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Monday, April 15, 2013

Marian Mereba finds 'Room for Living' at Emory recreational field

Toward the end of her set, Marian Mereba played a guitar melody as she conferred with her two backup singers. A few people cheered. "Oh, you know that one?" she asked.

On Saturday night, Mereba performed songs at Emory University's McDonough Field to a loosely congregated crowd of 50. The Atlanta singer/songwriter was dwarfed by the size of the stage, let alone the campus. However, before students began to emerge from their residential halls to head out for the evening, Mereba helped turn the recreational field into an intimate setting.

After performing as an opening act ("jazzgosoul" singer Avery Sunshine) and featured artist (hip-hop production team SMKA's The Hangout), Mereba released her debut EP, Room for Living. Over a wash of sustained piano notes and understated guitar melodies, Mereba often sings about the pursuit of dreams. In "Rolling Stoner" she even raps about taking refuge inside her bedroom, brainstorming her next move. "So have you seen her?" she asks, as Lil Wayne intoned on Jay-Z's "Hello Brooklyn (2.0)."

While Room for Living is ethereal, Mereba captivated her Emory audience with just her two singers, an acoustic guitar and a voice that can sound childlike with the right production ("Wandering Hands"), but is actually warm and feathery like Billie Holiday's in person. Every once in a while, a few passersby stopped to listen as Mereba's fingers slid across the guitar strings and her voice seemed to shoot straight to the clear sky. Emory suddenly became Mereba's living room.

In "Go to London," the song people recognized, Mereba encourages a love to leave her and move on. It was supposed to be her last song, but when she turned to walk off the stage, the audience cheered for an encore. "One more song! One more song!" they said. She stopped her backup singers, then walked back to her mic. "Hey guys, I'm Marian Mereba," she said. Of course, by then people already knew.

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