the Lebanese war.
“When I saw the images of Syrian children on TV, I was struck by how much they looked like me and my brother when we were young. It really haunted me.”
She decided to finally write for herself again. “I had buried many feelings about the war in and the separation from my beloved Lebanon. So, writing songs like ‘Empire’, ‘Shelter’, and ‘Have It All’ were cathartic.”
“I was often crying as I wrote out the lyrics. It was a conversation I needed to have with myself and I hope these feelings are universal for anyone who has had to flee a destructive situation.”
The album also includes other songs of doomed relationships, “of which I have had!” she said. “Humans are destructive in nature and I found many parallels between warring couples and warring factions. You can fight so hard that you don’t realize you’ve set your only home on fire.”
One of those songs ‘Ya Habibi Yalla’ channels vibes from Sting’s ‘Desert Rose’ and can easily become a hit.
Till today, she still visits Lebanon and relives those moments, the beautiful and the ugly. Now, she can finally heal by bringing the events to life with her music; an artistic offspring of the trauma of war.