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This article was published 20/9/2016 (2110 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Hello was a massive hit for pop star Adele, but it also changed the life of a burgeoning singer-songwriter in Manitoba.
Sixteen-year-old Faouzia Ouihya’s cover of the chart-smashing single is won her second place in the Canada’s Walk of Fame Emerging Artist Mentorship Program — a program that provides musicians who are just starting out the opportunity to make connections and develop their skills.
More than 350 unsigned musicians from across the country submitted original songs or covers, which was narrowed down to seven finalists by a panel of judges including members of Canada’s Walk of Fame senior management team, music industry executives and musicians.
Faouzia was deemed the second-prize winner and will perform in Toronto for the first time at Yonge and Dundas Square with her fellow finalists on Saturday, a moment she says she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
"My manager came to me one day and he had a paper he showed me, he printed out the email and and showed me and I was absolutely flabbergasted because we hadn’t heard from them at all," Ouihya says of the day she found out she had come in second. "I was shocked ... it’s so crazy."
Ouihya, who goes solely by her first name on stage, was born in Morocco but now resides in Carman with her family.
Music has been an ever-present hobby in her young life — at age five, she had her first piano lesson, by six, she was already writing songs. The pattern continued as she picked up more instruments such as the guitar and djembe drum and started to write songs in both French and English.
"Whether it’s a couple sentences or a whole entire song, I’m always writing every single day," she says.
"I just write whatever language comes to me, one of my favourite songs I’ve written is in French, so I feel even though I write a lot in English, when I write in French it’s something a bit more rare on my part, so I guess it’s a bit more special."
The sound that comes out of Ouihya is slightly unexpected; her voice has an aged quality that comes from the deep, full lowness of it. She has a band now, but she performs and pens the majority of her songs from behind her piano.
"It’s kind of a signature Faouzia thing," she says with a laugh.
"People have asked me if I’m ever just going to sing, and I’m not too sure just yet, maybe that’s a possibility in the future, but right now I feel very comfortable having my piano in front of me.
"It’s been 11 years I’ve been playing it, so I’m not ready to let it go just yet."
Her first single, Knock On My Door, was released last fall and she has since been stocking away demos for future releases. There are no immediate plans to release an EP or full-length, however, but Ouihya says it’s "definitely a plan in the future."
In the meantime, the teen is also focused on continuing her education — on graduating high school and eventually attending university with the hopes of going to medical school.
"I think that I want to get started slowly and surely," she says.
"I don’t want to run into anything or jump into the nearest deep waters. I definitely want to keep going to school ... and also release an EP at the same time.
"It’s going to be a slow process, but I hope that it’s going to be sturdy one."
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Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.