By Rick Coates
The Mideast meets the Midwest when Jordanian singer-songwriter Hana
Malhas brings her indie folk to the stage of the InsideOut Gallery
Born and raised in Jordan, Hana (pronounced Hena) made her way to the
U.S. 11 years ago to attend the University of Michigan, earning both
undergraduate and graduate degrees from the prestigious Stephen M.
Ross School of Business. She fell in love with Ann Arbor and found a
financial position with a non-profit.
Crunching numbers is her day job; her nights and weekends are about
crunching chords. Her stop at the InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City
will be her first as a solo artist.
I was in this band Lazy Sunday, and we played a coffee shop and a
festival up there about five years ago, said Malhas. I decided to
pursue a solo effort in 2008 and I recently released an album, and so
now I am touring on weekends in support.
Malhas soulful, folkie voice is angelic at times and also has an
explosive rock edge to it.
LIFE IN JORDAN
She grew up listening and playing classical music on the piano and
guitar and was exposed to Middle Eastern music, but was equally drawn
to American music.
My fathers CD collection was diverse; he had Cat Stevens, The
Eagles, Queen, Michael Jackson, and I remember my father walking
around the house singing Elton John songs all the time. So I grew up
exposed to a wide array of musical styles, including Arabic pop music.
I heard a lot of American music performed live by cover bands from
Jordan. I was a big Guns n Roses fan as well. It wasnt until I came
to Ann Arbor that I became exposed to music that was not part of the
Malhas is quick to point out that her Jordanian background probably
wont be evident in her music.
Most of my songs really fit the American indie folk sound. I have a
song, Trooh, on the album that I sing in Arabic, but everything else
is English. Really, how my music is connected to both cultures is
lyrically. I write songs based on my observations of having lived in
the Middle East (she still visits at least once a year) and now living
in the Midwest.
Her debut solo album Shapeshift was recorded in four locations
(including Jordan) with 17 American and Jordanian artists.
This album is an introspective collection of songs that reinforces my
cross-cultural collaborative experiences, said Malhas. Lyrically I
explored several themes from war and solitude to relationships and
redemption, along with budding yet suppressed passion and death and
While Malhas is only working part time at her musical career, she has
both feet into it and plans to make it full time work soon.
I love creating and analyzing Excel spreadsheets and making music, so
I hope to someday create projects that somehow combine both, she
said. The business of making music is changing and the independent
artist such as myself who prefers the alternative indie folk style
does have an opportunity to work full time at their craft. I have to
believe that my ability to crunch numbers will come in handy in this
Hana Malhas will be joined by Lake Folk, a roots-folk quintet from Ann
Arbor on Saturday, November 13 at the Inside Out Gallery in the
Warehouse District of Downtown Traverse City. For tickets or
additional information seek out InsideOut Gallery on Facebook or call
them at 231.929.3254. To hear a sampling of Hana Malhas go to
www.hanamalhas.com or find videos on Youtube.