THIS might be the first time I…
have featured someone from Saudi Arabia on my site. It has been fascinating speaking with tamtam about her experiences of Saudi and spending time in L.A. She talks about her new single, Drive, and filming its video; how liberating its themes and story is – I ask whether Saudi Arabia’s strict laws regarding women and visibility have impacted her in any way.
Tamtam talks to me about a pivotal moment that changed her life; which artists were inspiring to her growing up; whether there are any tour dates in the calendar; the advice she would provide upcoming artists – tamtam selects a musician we should all follow.
Hi, tamtam. How are you? How has your week been?
It’s been great, thank you!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Yes. My moniker for my music is ‘tamtam’. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia; I am currently living in L.A. and making music but I go back to Saudi as much as I can to visit my family and home. A lot of my music is inspired by Saudi.
I don’t have a choice but, to be genuine in my lyrics, especially in songs that I write on my own - being brought up in one culture and then moving to another country with a completely different culture - has had a really powerful impact on me that I hope I reflect in my music: no matter where we are from, or how we are brought up, or what we believe in, we have the most important thing in common, our humanity, and that, alone, should unite us.
Drive is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind the song?
I wrote this song last year when I heard the news that Saudi was lifting the ban on women driving. I was so happy and inspired! I wrote the song right away...
The video sees you driving around with girlfriends through Orange County. How much fun was it to shoot?!
It was honestly one of the best days! I will never ever forget it. I was with my friends (who are in the video) which was amazing. The director, Mackenzie Mccullough, is such a wonderful, creative and humble person to work with. It really was a blast - especially driving that perfect, vintage yellow car!
As a Saudi woman; do you feel even revealing your face and making a video is a brave step?! How does life for a Saudi woman differ when you are in America, as opposed to your home nation?!
When I first started doing music seven years ago, I would say definitely ‘yes’. At that time, I had released my first single, Little Girl, where my face was blurred in the video because I didn’t want anyone to know I was doing music. But, now, Saudi is really adapting in a positive way: women can drive; the first movie theatres just opened a few months ago; live concerts are slowly happening more frequently and are more socially-accepted than before.
Because I’m in music, life in L.A. as a Saudi woman is different for me because there are so many musicians, producers and songwriters to work with and to collaborate with - that’s what I love about being in L.A. as a musician. I can also perform live anytime I want: there are more concert venues here and smaller ones too; not just huge stages. The talent that is growing out of Saudi is amazing and I know that the music there is going to grow so much more with the new laws.
Liberation and women’s rights play a big part in your overall ethos. Do you think it is vital these issues are introduced into music?
Yes, I do, because this is what the youth is listening to. They love music. Anything with a melody and a beat is more interesting to listen to than someone who is just talking; so, more people can engage with music and I believe, as musicians, we need to start sending positive messages through this power that we have.
Do you think there will be more material later this year?
Yes! I have so much more music coming out, including a collaboration with producer/D.J. Accidental Muse, which will be more of an E.D.M. project, that I’m super-excited about as well.
I believe a green Jeep and a unique experience when you were eighteen changed everything. Was that moment of independence pivotal to you?
Yes, it was. No matter where you are in the world, whether in the U.S. or Saudi Arabia, it changes everything when you know you can walk out the door and go anywhere you want. To be honest, when I first started driving here, I was terrified of the road. I wouldn’t take any freeways and I wouldn’t go very far. But, I knew that, with patience and practice, I would get used to driving…and that’s what I did.
Do you recall the musicians who inspired and motivated you when you were growing up?
Michael Jackson is always my number-one. I also loved listening to No Doubt, the Spice Girls; Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake (I still love him) (smiles). I went through an Aerosmith phase. My love for music is not specific to any genre, as you can see.
Where are you heading on tour? Where can we catch you?
I don’t have tour dates set yet but I’m definitely going soon and will keep you posted!
Do you think you’ll come to the U.K. and perform?
Yes! I’ll probably do a show in London first. I can’t wait (smiles).
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I hope my music reaches more and more people. I love connecting with my fans; they are so important to me.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I just did a show in Kuwait in April for a concert called Kuwait Rising and it was amazing! I love performing live and I love feeling the energy of the crowd - it is definitely an unforgettable memory.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Patience, patience; patience…and listen to your gut.
IN THIS PHOTO: Smoke Season/PHOTO CREDIT: Natalie Neal
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I love going hiking. Being with nature really helps me unwind and keeps me grounded.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Florence + the Machine - No Choir and Hunger