Live Concert Photography: Marieme at Rockwood Music Hall 3/7/18
Marieme Diop is an up-and-coming, Santa Monica, CA-based, Mauritanian-born, Senegalese singer/songwriter, who writes, records and performs with the mononym Marieme. Born six months before a bloody and brutal war between her native Mauritania and Senegal, her family was forced to flee their home when the war broke out. “We literally got on the last plane before the war went crazy,” Diop explains in press notes. Her father, a top executive at a major electrical company in the region was stripped of his livelihood, and the family, which lived rather comfortably in a large home with staff and two cars were left with nothing. Marieme and her siblings wound up living with an aunt in Senegal, while her parents moved to the US, eventually settling in The Bronx. Five years passed before the family was finally reunited.
“My parents made such incredible sacrifices to give us a better life,” Diop recalled in press notes. “It was so hard for my dad to start back over, but he moved across the world to give us a more stable life, after all, we’d been through.” The up-and-coming Mauritanian-born, Senegalese singer/songwriter was seven when she moved to the US, and she was thrown into a new, incredibly strange environment. “Before my family came to New York, I hadn’t been exposed to many other cultures and ethnicities,” she explains. “I didn’t speak English – only French and [the Senegalese language] Wolof.”
Because she was raised in a devout Muslim home, Diop’s family didn’t listen to music while in Senegal; however, by the time she moved to the States, she felt in love with music in a way that she couldn’t deny. In fact, a young Diop initially learned English from listening to the pop songs of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera — and she would work up girl-group routines with her sisters, inspired by Destiny’s Child and Eden’s Crush. “I found a box of CDs hidden under my parents’ bed,” Diop recalls in press notes. “It was full of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion albums. They became my north star: from them, I discovered I loved music so much.” Understandably, music was a refuge to the Mauritanian-born Senegalese singer/songwriter, who was frequently teased by her classmates for her “fresh-off-the-boat” immigrant status. “I wasn’t allowed to have that dream,” she says. “I didn’t even know I could sing. It wasn’t even something I could’ve even considered in the world I came from. But I took refuge in music like nothing else. I would listen to Celine Dion or Mariah or Mary J. Blige and just try to sing along and feel what they were feeling.”
As a schoolgirl, Diop secretly joined an after-school choir to explore her new passion; however, the direction of her life was altered when she discovered Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse. “That’s when I realized music could change the world for the better,” Marieme says. “At first, I probably sounded too much like Lauryn, Amy or Duffy. I had to find my own voice within those powerful influences.”
Unsurprisingly, much of the material off the Mauritanian-born Senegalese singer/songwriter’s forthcoming debut is influenced by her experience as a global citizen, who has gone through an identity crisis; in fact, her breakout single “Leave,” a collaboration with renowned producer and songwriter Andy Rose that quickly won her attention from Paradigm Talent Agency’s Tom Windish who signed her as her booking agent; a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group‘s Jason Markey, a renowned A&R executive and music supervisor; and writing sessions with producers like Neff-U, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Eminem, Justin Bieber, Dr. Dre, Ne-Yo and others all quickly followed. But interestingly enough “Leave” is inspired by Diop’s decision to leave her home and family and relocate to the Los Angeles area to pursue a lifelong dream of being a singer. “‘Leave’ is about leaving my old life to really pursue this dream, and the sacrifices, heartbreak, and redemption that came with that choice,” Marieme says. “Leave” has become Marieme’s signature song – a sort of flag in the ground expressing who she is as an artist. “It was scary to leave my home and family, but when I made the leap, everything started happening,” she says. “It felt like a sign that I did the right thing.”
I caught the radiant, up-and-coming, singer/songwriter play one of her first sets in the New York area at Rockwood Music Hall, and the set featured the soulful and thoughtful material off her forthcoming full-length debut, and it included her newest single, the uplifting “Be the Change.” Check out the recently released video for “Be the Change” and photos from the set below.