Tamtam is understandably excited. The 24-year-old Saudi singer has just dropped her latest song, ‘Solidarity’, and coincidentally, it became the same day King Salman issued a historic royal decree granting driving licenses for women as of next June.
Taking to Instagram, she posted: “‘Time to stand together like once before, and this time we’ll stop the war’. I’m so happy that this song is out on the same day women are allowed to drive in Saudi! Subhan’Allah!
“To moving forward, to standing up for one another, to SOLIDARITY.”
The Riyadh-born artist is certainly no stranger to the struggles many women encounter in the Middle East. After all, she hails from a country where it is relatively uncommon to pursue a career in music.
But as a teenager, Tamtam moved to California to begin working on her dream, and it’s looking good for her. She’s already released a few music videos and her new EP, ‘Identify Myself’ came out this year, available on various music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Anghami.
We reached out to Tamtam for an online chat to find out more about this unique rising star.
For those who don’t know you, how would you introduce yourself?
I’m a girl with big hair and bigger dreams. I grew up in Saudi, and I’m currently making music in Los Angeles. My goal is for my music to unite all people.
You’ve mentioned that your parents believed “seeing the world through a different lens was important”. Can you elaborate on that?
Yes, my parents wanted me to be around people from different cultures and understandings of life, so that I could learn more about the world. And also so that I could learn that we can all coexist. We may have many differences, but we have the most important thing in common: humanity.
You took on music when you were 11, but when did it start to turn into a professional venture?
When I was 18, I met [Kuwaiti multimedia artist, producer, and filmmaker] Zahed Sultan. I showed him one of my songs, ‘Little Girl’, which he loved. So we went into the studio and he produced it. He also directed my music video. It was really fun to do it all for the first time!
Speaking of ‘Little Girl’, you had your face blurred in that music video. Looking back, would you have still blurred your face?
I wouldn’t do things differently. I remember liking it even more after we decided to blur my face. I also love that idea because it doesn’t distract from the music, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.
Does it worry you at all that your family could face issues due to your origins?
I wouldn’t be doing this if my family were at risk.
You seem quite vocal about your support for your home country. You’ve even been involved with a Saudi charity. Tell us about that.
Yes! I wrote the song ‘We’ve Got Wings’ for 10KSA, a movement for breast cancer by Alf Khair, which is a non-profit founded by Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. I was inspired to write the song because of my Aunt Omaima who battled breast cancer. I was so happy that Princess Reema and the whole team loved the song! I wish I could’ve been there, but it was amazing to see all the pictures and videos from the event. It was such a beautiful success because it was for an amazing cause.
Do you have any frustrations towards your home country at the moment?
I’m really proud of my country for all the new and improved developments that are happening in terms of gender equality in the workplace and in politics. And I’m looking forward to more positive changes, like women being able to drive.
What do you think is changing?
There are a lot of positive changes happening. I see Saudis being encouraged more and more in the art world: music, art, and film. Women are being encouraged in the workplace, and more people are studying abroad so that they can learn about other cultures and give back to society.
Onto music, who are your influences?
Michael Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The killers, Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar…
Are you happy pursuing music in L.A. or would you rather return to the region and produce here?
I am open to making music anywhere in the world. As long as I am working with people who have a vision that is in alignment with mine and we get along artistically.
Do you have any plans to incorporate more Arabic into your songs?
I used Arabic in ‘We’ve Got Wings’.I don’t have plans right now, but definitely in the near future!
One of your recent tracks, ‘Hollywood No’ showcases the darker side to the struggle many independent artists face on the road to success in the music industry. What’s the toughest aspect of being a musician in the US to you?
I wrote the song, because I happen to be pursuing music here in LA, but the song is about fighting for your goals and your dreams. No matter where you are in the world, you have to climb a mountain to get to your true goals. Some people get frustrated with the journey, and they stop in the middle or they turn back. ‘Hollywood No’ is about understanding that it’s not easy, accepting that fact, and not stopping.
Looking ahead, what five things would you like to achieve in the next couple of years?
More music, touring, collaborations with other musicians, positively impacting the world and people.
Any plans to perform in the region soon?
Yes, once I’m done recording my album.
Which regional artists would you like to collaborate with?
Hamza Hawsawi and Mashrou’ Leila.
And finally – why the name Tamtam?
It’s one of my nicknames, and the first producer I worked with called me that all the time, so it stuck.
Have you ever watch the Egyptian kids show, Boogie w TamTam?
No, but it sounds hilarious! Haha