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Meet Rawan Chaya

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rawan Chaya.

Rawan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always been drawn to music and this sense of belonging made it apparent to me that I was destined to be an artist. This wasn’t always easy for me because I grew up in a household where the arts were only to be enjoyed as a hobby, so it was very difficult for me to practice my music as a career. Thankfully, my brother, Walid Chaya, was a huge advocate of the arts and eventually became a filmmaker. He helped me think outside of our cultural norms in order to step into this creative space and embrace my artistry.

Ever since I can remember, the arts were alive in my household. My brother carried around his camera everywhere he went, put together shows and musicals, and I was always by his side through it all. We put on musicals and shows for the neighborhood kids, sang karaoke like our lives depended on it, and jammed to our favorite movie musicals. I often signed up for musicals, school talent shows and state competitions. I remember finding relief in writing down the lyrics of my favorite songs to memorize them, which I now understand helped me become a better songwriter.

When I was 18, my family decided to move back to Lebanon. I had to start from scratch there, build a fanbase, find musicians and create my team. Moving overseas was one of the most difficult phases in my life. I experienced intense culture shock and instead of letting it take hold of me, I found that the best way to cope was through my music. Slowly, I grew accustomed to Beirut and fell in love with the booming city and its music scene. I formed a band and started performing every week at local bars, hotels and other special events. I grew my fanbase and found myself as an artist—my mission being to fuse together Western and Eastern music. If it wasn’t for my parents moving to Lebanon, I wouldn’t have learned so much about myself and my music. In 2019, I joined a contest with Universal Music Group and made it as a top 10 contender with my single “WANDERER” that I wrote and released in less than three days at Boombox Studios in Beirut.

I cultivated many relationships and experienced numerous musical opportunities abroad, but I knew I would eventually return to the United States to pursue my music career in Los Angeles, the world’s largest music hub. In September 2019, I made the grand move from Beirut to LA and since then, I have been thriving with my music. I have a major release coming up soon for my original “Miss You,” a song about losing a loved one. One of my main goals is for my music to resonate with my audience, especially in times of need because music has always done that for me. Some of my biggest musical inspirations include Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone, Fairouz, Christina Aguilera, Sia and The Weeknd. By following their artistry, I learned that good music should be bold, raw, inspiring, emotive, expressive and distinctive, respectfully.

Since I wasn’t always encouraged to fully focus on music, I had to find ways to make things work and with more time and experience, I taught myself how to record and mix my music. I also created and edited my first official music video with “WANDERER.” In the long run, I am thankful I went through these experiences because they shaped me into the artist I am. Now when I go into a studio, I bond with engineers and respect their craft even more because their work is so essential. I enjoy the music process as a whole, from production to singing/songwriting to editing. I also believe that collaboration is one of the strongest tools to use as an artist because it enables us to create unique sounds and teaches us various approaches to music.

Music gives me a chance to express myself, escape when times are tough, and connect with people. Human interconnectedness is what makes me wonder and wander—it motivates me and keeps me alive. Music is a universal language, and I couldn’t be more blessed to have a voice that can reach people all around the world. I hope to collaborate with artists from all regions and create an Eastern/Western fusion album in 2021.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I definitely had cultural barriers that hindered me. As a first-generation Lebanese-American, it was difficult for my family to get used to the fact that I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. This made it hard for me to grow as an artist because I wasn’t receiving the support I needed. Thankfully, they got on board once they witnessed my relentless determination at making music and following my dreams.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I am a Lebanese-American singer/songwriter who is passionate about making music that is relatable. I have always had a hard time expressing myself, but I have found instant relief when making music. That’s why it is important to be raw when it comes to music because the more honesty and depth there are in a song, the more relatable it can be.

Moving overseas to Beirut has shaped my artistry and changed my music taste drastically. I believe this is what sets me apart from other artists; I love various types of music and I fuse together Eastern and Western sounds. I am so thankful and proud to have gotten to experience seven years overseas because I had the privilege of meeting and working with phonemail world artists. I am also proud of how I have established myself in LA amongst notable songwriters, singers and producers. I came up with the name “Rowonderland” because music helps me escape into my own wonderland and I hope that people who listen to my music can do the same.

What were you like growing up?
I was a very hyperactive child who was curious about almost everything! I wandered around different places, got lost often and was frequently a daydreamer. I would get my brother to help me record videos of myself singing to upload on YouTube and to watch so that I can correct my mistakes.

I remember receiving a walkman as a gift and carrying it around with me EVERYWHERE I went. When my dad would punish me, he would take that or my microphone away. I tried getting into sports but ended up feeling creatively under-stimulated so I stuck to choir, musical theatre and talent shows. I starred as ‘Gabriella’ in High School Musical, ‘Rizzo’ in Grease and got to be a part of a state singing competition in Virginia.

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Image Credit:

Shant Sarafian, Laudy Issa

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