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Montréal, Quebec, Canada | MAJOR

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | MAJOR
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"Review: NEeMA, “Watching You Think”"

I close my eyes and I see hers. Curious, sparkling, deep, windows to a voice but a breath away. It caresses syllables like fingers in tangles of a lover’s hair. Even when absent it wafts through rooms, the ghost of an intimate whisper.

The eyes and voice and presence on NEeMA’s Watching You Think are gone, long gone, the bittersweet welt of One Last Kiss. No hard feelings, no cross words — it’s just that time. “I’m standing at the crossroads and I still don’t know / which direction or path to walk, which way to go,” she admits in “Unwinding,” the “un-” companion to “Unspoken,” an exchange of glances and furtive yearnings. Yet she knows that this is Right. Her heart and mind are free to travel, twirling in gusts as light as memory on a tempo of enchanting grace.

There’s a certainty to her dissolutions, an acceptance of come-what-may. She crafts on “Eternity” the usual pop song true love, then sends it crashing to earth so effectively that a listener accustomed to never-part forevermore is bound to be shocked and heartbroken. It’s a testament to NEeMA’s strength as a writer that she can fuel a familiar idyll with such fetching detail (“Then one day I saw you standing there / on the road to the town fair / When you looked at me, I just froze / I thought, ‘I’ll follow him wherever he goes’”; “I still remember what we said while touching Juliet’s golden breast”) and dismantle it just as naturally.

There are few storybook endings here. People change, ardor fades. Even Shakespeare’s template starcrossed lovers aren’t immune, separated by a chilling gulf. NEeMA unravels Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” to its narrative muscle, replacing the original’s gurgling guitar and witsful drum with an acoustic brook and low whistling organ. The effect is a dreamy and longing but futile pine.

Overall, Watching You Think is similarly light, its minimal instrumentation like dots of summer rain against a cabin window. There are nice added touches throughout, however. Pedal-steel sighs float through “Eternity”; violins skid across the slightly abrasive “Jealousy,” where even guitar strings snap loosely, violently against the wood; and Tijuana brass chortles agreeably in “Escape.”

The instrumentation’s gentle poetry allows NEeMA’s own poetry to speak for itself. She contemplates mortality in “Bone to Pick with Time”; “We’ve a very little window,” she observes, “to do what we must do: write a song, bear a child, fall in love with you.” “Elsa’s Lullaby” explores a companionship based on simple, pure devotion. “I love the way you wait for me / ever so patiently,” NEeMA coos to a pair of adoring dog eyes, “how you lie near my guitar / oblivious to how gorgeous you are.” (It’s a happy ending.)

Watching You Think was produced with Pierre Marchand and mentor/friend Leonard Cohen, an old hand at seducing words to parchment. His endorsement is impressive, but NEeMA’s is a singular voice within a radiant countenance. Cohen captured this essence in a network of ink and paints, which he then struck to the album’s sleeve. Voila. That her image appears unfinished seems appropriate somehow: this is an artist as a work-in-progress, a palette that, two albums in, we’ve only just begun to explore. - Cory Frye - Life After Wrazz, February 27, 2011

"NEeMA: Watching What You Think"

Leonard Cohen is a huge fan, and his name appears on NEeMA’s sophomore bow, “Watching You Think,” as executive producer. Surely, having the bard of music-lyrics-as-poetry has been a boon to the singer, but with this nod of approval also comes the considerable weight of expectation. Let’s just blow that off, though. Not many mortals can write lyrics on Cohen’s level, and even fewer should be expected to.

“Watching You Think” is a collection of eloquent, subtly sexy pop songs gorgeously produced by Sarah McLachlan and Ron Sexsmith veteran Pierre Marchand. The action revolves around NEeMA’s nimble folkpop melodies, and the dry, upfront mix granted her vocal tone. All of this lends to an air of intimacy, one that is capitalized upon by the inventive, if low-key, string arrangements and the appearance of unexpected instrumentation—cellos, tabla, Hammond B3, trumpet, grand piano, whatever it takes —to keep the proceedings from venturing toward the innocuous.

Opener “Unspoken” lays down the album’s template with its sleepy-but-sensual vibe and sparse groove. Things don’t really shift too radically in terms of dynamics from here on out, but that’s not really much of a problem—“Watching You Think” is ultimately mood music, and the mood is a wistful one, as if the listener is looking through a rain-splattered window with a glass of wine in one hand and a clove cigarette in the other.

Kudos to NEeMA for her choice of covers—Mark Knopfler’s heartbreaking “Romeo and Juliet” sits nicely among its siblings, particularly with the French cafe glow of the waltz “Unwinding” and the breezy 1960s “girl group” pop of “Escape.”And if too many of the tunes stick alarmingly close to midtempo grooves with 3/4-and 6/8-time signatures, well, all of them work, and the album’s sequencing serves to heighten the (mostly slight) differences between the songs’ harmonic and rhythmic attributes.

Not a revelation, really, but “Watching You Think” is elegant pop music. Which makes it a bit of a pleasant anomaly on the current pop landscape. - Jeff Miers - Buffalo News, February 11, 2011,

"Album Review: Watching You Think by NEeMA"

In a sea of female singer/songwriters, NEeMA stands out for her story-telling ability and gentle melodies; somewhere between the urban tales of Kate Nash and the illustrious lyrics of Nerina Pallot lies NEeMA: the protégé of Leonard Cohen (who also co-produced the album) and very much carving her own path. Her broad appeal is what will sell records but it’s her quirky guitar riffs and ntricate lyrics that will make you a fan.

The darkly composed “Jealousy” is a beautifully accurate depiction of a sudden attack of the green-eyed monster. “Instinctual, I agree but so manipulative can it be” sings NEeMA, spoken like someone who knows; this is a theme throughout the album: the feeling that this women has lived and experienced the best and worst of humanity. Her pains and joy are infused among the tortured, stressed guitar strings and distressed lyrics. In stark contrast is “Elsa’s Lullaby,” which appears to be an ode-like tribute to her horse: “I grieve a little of the brevity of your time here with me.” The stunningly well-crafted lyrics lull the listener into remembering a childhood pet who we never actually met, but grieve along with the singer. These are songs that encourage our own memories while exploring hers too.

Her cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” is an interesting exploration of young love and that devotion and love is not always enough to make a relationship work: “When are you going to realize it was just that the time was wrong?” While the choice to cover this particular track may seem like a random one, NEeMA’s version of it fits in extremely neatly with the rest of the album’s discussion of life, love and heartbreak.

This is not the album for fans of raucous, hectic music but instead appeals to the lovers of alternative folk and the storytelling joys of artists such as Damien Rice, Emiliana Torrino and Morcheeba. This is an album for quiet introspection, with a glass of red wine after a long day at work: an album for remembering happy memories to and for pondering some of life’s bigger questions. Musically gentle, lyrically intricate and elegantly produced: NEeMA is the female singer/songwriter for 2011. - Hannah Treagus - Geek Life, 02/28/2011

"Fistful of Reviews: NEeMA's Watching You Think"

Canadian singer NEeMA’s newest album, Watching You Think, combines the storytelling aspect of singers such as Ingrid Michaelson, Iron & Wine, and The Mountain Goats with a sound more reminiscent of Carla Bruni and a musical range that encompasses violins, cellos, guitars (electric and acoustic) as well as the occasional welcomed heavy drumbeat. In short, Watching You Think is a fantastic album, filled with a variety of musical textures to delight your ears. NEeMA manages that most impossible feat of maintaining a consistent “sound,” while also managing to evolve that sound into a fully-fleshed out and interesting compilation. This fact alone would be enough to endear her to me – nothing is quite so wretched as listening to a one-sound album – but she offers even more with a silky smooth voice and stories which I can imagine setting as the backdrop to my life. Keep reading for a music video as well as other highlights from Watching You Think!

Watching You Think begins with “Unspoken,” which has such a powerful ability to set the mood that I immediately feel like I am a gypsy wandering around Eastern Europe in 1860. While I enjoy “Unspoken,” I begin to truly love the album upon reaching the second track, “Romeo and Juliet.” Unlike Taylor Swift, NEeMa's cover of the Dire Straits captures more on the ultimate sadness and tragedy of the classic play. Somehow, though, the mood of the song feels only mildly melancholy; rather, the sound is warm and rich, slightly reminiscent of a 1950s American folk music. I can imagine Bob Dylan hanging out in the background and congratulating NEeMA once the song is finished. This warmth and richness makes this song one which promises to be applicable in multiple circumstances it would make a perfect top-down, driving on a pleasant summer day song, but would also make a great backdrop to a slightly drizzly, warm afternoon.

After “Romeo and Juliet,” NEeMA next impresses me with “Running.” “Running” is a ballad which begins with a simple guitar backdrop and NEeMA recounting a story of daring and fear from Italy. One minute into the song, a cello joins the grouping and, soon after, backup singers provide a slightly fuller sound with subtle harmonies. At this point, I literally started smiling because there’s nothing I appreciate more than being given harmonies and stringed instruments in a song. Next comes “Eternity,” which reminds me of Black Box Recorder’s “Child Psychology” and Kate Nash – a slightly indie, grittier contemplation of a lifetime of loneliness. “Eternity” proves that NEeMA is unafraid to provide us with a little less “pretty” in order to bring a little more emotion into the song.

Following up her probings into an eternity of solitude comes the peppiest, most upbeat song of the entire album: “Escape.” Just listening to it makes me want to go to a dance party on the beach. Does it have trumpets? Why, yes! Are there hand claps? Of course! I simply cannot stand still when listening to this song – it requires some serious Gidget-style dancing. In a word, this song is perfect. Next in the lineup is “Stay,” a storyline-intensive ballad in which NEeMA reminds me of a more polished version of Kimya Dawson. The aural texture here is lovely, with
harmonies and a slightly sharp, twangy plucked guitar to bring some bonafide country-esque longing into the song.

“Sidewalk” introduces a heavier drum beat than has been previously displayed in Watching You Think, which is perfectly fine by me! At a little over halfway into the album, the shift in sound is perfectly timed and keeps me wholeheartedly interested in what is happening in each song. The song begins and ends with this thought: “These structures cannot last, we’re clinging onto a world that’s already of the past,” which strikes me as essentially Yeatsian and a lovely way to end a song which ruminates upon the impermanence of relationships of all kinds.

The next several songs on the album – “Lost in L.A.,” “Bone to Pick With You,” “Jealousy” – are all good and vary widely in sound; however, they do not necessarily stand out amongst the other tracks. “Elsa’s Lullaby,” however, brings a wonderful and sweet sound to the album which was previously lacking. I can one-hundred percent imagine myself listening to this song while taking an afternoon nap. (I also love that it’s a love song that NEeMa wrote to her dog, Elsa. How sweet is that?)

Not complacent to end on the sweetness of puppy love, Watching You Think ends with what is unequivocally the most powerful song on the entire album: “Masi.” It begins with a gritty, rock-n-roll drumbeat juxtaposed against vocals most closely similar to the Muslim call to prayer or the opening notes from “The Circle of Life.” Further in, a great Indian-esque sequence weaves through the vocals and guitar. The best way I can describe this song is that The Black Keys, The Lion King soundtrack, and a Bollywood production had a beautiful love child. I am smitten!

I hope that I’ve convinced you of how great this album is. It would truly be a shame to miss the diversity and beauty that is contained on this one album, Watching You Think. - Elaine Dunaway - Fistful of Words, May 23, 2011

"Press Summary for "Watching You Think""

“Watching You Think is a wonderful album, full of beauty and passion and excellent lyrics.” Michael Doherty’s Music Blog May 25, 2011

“Watching You Think is a fantastic album, filled with a variety of musical textures to delight your ears. NEeMA manages that most impossible feat of maintaining a consistent “sound,” while also managing to evolve that sound into a fully-fleshed out and interesting compilation.” Fistful of Words May 23, 2011

“NEeMA is one of the most exotic artists in pop music…offering an enduring and compelling work that will keep you coming back.  Watching You Think will leave an impression.” Wildy’s World May 11, 2011

“It takes something special to stand out from the wealth of acoustifolk. NEeMA certainly has that something, as far as I'm concerned.” Glasswerk UK May 9, 2011

“The music on this album can be summed up in one word, refreshing.” The Celebrity Café May 6, 2011

"A wickedly lovely musical experience" Beacon Pass March 27, 2011

“An effortless blend of folk, world, jazz and pop, NEeMA’s sophomore release, Watching You Think, employs a gloriously wandering heart." Neufutur Magazine March 26, 2011

“There's an immediate beauty in these songs.” ChartAttack March 4, 2011

“NEeMA’s songs are emotionally evocative and her lyrics are insightful studies on human behavior.” StreetDate February 28, 2011

“All of NEeMA's songs have their own unique character.  From sweet to fierce, tribal to traditional, and strong to feminine, NEeMA demonstrates an open-minded, honest and wise appreciation of music.” Whitty With It March 2011

“An album for remembering happy memories to and for pondering some of life’s bigger questions. Musically gentle, lyrically intricate and elegantly produced: NEeMA is the female singer/songwriter for 2011” Geek Life February 28, 2011

“The music is rich in the chamber pop and folk tradition, with a penchant for precise and delicate lyrics” Paste Magazine February 24, 2011

“[Leoanrd Cohen’s] endorsement is impressive, but NEeMA’s is a singular voice within a radiant countenance. This is an artist, two albums in, we’ve only just begin to explore” The daily Wrazz February 27, 2011

“One of the real surprises of the night was the opener. Her name is NEeMA, and her music is absolutely beautiful” December 4, 2010

“In a world that's jammed with a depressing amount of cloy and redundant solo female acts, NEeMA restores the faith that yes, it can be done right.” A+E Blog, the Minnesota Daily November 17, 2010

“There's an innocence in NEeMA's music that blankets you like the feeling you get moments after an afternoon rain shower. That breath of fresh air. That cool sensation from a slight breeze on your skin. It's as though the rain has just washed all your troubles away. And it's a moment you wish could last forever. Now, if you can capture all that and put it to music, that's what NEeMA's music would sound like.” Picksysticks LA October 29, 2010

"That Leonard Cohen thinks enough of NEeMA to be one of the producers on her debut album is impressive, but not half as much as the songs she’s assembled here. A gifted wordsmith, this native Montrealer knows how to take songs about falling in love...and make them feel every bit as special as falling feels to young lovers. But what really makes this special is that the settings are as thoughtful and detailed as the songs they adorn. A stunner." The Globe & Mail June 28th, 2010

“…there's no denying this new voice in music is a strong, individualistic and driven one.” Ottawa X Press July 22nd, 2010

“In many ways Neema is Cohen’s musical heir. Her music is elegant but restrained, giving prominence to the poetic lyrics…her music, however, is ultimately very much her own.” – The Ottawa Sun, July 9th 2010

“Watching You Think is a strong sophomore effort that finds the artist chronicling both inner and outer turmoil in broad, poetic strokes” – Calgary Herald July 7th, 2010

“a pristine album of folk music with some poppy world-beat shadings, none of which takes the focus off of NEeMA's dulcet vocals and poetic musings. She even makes "Romeo & Juliet," Dire Straits' underrated tale of romance, so convincingly her own that many have assumed she wrote it.” – Montreal Gazette July 2010

“Dreamy, introspective folk balladry delivered in mostly hushed tones and stylishly accented with strings and atmospheric production. ” – The Winnipeg Sun July 3 2010

“Montreal's NEeMA is a rare jewel in the Canadian music scene.” – Moncton Times Transcript August 6th, 2010

“NEeMA is a Montreal based folk singer/poet/storyteller with considerable talent…Watching You Think is an excellent and even literary album.” – Kelowna Capital News July 20, 2010

“Throughout, the melodies are pleasant and sometimes lovely. Her intelligent lyrics are introspective -- typically delving into the messy intricacies of romance.” Times Colonist, July 14th 2010

“If you are someone who appreciates women and songs, and you appreciate Leonard Cohen’s work, then I personally recommend that you escape reality and explore NEeMA's album or hear her sacred chords yourself.” The Aimless & Andy Show July 6th, 2010
“Romance practically gushes out from the notes and words of Montreal’s NEeMA…there’s an infectious joie de vivre mixed with more philosophical observations about desire and devotion on her second album, Watching You Think, with the emotions becoming characters themselves within the songs.” The Chronicle Herald August 5th 2010
“NEeMA makes it all feel tangible in a breathy voice that suits the cafe folk of Unspoken or Escape’s guitar pop, while divulging secrets of the heart that feel like they were ripped out of someone’s secret diary.” – The Chronicle Herald August 5th 2010

“The album is raw and roomy, yet intimate and warm.” – August 5th, 2010

“Watching You Think is more a blend of styles, bona fide pop songs featured alongside more contemplative numbers that resemble parables, somewhat reminiscent of songs by NEeMA’s mentor, Cohen. Delivered in a throaty, velvety voice, her lyrics and melodies convey a profound message, yet in a deceptively simple, even naïve manner.” – Mc Gill News August 5, 2010

“On stage, her presence is as charming and unaffected as an intimate vocal style that ranges from soft and girlish to a hard edged alto. The lyrics betray her roots as a poet, thoughtful and insightful of the nuances of life and love.” July 6, 2010

“NEeMA is truly a wonderful Canadian artist and has so much to offer the world of music with her ability to deconstruct the complexities of life in ways which put your mind at ease, if just for the duration of the album. ” – August 17, 2010

“D'abord, il y a cette voix, caressante et presque zen, véhicule d'un folk pétri d'influences jazz et world, qui évoque le travail d'Eleni Mandell, d'Hindi Zahra et de Lhasa. On est en présence d'une vieille âme dont les souliers ont beaucoup voyagé, et cela se ressent dans des textes personnels et introspectifs, jamais impudiques.” – Voir 1 juillet 2010

“Tant sa prose que sa musique sont bien mises en évidence sur son album qui s’écoute en douceur et qui laisse sa part de zones d’ombres…tout au long du disque, on repère des épices qui tiennent en partie aux origines de NEeMA, mais aussi de son expérience des longs voyages et de séjours dans d’autres pays.”
– Rue Frontenac 27 juillet 2010

“NEeMA est une auteure-compositrice remarquable, sa fragilité et son authenticité la rendent fort attachante…Fortement inspirée par diverses cultures, elle compose des textes riches aux mots évocateurs, chuchotés et chantés. Cette figure, emblème de la paix, manie mots et poésie avec fluidité. Décidemment, un véritable coup de cœur !” – 12 août 2010
- various

"NEeMA – Watching You Think"

Singer/Songwriter NEeMA has crafted something deeply personal and precious with her sophomore LP, Watching You Think. Its wonderful unity of lightly orchestrated folk, intelligent poetry, warm production, and endearing, almost vulnerable vocals make it an instant classic in the genre. NEeMA entrances you with her affective tales of life.

Born of Egyptian and Lebanese descent, NEeMA has been an active humanitarian for several years; she’s spent time with the Dali Lama and Mother Teresa, as well as working with children in Egypt and tribal elders in Wekweti. Naturally, her selfless spirit and experiences have inspired her music; produced in association with Leonard Cohen and Pierre Marchard,Watching You Think reveals NEeMA as a kindred spirit to 1960s greats like Joni Mitchel, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon.

“Unspoken” opens the album with a playful tale of love. NEeMA’s subtle ascent and smooth timbre makes her voice simultaneously seductive and sweet, and her lyrics are such that you hang on every word, reading along, drawn by the story. Complementing her voice and acoustic guitar are clapping hands, strings, and bass, and it’s with this focus on perfectly suited production for each track that Watching You Think truly succeeds.

Much like Gary Jules brilliantly exposed the underlying heartache of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” NEeMA brings out all the beauty and poeticism of Dire Straights’ “Romeo & Juliet.” Almost inarguably superior to the original, it’s one of the best cover versions I’ve ever heard. And with simple yet poignant lyrics, an affective melody, and soothing chord changes, “Unwinding” pinpoints the pain of breaking up.

“Running” plays with poetic conventions like rhyming and repetition, and coupled with its engrossing arpeggio and swooning cello, it completely captivates its listener. “Escape” ups the tempo and force a bit, earning its place as the album’s rocking hit single. Discussing any more of the beautiful puzzle that is Watching You Think would give away its gifts, but trust me, every song on here is a treasure.

NEeMA announces herself as a powerful and important singer/songwriter with Watching You Think; baring similarity to the much more eclectic, strange, and adolescent sounding Joanna Newsom. She does justice to the musician poets that came decades ago, and while she isn’t quite on the level of geniuses like Paul Simon and Bob Dylan (and Leonard Cohen, of course), she’s definitely on her way. In those introspective moments that come while driving on a sunny, warm day, there is no better soundtrack than Watching You Think. - Jordan Blum - – indie music reviews, April 1, 2011

"Press Excerpts for "Masi Cho""

« Your ears will thank you for indulging in NEeMA’s global gumbo—they may even whisper “masí cho.” » Mare Wakefield, Performing Songwriter (January 2007)

« a promising debut, filled with sparely produced, jangly folk-pop nuggets with a dash of spoken word, late-night café hipsterism and worldbeat spice » Bernard Perusse, The Montreal Gazette (January 2007)

« The strongest moments, musically, reach beyond the dreamy folk and weave in hints of Arabic, Inuit, Hindu and African inspiration. » Rupert Bottenberg, The Mirror (December 2006)

« La spiritualité chamanique et l'humanisme candide servent bien cette beauté de la nature...un disque sympathique, sincère, d'une rare ingénuité. » Alain Brunet, La Presse (January 2007)

« Après avoir été l’un des secrets les mieux gardés de la scène culturelle montréalaise, on peut dire que NEeMA est définitivement sur une bonne lancée. » Réseau Canoe (January 2007)

Ralph Angelillo - Muzik Etc
« For her debut album, Masi Cho, NEeMA makes a strong outing »
Montreal (November 2006)

Julia Gerke - The Suburban
« ...her debut album Masì Cho is a soothing mix of poetic songs in pop and folk styles that mirrors the different stages in her life...her songs are socially and environmentally conscious and make a fitting debut for the active artist. »
Montreal (October 2006)

Bernard Bujold – Le Studio
« On pourrait classer son album dans la catégorie des Leonard Cohen tellement les textes sont bien travaillés et dirigés vers le monde et ses conflits »
Montreal (October 2006)

Yves Bernard - Ici
« On ne sait immédiatement d’où vient cette femme à la voix douce, fragile et coulée dans le folk pop…l’artiste est prometteuse »
Montreal (October 2006)

Michel Parent -
« Ce qu'on ressent à voir et entendre NEeMA sur scène, c'est toute l'intégrité de sa démarche, de la pureté des intentions, et de la richesse de son âme. Une grande artiste remplie d'humanité »
Montreal (October 2006)

Sylvie Mousseau – L’Acadie Nouvelle
« NEeMA parcourt le monde avec ses paroles qui cherchent à apaiser l’humanité, sur une musique folk aux multiples influences : world, jazz, pop…»
New Brunswick (August 2006)

MacRae Campbell - The Montreal Gazette
«...a gentle call to arms for freedom and an invitation to unfasten the chains we wrap around ourselves. NEeMA sings, tells stories and dances in a performance that has the flow and sparkle of water... »
Montreal (June 15/06)

Vincent Tinguely - The Montreal Mirror
«If we're to believe folks like David Suzuki, the coming decades will see enormous transformations of both our natural and social environment...As artists, NEeMA and her creative partner François Turgeon have made it their task to sort out the ramifications of this unfolding reality on a personal, poetic level, using spoken word, song, music, movement, dance and video projection. »
Montreal (June 15/06)

Shannon Webb-Campbell - The Coast, Halifax's Weekly
«Not only can she sing in several languages, she has kept postal codes all over the globe. Her well-travelled background has given her the ear to fuse world beats with jazz undertones and a hint of folk…Her spiritual explorations are manifested throughout her music, as her lyrical musings shed light on a world that could otherwise be deemed hopeless»
Halifax (August 25/05)

Antoine Mountain - News North
«On first hearing of this musical masterpiece it is hard for me to realize that this is a debut album. There is so much here in the way of subtlety, intricate word-play and sheer aural imagery it reminds me of the greats...»
Yellowknife (June 27/05)

Vincent Tinguely - Montreal Mirror
«Montreal performers NEeMA and François Turgeon make gloriously hybrid art»
Montreal (April 21/05)

Géo Giguère -Dernière Heure
«NEeMA a parcouru les 4 coins de la planète. Elle a cherché à comprendre la diversité des peuples…avec cette auteur compositeur interprète, nous apprenons enfin à "nourrir le feu"»
Montreal (April 05)

Scott C – Montreal Mirror
«When you sift through the rich musical tapestries woven by Montreal's NEeMA, you immediately realize that she is drawing influences from a variety of places, and making them all part of her focused and original sound... look for NEeMA in 2005 when she gets ready to spread her talented wings for all to see, and embarks on a new musical journey right here at home. »
Montreal (Jan 6/ 05)

George Tombs – Journalist and author of Lord Black «NEeMA guides us on a stunning journey across cultures. She is a talented musician who knows the joys and sorrows of this world. Her beautiful songs lead us past artificial barriers and divisions, to reveal that inner world of harmony and well-being that we all long for. »
Montreal (Sept 17/04)

Simon Bérubé - L’Aquilon
«Difficile de décrire la musique de NEeMA. Incorporant plusieurs sonorités émanant de différentes cultures, l’album se veut un véritable voyage autour du monde. Quant aux paroles, aussi écrites par NEeMA, elles tentent à aller chercher la fibre humaine de l’auditeur»
Yellowknife (Oct 22/04)

Jennifer Geens - Northern News Services
«NEeMA performed songs from her new CD Masi last Friday in Yellowknife. The CD launch filled the Frolic Bistro to capacity»
Yellowknife (Oct 18/04)

Lorraine Carpenter -
«Masi is part travelogue, part spiritual exploration, part sonically and ethnically eclectic celebration»
(Dec 10/04) - various

"Masi launch filled bistro to capacity"

Yellowknife (Oct 18/04) - NEeMA performed songs from her new CD Masi last Friday in Yellowknife. The CD launch filled the Frolic Bistro to capacity. Some of the songs on the CD were inspired by her time in Wekweti, where she was the Wekweti band manager. The album also features singers and musicians from the NWT and Nunavut. - Jennifer Geens - Northern News Services

"Album Review"

Well-traveled singer-songwriter Neema launches Masi, an album partly inspired by her time in Egypt and Wekweti, a small Aboriginal community way up north. Part travelogue, part spiritual exploration, part sonically and ethnically eclectic celebration. - - Lorraine Carpenter

"Hers to discover - Well-travelled, introspective Montreal singer-songwriter NEeMA takes a breather in Halifax"

Halifax (August 25/05) Montreal songstress NEeMA’s debut album, Masi, is highly intellectualized pop music accompanied by probing philosophical insights. She is making two intimate stops in Halifax: at The Economy Shoe Shop on August 30 and on September 1 at One World Cafe.

“The talented François Turgeon is joining me at both shows,” she says by phone from Cape Breton, where she was performing. “We’ll be playing acoustic sets on guitar, bass and percussion, as well as some spoken word.”

NEeMA’s talents are as bountiful as the stamps in her passport. Not only can she sing in several languages, she has kept postal codes all over the globe. Her well-travelled background has given her the ear to fuse world beats with jazz undertones and a hint of folk. Withn her voyages she has studied with Tibetan monks, shook hands with the Dalai Lama and was blessed by Mother Teresa.

“I was backpacking in Calcutta, India, and had the opportunity to attend mass with Mother Teresa,” says NEeMA. “Unfortunately she was too ill at the time to speak, yet it was such a blessing just to be within her presence.”

The Arabic translation of NEeMA means grace, and that would surprise very few after absorbing the artist’s piercing tales. Whether these melodious moments of enlightenment are woven into the tapestries of a song or just throughout her casual conversation, NEeMA’s engaging personality shines through in everything she does.

“When you meet the Dalai Lama he gives you a red string in honour of meeting him,” she says. “I tied the lace around my wrist and somehow without noticing, I managed to lose it. Of course I searched everywhere for it, but it has yet to turn up. Go figure, I meet one of the world’s most profound religious figures and I lose the token he gives me.”

Masi is littered with a variety of religious questionings, the struggles of humanity. It can be read as a road map of NEeMA’s self-discovery.

“My experiences through travelling is the best form of education I have received,” she says. “After finishing my management degree in Australia, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next. I spent some time in Egypt uncovering some of my family’s roots and that’s when I became serious about music.”

These days NEeMA has dug her heels into Montreal’s soil, but she’s truly a vagabond at heart. Her spiritual explorations are manifested throughout her music, as her lyrical musings shed light on a world that could otherwise be deemed hopeless.

“The album’s title is derived from Dogrib, a language of the Northwest Territories,” says NEeMA. “Masi translates to ‘thank you’ in English. I really wanted to extend my gratitude to everyone who helped me make this record, from my teachers in Egypt to the voices of the Great North. It’s really a thank you to the universe.”

The opening and closing tracks of Masi are prayers layered over music. “The older I get the more I realize how important gratitude is,” she says. “Basically I wanted to thank everyone, as they are prayers of thanks to life, to people, to the Aboriginal people, to everything.”

NEeMA’s inner scribe surfaced when she was in grade 5, as her pen constantly spilled poems and lyrics. But it wasn’t until her later years that she perfected her craft professionally.

“When I started writing again it felt as if my boat was finally flowing in the right direction,” she says. “I am still finding my path, yet I know I am in my element.”

The forecast for NEeMA’s future seems like high winds and calm waters, as her flourishing career is only setting sail.

“It sort of feels like everything has come full circle,” she says. “I only started my degree in management on a whim, as at that time I really wanted to be a photographer but had my reservations that it may not become much more than a hobby. Needless to say I never dreamed that music would become a career path. It feels most natural to me.” - Shannon Webb-Campbell - The Coast

"One With Music"

Snare Lakes (Oct 11/04) - The last track on NEeMA's CD Masi was supposed to be the first.

But NEeMA found the vocalized prayers she had collected from places as far apart as Egypt and Nunavut so compelling, she wanted to include them all in the opening prayer song.

She made a simpler acoustic version and used that as the opener, saving the longer, lush sounding track for last.

Tanya Tagaq Gillis of Cambridge Bay opens the song with throatsinging. Also on the track is Alexis Arrowmaker of Wekweti's spoken prayer in Dogrib.

"The main message is that we are all one," said NEeMA.

NEeMA was born in Montreal to Egyptian parents from Lebanon. But since graduating from university in 1996 she has been a globetrotter, the world her home base.

She has lived in Australia, India, Egypt and, between 1999 and 2001, in Wekweti, where she worked as the band manager.

"Two years seems short, but two years living in a small isolated community of 140 people is actually quite a bit of time. The people there are almost like another family to me," she said. NEeMA's first creative outlet was poetry. She has been writing verse since she was in Grade 5.

But she also calls herself a human jukebox because of her habit of singing aloud any tune that pops into her head.

Many of the tracks on Masi feature NEeMA speaking her verse in English and French.

NEeMA got a grant from the NWT Arts Council in 2002 to record a demo CD, and some of those tracks made it onto the full length album. NEeMA co-produced the album and paid for most of the production costs out of her own pocket.

For a year and a half, all of her spare time was poured into the project.

"It was a huge challenge," she said.

Part of the album was recorded at Spiritwalker studio in Yellowknife, where Leela Gilday added some harmonies and bassist Pat Braden pitched in.

The rest was done in Montreal, which was where NEeMA met up with Tagaq Gillis.

As well, some of the audio samples were recorded in Alexandria, Egypt, and in Wekweti, such as a solo sung by Wekweti's Tanya Quitte.

NEeMA launched the CD in the NWT community on International Music Day with an informal concert at the community hall. - Jennifer Geens - Northern News Services

"NEeMA Rave Review"

NEeMA guides us on a stunning journey across cultures. She is a talented musician who knows the joys and sorrows of this world. Her beautiful songs cast a spell on the world, leading us past artificial barriers and divisions, to reveal that inner world of harmony and well-being that we all long for. - George Tombs, journalist and author of Lord Black

"NEeMA - Elle lance son premier album dans le Nord"

Yellowknife (Oct 22/04) - Certains la connaissent sous le nom de Nadine Neemeh. Pour le grand public, cependant, ce sera NEeMA. L’ancienne résidente de Wekweti lançait, le 8 octobre dernier, son premier album intitulé Masì.

De 1999 à 2001, Nadine Neemeh occupait la fonction de gérante du conseil de bande de Wekweti. Passionnée de musique, ce séjour dans la petite communauté tlicho lui aura permis de s’imprégner de la culture dénée et d’en incorporer plusieurs éléments sur son premier album, intitulé Masì.
Née de parents libanais ayant grandi en Égypte, c’est à Montréal que Nadine Neemeh, maintenant connue sous le nom de NEeMA, voit le jour. Ayant commencé ses études en gestion à l’université McGill, elle profite d’un programme d’échange pour terminer son baccalauréat en Australie.

À son retour à Montréal, elle commence à regarder les offres d’emploi. « J’ai vu quelque chose pour les communautés dogribs. Je me suis dit que c’était une bonne façon d’utiliser mon bac, parce que j’avais toujours regretté d’avoir étudié là-dedans. Ça ne venait pas me toucher et je ne savais pas ce que je ferais avec ça. En même temps, ça semblait un super bon défi et j’aimais beaucoup voyager, il s’agissait donc d’une opportunité de rencontrer un nouveau peuple et une nouvelle culture » de mentionner celle qui, à l’époque, hésitait entre retourner en Égypte ou accepter l’emploi à Wekweti.
« Je me suis dit que de vivre dans une communauté isolée me donnerait l’opportunité d’écrire et de pratiquer ma musique », de mentionner celle qui collabore maintenant avec le Conseil des dogribs signataires du traité numéro 11, dans la mise en œuvre des accords sur les revendications territoriales et l’autonomie gouvernementale.

À l’écoute du premier disque compact de NEeMA, l’influence qu’a eue la communauté dogrib sur son art est indéniable. D’abord, l’album commence et se termine par une « chanson-prière ». « Il y a aussi une chanson écrite pour les gens de la communauté et qui parle donc vraiment des gens du Nord », de mentionner celle qui a inclus plusieurs vers en dogrib sur son album, en plus d’y ajouter une touche de français. « J’aimerais écrire plus en français et ça n’aurait pas été une très bonne projection de la personne que je suis s’il n’y avait pas eu de français sur l’album ».
Les auditeurs septentrionaux de l’album de NEeMA pourront reconnaître les voix de Leela Gilday, de Tanya Tagaq et de l’aîné Alexis Arrowmaker. Une fillette de Wekweti figure aussi sur l’album. Enfin, Pat Braden y est allé de sa contribution à la contrebasse, tout comme Norman Glowach à la batterie. Une partie de l’album de NEeMA a d’ailleurs été enregistrée aux studios Spiritwalker de M. Glowach, à Yellowknife.
À l’origine, la bourse du Conseil des arts des TNO obtenue par NEeMA était pour la production d’un démo. « J’ai commencé à enregistrer à Yellowknife il y a un an et demi ou deux ans. Ensuite, je me suis dit que c’était un album que je voulais faire et j’ai rencontré mon copain, qui est un excellent musicien, à Montréal. Nous avons commencé à collaborer et nous avons plongé là-dedans », de mentionner celle qui s’est autoproduit et qui a travaillé à la réalisation de l’album en collaboration avec son partenaire, François Turgeon.

Difficile de décrire la musique de NEeMA. Incorporant plusieurs sonorités émanant de différentes cultures, l’album se veut un véritable voyage autour du monde. Quant aux paroles, aussi écrites par NEeMA, elles tentent à aller chercher la fibre humaine de l’auditeur. « Le message est très important. Ma conscience a été élevée par des musiques que j’ai écoutées. J’aimerais faire ça pour les autres aussi. Je veux vraiment rejoindre les gens, les toucher, les réveiller. Ce n’est pas un secret que notre monde est dans un état assez fragile en ce moment et il y a des choses qui se passent qui sont débiles et ridicules. Je voudrais vraiment aider et être quelqu’un qui fait une différence et qui aide les gens à passer à l’action. Je pense que mes paroles sont probablement une des plus grandes forces de ma musique », dit-elle. La pièce Break the cycle, dont une partie est en français, en est un exemple frappant. L’auteure-compositeure-interprète y dénonce notamment la guerre d’Irak et le pouvoir exercé par les grands de ce monde.

Avec ce premier album, NEeMA vise haut. Si on lui demande ce qui pourrait lui arriver de mieux au niveau de sa carrière, l’artiste rêve de succès pour des raisons altruistes. « Je veux avoir beaucoup de succès, pas seulement comme divertissement, mais aussi pour enseigner, ou faire prendre conscience aux gens. J’aimerais contribuer à donner de l’espoir aux gens et à faire du monde un meilleur endroit ».

Mais pour l’instant, NEeMA doit se concentrer sur les détails concrets qui lanceront sa carrière. Tout d’abord, elle doit songer à un lancement officiel dans la ville où elle habite, Montréal, avant de faire de même dans les autres villes majeures au Canada. « Le prochain défi est de trouver comment rejoindre les gens, me faire connaître et faire circuler l’album. L’idéal serait de gagner des prix avec pour attirer l’attention des gens », dit celle qui doit aussi voir à un éventuel moyen de distribuer son œuvre. « La stratégie reste à être définie et c’est ce que je suis en train de faire. Je veux définitivement que ça sorte du Canada. Je pense qu’il y a du potentiel en Europe et aux Etats-Unis, mais il faut trouver les bonnes personnes pour m’aider », dit-elle.
De plus, NEeMA projette, pour très bientôt, de faire des spectacles. « Ça commence. Nous sommes en train de monter un groupe avec François Turgeon à la basse et Nicolas Grégoire à la batterie. J’aimerais aussi trouver un guitariste et un claviériste. On pratique régulièrement et on peaufine un spectacle », dit-elle.

À Yellowknife, il est possible de se procurer le disque de NEeMA au magasin de disques du Centre Square Mall. - Simon Bérubé - L'Aquilon

"Masi NEeMA for the wonderful CD"

Yellowknife (June 27/05)

Friends...Much like our northern wind, or the mysterious herds of caribou, this new CD, Masi, from NEeMA, drifts like a dreamscape in and around our consciousness, gently touching down now and then.

On first hearing of this musical masterpiece it is hard for me to realize that this is a debut album.

There is so much here in the way of subtlety, intricate word-play and sheer aural imagery it reminds me of the greats, those 'firsts' of such staples as Led Zeppelin and the Doors, in a ground-breaking way.

We hear the jazz influence, rap, hip-hop and an all-around cross-cultural montage originating in an Arabic genre and moving on all the way to the stylings peculiar to our northern Tlicho community of Wekweti (Snare Lake) and in English and en Français, aussi.

Of the twelve tracks here I especially like the intro, ‘Masi (Choukran)’, a clever interplay of music and poetry that chillingly describes a world suddenly slammed into a newer, post-911 reality.  Indeed throughout this CD there is no singled-out blame to assign, but a call for compassion, and a very real need for understanding and spiritual guidance as a Humane race of Peoples.

Yes, and score one for the Youth of today, for theirs, like this, is a voice we simply need to hear, and not preach to...

In a tribute to the community of Wekweti, the track 'Ayii Woole' recounts life in a small northern town, filled as it is with people sharing food and facing an uncertain future together, a multi-tracked expression of the joys of life and gratitude for the good overall.

My favorite, though, has to be a curious touch of genius in the insert of a scratchy vinyl in the middle of 'Equilibrium', and of course, the grand finale, 'Masi', a tour-de-force that covers pretty well our entire global experience, from the Near East to the U.S.A. and on back home, with points that cover all spiritual beliefs in between.  

With this as a debut CD I am certain we have a lot more to hear from this NEeMA.  Masi cho... - Antoine Mountain - News North


Watching You Think (June 2010 in Canada, March 2011 in USA)
Masì Cho (2006)
Masì (unreleased first edition of debut cd)

Hope: Love is the Answer
What is Indie?
Welcome to Yellowknife, Vol I
Montreal Fringe 2006




Album produced with Leonard Cohen and Pierre Marchand
Includes Headline Dates and Support for Jeff Beck, Joe Cocker, Cyndi Lauper and Elton John

Fresh from the recent U.S. release of her second album Watching You Think, Montreal based singer/songwriter NEeMA has announced a European tour, beginning June 10th at Schlossplatz in Stuttgart, Germany.

In addition to her series of headlining club dates at intimate venues across the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Sweden and more, NEeMA has also received backing from Jeff Beck, Joe Cocker, Cyndi Lauper and Elton John to support them at select tour dates across the continent.

A protégé of Leonard Cohen, who co-produced the album with Pierre Marchand (Rufus Wainwright, Ron Sexsmith), NEeMA follows in the tradition of singer/songwriters from Joni Mitchell to Judee Sill and Laura Nyro. She is a much-travelled troubadour, with a poetic soul and charisma that has seen rave reviews in her native Canada and feted by the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and Paste Magazine in the US.

See the "calendar" section of this site for the tour schedule. Fans should visit for updated tour and on-sale information.

Canadian songstress NEeMA’s new second album Watching You Think is 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. The US release of the album also contains and a new version of her deeply moving musical prayer, “Masi 2010”

The album finds NEeMA’s uninhibited and authentic style perfectly complemented by some of Montreal's best musicians, who add nuance to every mood and emotion of the new release. Players 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); production duties were assisted by Haig V and Fred Bouchard.

Of Egyptian and Lebanese descent, NEeMA commands a presence on and off stage that is as powerful and charismatic as her voice is honest and unique. She has traveled extensively, and has shared time with the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa; she had 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 have helped her develop the ability to communicate her stories through poetry and song, focusing on those themes that are dear to the human heart.

For NEeMA a song always begins with a seed, be it 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.”

NEeMA did not envision collaborating with these producers on the new 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.”

For instance, 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,’ she explains, ‘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 the pooch 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.”

NEeMA first arrived on the scene with her 2006 debut album Masi Cho, which was nominated for a MIMI (Montreal International Music Initiative) in the World & Roots category. Since then, NEeMA has toured Canada, Ireland, Australia, England and the U.S.  In the summer of 2007 alone, she performed more than 33 concerts, including Nova Scotia’s Privateer Days Festival and the South Country Fair Festival in Alberta

Band Members