MEREBA - SANDSTORM FT. JID
by LAUREN VALENTI
Mereba has the kind of soft, hypnotizing vocals that can lull you into a meditative state no matter the subject. In "Sandstorm," the second to last track on her self-produced debut album The Jungle is the Only Way Out, the rising Ethiopian-American singer laments the inevitable end of a relationship with deep—and hauntingly beautiful—introspection. "We were low, we were high, Jekyll, Hyde," she coos in the opening lines of the slow groove breakup ballad, which also features a more tender side of her fellow Atlanta native, rapper J.I.D. "I let go of something that was comfortable in hopes of making space for something that was actually meant for me," she explains of a longterm relationship that unraveled as she was finishing the album. "I'm a Virgo and we love really hard, but we ended up in this cycle, a lot like a sandstorm, that neither of us were happy in, so I jumped out of the eye of the storm."
Tapping Brooklyn-based director Dawit N.M. to explore the song's visual narrative, the music video illustrates the exquisite pain of an on-off relationship cycle. Inside a sprawling midcentury modern house in the West Hollywood hills, Mereba and her lover oscillate between silence and bursts of fleeting joy through a black and white filter. She only appears in vivid color during a series of interspersed close-up shots alongside J.I.D., her natural beauty radiating with dewy, strobed skin and a glossy chocolate brown lip, as well as washes of metallic ruby red shadow on the eyes to play off her crimson gem-encrusted neckpiece. "Dawit and I wanted to capture the black elegance we've seen in our Ethiopian families throughout our lives," she explains of conceptualizing her beauty looks for the film. "We incorporated these regal east African elements with colors and jewels." Mereba's seven tightly wound cornrows, woven down the nape all down to her waist, were another integral part of the above-neck equation. "I always used to just wear my hair in an afro, but recently started getting these braids," she explains. "For me, it's a way to challenge the idea that having straight hair is the only way to be regal. I haven't straightened my hair in like eight years, so I wanted to get that sleek silhouette, but in a way that I can keep my hair natural."
Continuing to recalibrate her beauty as a powerful means of self-expression, Mereba is spending the summer in the studio, working on new music before hitting the road again to promote her debut project in Europe this fall. Trust that whatever follows is bound to be just as real and raw. "I want to keep on making songs that challenge where music is at right now and gives people encouragement to fall in love with the process of making it, not just the flex," she explains. "My music will always be a reflection of a true journey...the good, bad, the ugly."