Travelling life: Mayssa Karaa

This multilingual singer has a passion for travel and loves living in Hollywood because of the inspiration it gives her. She talks about her favourite destinations, travel essentials and how she keeps her vocal cords in top form.

Mayssa Karaa. Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images for DIFF
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Born in Lebanon,Mayssa Karaa is a truly global world music artist. While the young Lebanese singer is renowned for her spine-tingling version of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit in Arabic, which was used as part of the soundtrack of the 2013 Oscar-winning film American Hustle, she has built an impressive international career with world tours that saw her sing in multiple languages including English, Arabic, French, Italian and Croatian. She will bring this evocative mix to the capital on April 2 as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival.

Where are you right now?

I am in West Hollywood. I moved here in June from Boston where I was living for the past eight years. I was also studying at the Berklee College of Music, and once I graduated, I moved here to focus on building my career. There is a lot of energy here in Hollywood. Everybody around here works in the same field, which inspires me to work even harder and keep creating new music.

How often do you go on holidays?

Whenever I get time off, I return to Lebanon to spend some time with my family. But every time I am on a business trip or tour, I do take the time out to explore the country. That said, the first time I came to Dubai was in 2013 for the Dubai International Film Festival, where American Hustle was being screened. I returned over the summer last year to spend my birthday with friends. It was extremely hot, but I managed to spend some time in the pool and the lounges.

Where do you call home?

That’s a difficult question and I don’t know if I can answer that. My home is where my opportunities are, which is here in Hollywood, but it is also where my family is, which is in Beirut. I guess for now it just has to be here in the States. This is where things are happening for me.

Where do you plan to go to next?

After my Abu Dhabi show in April, I will be going to Belgrade for a few concerts. I have been exposed to a lot of Balkan music and singing in Serbian lately, so a composer from there invited me to play in the Belgrade Arena. I am looking forward to it, as this will be my first time over there.

What do you love about travelling?

The curiosity that it gives me. Every city has its own quirks and charms. I love walking around cities and exploring the culture. It inspires me and gives me plenty of ideas.

What do you hate about travelling?

The time it takes to get to places. As a singer, I need my vocal cords to be rested and it really affects me if I haven’t slept well. So for my upcoming trip to Abu Dhabi, I will drink lots of water and slowly adjust to the time difference prior to and during the flight. Also, when I arrive in Abu Dhabi, I will have a few days’ rest before the show.

Do you prefer simplicity or luxury?

I would be lying if I said I preferred simplicity. At the same time, I am not talking about some exaggerated luxury. I need to be well-rested before a show, so a comfortable hotel works just fine. I like quiet hotels as when I am in my room I am practising and getting focused on my show.

What has been your favourite trip?

Two summers ago, I went to Naples and that was amazing. I was there as part of a shoot for a documentary about the opera singer Enrico Caruso. While I was there, it felt like there was something about the city that I found very relatable. Being able to go around and explore where Caruso lived was fascinating and an inspiration.

What is your favourite city for a weekend?

It has to be Paris because as a child I went to a French high school, and can speak the language fluently. I also love Montreal because it has a great cultural musical tradition and education. It can be either one of these two.

What do you never travel without?

My small pillow. It is a special one that supports my head and neck and is more sophisticated than the ones you see on the plane. When you sing, it has a lot to do with the back of your neck and being in control of that is very important. When I practice singing, I often do that with a book on my head to keep my head posture right.

What is your idea of a perfect weekend?

I would love to go sailing, to be honest. I am trying to go to Croatia for a yacht event in order to explore that. I also remember travelling with my parents to Greece as part of a cruise. There is something about the beauty of the sea that makes me want to return to it all the time.

What is your ideal romantic destination?

It would be Venice, although I have never been there. I want to see the canals, and I love how it is simple, yet so rich in culture. The more I hear and read about it, the more I want to go. It has everything I would enjoy – the culture, history and of course the water. That would be the ideal romantic destination for me.

As a touring artist, what is your favourite music city?

It has to be where I am right now, in Hollywood. We all know about how fancy it is, but that’s not why artists are here. The reason is because I can walk down the street and meet a fellow musician, dancer or photographer. It is this atmosphere that inspires me. It makes me have a target when I wake up each day. I can do more here than I can elsewhere.

• Mayssa Karaa is performing at Emirates Palace on April 2. Tickets begin from Dh125 and are available at