RIYADH: Saudi singer Reem Al-Tamimi, more popularly known by her stage name Tamtam, launched her latest Extended Play offering titled “Ismak” during an intimate backyard session here recently, and also spoke about her journey as an artist and the inspiration behind her work.
As part of their “Auditorium Session” series, Al-Mashtal Creative Incubator created a space for Al-Tamimi to connect with her hometown and perform her songs on the EP live to fans and friends, accompanied by the sounds of Lambda and B-Element.
“One of my favorite songs from the EP is ‘Repetition,’” Tamtam said.
“I swear this song changed my life. After I wrote it, I would wake up every day and I would say: I’m ready now … I’m so tired of people telling me like, ‘you’re going to be ready tomorrow, you’re going to be ready in two years.’ I’m ready now.”
It certainly is Tamtam’s time now, having just recently released the 2022 Coca Cola World Cup anthem in collaboration with Egyptian rapper Felukah and Mexican singer Danna Paola, remaking Queen’s 1986 hit “A Kind of Magic.”
She also performed at the annual light festival Noor Riyadh and has an upcoming appearance at Saudi Arabia’s largest music festival MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm.
“When the community knows that there’s going to be XP, a music conference, or Soundstorm, a music festival, they’re gonna feel inspired, and they’re gonna have a goal in their mind. Like, ‘oh, I can play there one day; I want to do this one thing,’” Tamtam told Arab News.
The singer described having “chills” when the opportunity arose to host a release party in her home country. As the Kingdom embraces opportunities for cultural exchange and economic development, Tamtam urged a greater focus on the importance of local music representation in the region.
“I think that’s so important to not just see it outside of Saudi Arabia or outside of the Middle East. It’s so beautiful that it’s in the country, and (that these music platforms are) happening here,” she said.
Since the artist grew up in a multicultural environment, bridging those cultures came naturally. She described listening to Western music as an escape that she needed from her surroundings.
As her playlist diversified to Britney Spears, Spice Girls, and Fairuz, her eclectic taste manifested in her own sound, as her latest EP uniquely mixes Arabic and English lyrics.
“I loved the lyrics and the beautiful language of the Arabic music and I loved the … (I) don’t know if I should say confidence or the stage presence of the Western side, of the Western artists.
“I wanted to combine the two because I’m influenced by both, so that’s what I’m doing with this EP,” she said.
While becoming a female musician in the Saudi music industry may still be somewhat “taboo,” Tamtam said she has received nothing but “support.” She welcomes collaborations with other artists and hopes to see local creatives on a global stage one day.
“It’s just so beautiful to create together as a community.
“I know there aren’t a lot of female musicians on the main stages now, but I see them, they’re working on their craft, they’re working on their music, and soon they’re gonna be there,” she said.
She attributes her positivity, which she certainly radiates, to her parents.
Deeply personal, her EP examines themes of rising from adversity, finding one’s voice, and embracing confidence on five tracks — “Ismak,” “Run,” “Insak,” “Repetition” and “Liberation.”
“It’s a really beautiful time to be in Saudi Arabia and to be creating art and music and we should all celebrate this moment together. So I’m really grateful to do this, something like this because it’s different than going on stage and doing a big show. This is more intimate and it’s great to celebrate intimately with the community,” she said.
After an insightful chat about her creative process with Elham Ghanimah, Al-Mashtal’s creative labs curator, she performed the set of songs, ending with her favorite “Repetition,” which resonated with the assembled audience.
Prompting members of the audience to pull out their phones and write down something they wanted to achieve, the night ended with Tamtam chanting in unison with them: “I’m ready now.”