Rukhsana Merrise Shines Brightly In Acoustic Omeara Performance


On the 13th of February, most people would have been concerned with the Champions League ties on the night. Some of us had other, more intimate settings to attend to. While teams such as Spurs and Borussia Dortmund will have their highlights shown after their performances, West London born singer-songwriter Rukhsana Merrise will unfortunately not. Despite this reality, it is always a delight to witness Rukhsana take the stage as she continues to sing her truths. 2018 saw a marked increase in her output which was highlighted by the release of Child; the first part of her debut album. When her contemporary R&B sensibilities mesh with influences born from folk and pop music, you begin to hear her earnest, vulnerable song-writing cleanse your palette like red grapefruit on a warm spring afternoon. Assisted by fellow singer Olivia and LA based tandem Moby Rich, here’s my rundown of the evening at Omeara in the heart of London Bridge.

On a wintery evening I walked into the venue and saw loads of figures facing the stage. The warm stage lighting took away the focus from the crowd, which made their silhouettes appear like the night sky surrounding a full moon. Prior to my arrival, Olivia had the crowd in awe with a short opening set that saw her run through a few of her favourite songs including “Reason To Stay” – her latest single which was released just last autumn. Olivia’s performance of “Reason To Stay” enchanted the intimate crowd, using the backing of soft acoustics to carry her voice around the dimly lit room. Finishing her set on that note earned her great applause as she swiftly exited the stage.

Tales of love were soon displaced by melancholy yet upbeat pop vibes from Maxwell Joseph and Connor Pledger – better known as the L.A. based alt duo Moby Rich. Their threads definitely gave the impression that they were not locals; short sleeved shirts and cropped trousers made it look like they were still in the City of Angels. Armed with an electric guitar, their mics and a faithful drummer, Moby Rich gave the London crowd a great introduction to their music with another short set. This time around, chill acoustic vibes were replaced by a high energy, feel good rundown of their aptly titled debut project Our First EP as well as a few anecdotes that gave us context into the duo and their journey as friends and artists.

Rukhsana Merrise taken by Jamie @ JUMPINSOUNDS

Interestingly enough, their whole set saw the tandem singing in unison as opposed to taking turns. In doing so Maxwell and Connor’s respective singing voices dovetail in a show of synergy. In spite of the harsh reverb caused by the sound system, this method worked to good effect, especially when they performed “Blink” and “Yoko Ono”, the latter being their most popular single to date with over a million streams on Spotify alone. “Pocket” to me was their stand out performance of the night; it showed their range given their take on the difficulty of losing love and closing the door on a failed relationship. Its tone and melancholy nature was a far cry from the aforementioned “Yoko Ono”, which is more upbeat in nature and has the feel of a more contemporary pop effort.

After a short pause, the crowd applauded as Rukhsana unassumingly made her way to the stage. Donning a camel trench coat, a black dress and black military boots to match, the main attraction quite visibly didn’t come to play any games. With backing coming from a guitarist and a wood block player, the stage again resembled a full moon as she kicked off her set. Nerves crept up in the form of her fingers fidgeting slightly, but as her voice soared around the venue like a bluebird in flight, these nerves were quickly made an afterthought. Her anecdotes on how her songs came to fruition were endearing and refreshing, openly talking about her emotions in relation to songs like “Light Years” and “Sober” which both came from pivotal moments in her life (read more about that in our interview from last year).

Her performance of both songs was heartfelt and ominous given the deep red hue that consumed the stage in its entirety. After giving props to Ragz Originale – fellow artist and the brain child of “Light Years” – she performed the stand out song (in my opinion) from Child.  The progressive guitar strings create a pensive feeling, which is reflected in the song where she sings about the unfamiliarity associated with love and looking to the future “closer than light years away/it’s so far from today”. The PRGRSHN produced “Sober” is Rox’s favourite and her lyrics cleverly use alcohol as a metaphor for losing control in love, a feeling that resonates with many. Watching her perform this song was an experience; the crowd was in a silent trance with some mouthing the lyrics as she sang.  Usually she would prefer to perform with a live band, but the stripped down approach to her performance complemented the venue and the lack of live instrumentation emphasised the strength of her singing outside of the booth.

By the time her set came to a close, Rukhsana was interacting with her crowd and joking when she buckled on stage, exuding good energy in her comfort zone on the stage. All in all, it was a great night to witness some understated talent! The performances were warming and true in contrast to the London nights. The show was actually a collection of performances as opposed to Rox’s headline event, but given that the second half of her debut is due in March, she gave us a sneak peek of what we can look forward to at her future headline show.

Stream Child now on all good streaming services and look out for Today, which is scheduled for release in March.