“It’s funny in the pop world because everyone’s really worried about losing their spot. Everyone’s worried that if someone new comes along they might depose them, so everyone’s always looking over their shoulder.” So says Ayah Marar and she’d know. From her unique vantage point as part of both the pop world and all that it brings (she’s recently collaborated with both Calvin Harris and DJ Fresh) and engrained in the dance underground for the past 10 years, her vantage point is better than others. Basically, it’s probably time for those with crooked necks to start facing forward.
Dance music is a broad church but within each parish there’s usually a set of rules. A doesn’t always go with B and X shouldn’t really mix with Y, but sometimes those rules are meant to be broken or manipulated into odd new shapes. Ayah Marar’s kaleidoscopic debut album, The Real, is a case in point; thirteen songs that take inspiration from the underground dance scene, cherry-picking the very best elements of drum and bass, techno and house and bolting them onto well-crafted pop hooks that look set to shatter dance floors. “It’s an homage to dance music in whatever form, whether it’s garage or two step or house or drum and bass,” she explains.
Born in Jordan to a Czech-Bulgarian mum and a Palestinian-Jordanian dad and attending an international school with members of Jordan’s royal family, Marar refers to herself as a “proper mongrel”. From an early age she was exposed to a myriad of musical styles, the Marar household was full of everything from Elton John, Boney M and Freddie Mercury to The Beatles, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy. Whilst at school, Marar moved onto hip-hop, finding an immediate connection: “I latched onto that, that was me”.