An Exclusive Interview. tamtam breaks the silence!
Published on January 30th, 2013 | by Nabeel
So why the name tamtam?
Originally, I wanted to use my real name – but that would be revealing too much too soon. Zahed Sultan’s nickname for me is tamtam and so I decided to use it as my artist name. The name best represents the period in my life when I officially became an artist (through releasing my debut single) and started to understand the reality of the music industry.
Your bio says you’re a young lyricist of mixed heritage. I know you never ask a lady her age but what’s the mix exactly?
I’m not able to reveal my exact mix yet. But, I will tell you that I am from an Arabian Gulf country.
Interesting! There’s been a lot of talk on KM about heritage and its role in music in the Arabian Gulf recently. Has your own nationality come in handy/stood in your way in terms of trying to break out into the spotlight?
This is a difficult question to answer because it can go both ways. My nationality could definitely be used as a platform to break out into the spotlight, but it can also cause disappointment and discontent among people in the country that I am from.
The last thing I would want to do is upset people because I’m making music. But I know that I can’t please everyone in life, no matter what I do, and I also know that I won’t be able to hide my identity and nationality forever.
So for now, I’m sort of in the shade, but as I put out more music, I hope to move closer to the light.
You have a rather unique voice in terms of music in the Arabian Gulf. Can you tell us a bit about your musical background – when did you start singing and have you received any training?
I always enjoyed singing when I was younger, but when I was 13 I was convinced that music is what I wanted to do in the future as a career. It all began when I sang “Thriller” by Michael Jackson in a talent show at school.
My formal musical training is limited. I took vocal lessons in high school and then continued with it by doing vocal exercises in my spare time. I plan to start taking vocal lessons again once I am done with college.
Onstage, tamtam truly comes into-her-own.’ You’ve gone onstage? Where? When? When’s next?
I haven’t performed at Coachella yet…so don’t get too excited! I’ve mostly gone onstage in school performances, talent shows, and open mic nights. When I release more music, I plan to perform more; definitely in 2014 and hopefully before the end of 2013 inshallah.
Tell us a bit about how Michael Jackson’s showmanship has influenced your own.
Michael Jackson’s live performances were so inspiring because anyone observing him could see that he genuinely felt every word that he sang. He didn’t just express words vocally; words came to life on his face and in every limb of his body while dancing.
An entertainer’s goal is to engage the crowd and to make them not only hear what the performer is saying, but to also experience what he or she is feeling. When I perform in front of people, I don’t think about them being there to watch me sing, but I focus on telling a story, and telling it well. I engage my audience with the lyrics of a song, but I also try to convey the words through my facial and body expressions.
Other than Michael, who are your other influences?
Both of my grandfathers were Arabic writers and poets. I am always moved when I read or hear their words – they are a source of inspiration for me to write my own lyrics.
My father is the hardest working person that I have ever met and he directly influences my determination to succeed. My mother’s love and support keeps me grounded – serving as a daily reminder that perseverance cannot be achieved without patience.
My siblings are a huge influence in my life as well because I know that I can always turn to them for honest advice and mutual support.
So what’s in the cards for tamtam? What are your plans for the future?
When I’m done with college, I am going to begin work on an EP (a half album), which I hope to release before the end of 2013. In between and thereafter, I plan to take every opportunity [in music] that comes my way.
If you could change or improve one thing about the way you do music, what would that be?
I am in the early stages of my musical career, so I sometimes get nervous and shy when I’m recording / working with numerous people in an enclosed space. I hope to become more confident about my opinions and not be afraid to voice my thoughts and ideas in the near future.
If you could change one thing about the music scene in the Arabian Gulf what would that be? Please be specific.
It would be great to have venues (such as open mic nights) that provide opportunities for young aspiring musicians to be creative. These platforms would equip them with the confidence and courage to perform live while garnering exposure from the general public.
Thanks a bunch tamtam
Well there you have it folks. An interesting and mysterious lady with secrets to keep. That makes us at KM very curious but we understand that it’s a complicated world and an even more complicated country.
Stay tuned for details on the remix competition in about an hour’s time! Safe!