A photo of Aya Mhana holding an oud with a dancer in the background
Aya Mhana | Photo: Courtesy of Aya Mhana

Aya Mhana

Newcomer Artist in Residence and New Canadian Artist Award winner shares her story

Cherie McMaster

This year’s recipient of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society New Canadian Artist Award, Aya Mhana is a Syrian-born singer, songwriter, and oud player. Now a proud Canadian citizen, Mhana moves easily between English and Arabic, writing lyrics with a poet’s sensibilities.

Mhana’s musical journey is deeply influenced by her Syrian roots. Hailing from Sweida, she taught herself to play the oud during high school, and graduated from the University of Damascus with a degree in education. She also volunteered with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, working with families displaced during the Syrian war.

Since emigrating to Calgary in 2016, she has performed at the Calgary Stampede, at GlobalFest, and with the Kensington Sinfonia. She even formed a band called HYMM, a seven-piece ensemble that often graces Calgary coffee houses with its Middle Eastern fusion repertoire.

“I had to learn the language and I had to learn the culture but,” says Mhana. “Music helped me a lot to integrate.”

Currently working with the Calgary Public Library as the Newcomer Artist in Residence, her residency is presented in partnership with Calgary Arts Development.

Get to know her inspiration and all about her journey—tune into The Storytelling Podcast to hear more.

About The Storytelling Podcast

Sharing diverse stories of creativity in our city, The Storytelling Podcast shines a spotlight on artists and projects that connect Calgarians to the arts.

Part of The Storytelling Project, this series raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

Have a story to share? Email us at submissions@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

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