Sunday June 16th, 2024
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Artist Spotlight: Maro The Ukrainian-Lebanese Artist Fusing Soul & Pop

Marwan Daou, aka Maro is a cross-cultural YouTube star whose internet presence and heartfelt love songs have garnered him millions of followers.

Farida El Shafie

Artist Spotlight: Maro The Ukrainian-Lebanese Artist Fusing Soul & Pop

Marwan Daou (Maro) - a self-proclaimed insomniac, expired milk consumer and serial stray-hair inhaler - is a Ukrainian-Lebanese singer-songwriter whose guitar is as much a vessel for his creative prowess as it is an extension of his being. Shoving shirtless red-tinted cover shoots aside on his Spotify page, the YouTube sensation began - much like his successful counterparts - with a cover of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ in 2019. With his guitar in hand, Maro’s cover went on to amass nearly 10 million views on YouTube, the then 22-year-old quickly established a die-hard fandom before releasing original works.

After halting his university career in Music Mediology, the budding artist swiftly found himself embroiled in a loop of Western connections helping to mobilise his career, whose recommendations resulted in a permanent move to Norway. Two U.S. visa rejections in the making, the move proved successful, as it facilitated a tranquil abode where Maro can strum his woes into soulful heartbreak ballads. Maro got his first big break after landing a deal with tech-music label SNAFU Records, a Swedish/LA label, to release the track ‘Carsick’ in August 2020.

Produced by Carl Falk and Albin Nedler, and bordering on bedroom pop, ‘Carsick’ is a catchy guitar number centred around an uplifting production that pushes the love-sick lyrics along. The track garnered nearly 2 million views, helping to establish Maro amongst a young generation of pop fans, with his emotive and soulful singing. The next year, in 2021 he released “Take It Back”, also under SNAFU Records.

Dubbed by podcasters as 'the Lebanese Justin Bieber', Maro’s career was catalysed by the trending notion that YouTube stardom can lead to musical discovery and development. Scrolling through Maro’s Instagram comments is akin to unwinding a jewellery box overflowing with admiration as well as - the occasional commodification - ‘I can’t stare in your eyes when I can’t make you mine’ and ‘Hermoso’ (meaning handsome in Spanish) within the long list of comments.

In 2022, Maro released his debut album, ‘Words From My Bedroom’, released via EMPIRE distribution. The 10-track album is loaded with themes of loneliness, nostalgia, and lost love, written primarily on the piano and guitar.

Singing through seven languages in total (Arabic, French, Russian, English, Turkish, Italian and Spanish) Maro’s occasional code-switching has resulted in many perplexed interactions with his fanbase, at the same time, a wider reach. But along the way, he eventually learned to encompass the much more eloquent desire of turning personal truth and humility into a life-long career.

A fan of Netflix’s Narcos, Maro further fuelled the ambiguity of his ethnicity when he stunned audiences with a heartfelt cover of Rodrigo Amarante’s ‘Tuyo’. A theme song to most, the cover served as a critical turning point for the artist. It forged a desire to experiment - melodically and lyrically - with his own music and went on to provide Maro with the resoluteness required to pioneer a personal sound.

Born to a Lebanese father, and a Ukrainian mother both of whom later moved to Kuwait, the artist’s adolescence was spent navigating his identity in the canvas-like confines of French boarding schools and Russian kitchen conversations. Whilst Beirut circumscribes Maro’s identity, it at times connoted an unbending city where talents of his calibre are overlooked. As the years carried on, Maro rectified his fragmented relationship with Beirut upon discovering a community of like-minded individuals.

Couch and dorm room hopping, Maro found himself strumming his own melodies and penning his own lyrics. Cutting through the haze of the COVID-19 chaos, the budding artist found solace amidst new-wave of pop music saturating TikTok FYPs. The music he fashions - including tracks like ’stuck in the friendzone’, ‘Lust Not Love’ and ‘HELLSTORM’ - is, overtly so, inspired by the chart-topping likes of Nirvana and the Weeknd. Whilst he predominantly adheres to English lyrics, Maro’s cover of Fairouz’s ‘Kan Ena Tahoun’ stimulated a desire to intertwine his multi-ethnic identity - potentially exporting Lebanese culture in the process - through features and sampled tracks.

While Maro is still honing in on his sound, his traction online and his quick transition from singing viral covers to original works suggest that the young artist is one worth keeping an eye on.

See below to listen to Maro's debut album, 'Words from my Bedroom'.