“The most important part about being a human being is remembering that we have that similarity with everyone in the world. We are all human. We are all the same.”
Singer-songwriter Tamtam was born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and relocated to Los Angeles as a young teen. Her understanding of cultures spans the globe, making her the perfect bridge for our networked yet fractured world.
With her soulful voice and blues sensibilities, Tamtam sings of identity, love and solidarity. Pulling on the influences of her grandfathers — one a doctor and poet, the other a historian and author — plus her training as a pianist and skills on the guitar, Tamtam delivers songs that are moving in both music and message.
Tamtam releases her latest single, “Hiding,” today. Check it out:
Wear Your Voice: Tell us a little about yourself. How old were you when you first fell in love with music?
Tamtam: I grew up in Saudi Arabia, and I’ve always loved listening to music and singing karaoke for fun. I remember doing karaoke when I was 6 or 7 years old, but I really started to discover my voice when I was 11.
WYV: What was your life like prior to relocating to the US? When did you moved here?
T: I went to boarding school when I was 13. Before that, I was in an all-girls Saudi school in Riyadh. Schooling in the Middle East and the West are completely different, and I’m so blessed to have experienced both sides and two different cultures, because it made me see the world in a more open-minded way, and to accept people’s opinions even if they’re not the same as mine.
WYV: What are some of the unifying themes in your music? How do you explore them from song to song?
T: I just write about my experiences. Usually something will happen in my life that inspires me to write. I wrote “Gender Game” after some friends advised me not to post my song “Little Girl” on YouTube, and not to show my face and my name to the world, because I come from a more conservative society, and that’s how my moniker “Tamtam” came about. I wrote “Hollywood No” because of my experiences being an independent artist in Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment industry.
Although my songs have different topics, the unifying theme is humanity. It’s about understanding and observing human nature, and asking questions about the way we treat each other, and how we overcome those struggles.
WYV: Who are your biggest artistic influences? Outside of music, who has influenced you the most?
T: Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Ed Sheeran have all influenced me a great deal artistically. Outside of music, one of my biggest influences is Nelson Mandela. My favorite quote is by him, and it really helps me remember to keep pursuing my passion no matter how hard it can get: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
My parents are huge influences on me. My mother because she is patient and I always try to be! My father is super-hardworking and he really motivates me to work hard and to try my best.
WYV: How do you feel your identity as a Syrian-Saudi has influenced your work? What elements of your culture(s) if any do you incorporate in your work?
T: I am half-Syrian, although I’ve only been to Syria once when I was really young, unfortunately. I think what has influenced my work the most is the fact that I come from and grew up in the Middle East and then I lived in the West for half of my life, and the culture shock that I felt made me realize that the most important part about being a human being is remembering that we have that similarity with everyone in the world. We are all human. We are all the same. And that’s what I try to project in my music.
WYV: How has the current U.S. administration’s stance on immigration affected you, if it has? How can the rest of America show solidarity with the immigrant community in these hostile times?
T: What’s happening in America today is mostly making me think a lot about how things really work in the world. It’s making me more aware about politics, and from what I see, it is making the rest of the world more aware as well. The most important part to understand is that nothing is going to get solved without both sides communicating with one another. Unfortunately, each person is getting the opposing side’s point of view from the media instead of from each other, and that is creating a lot of hate. But I believe that this is a learning experience for everybody, and I have hope that we will learn to coexist when we start to communicate properly with one another.
WYV: What impact do you hope to make with your art? How to do you hope to move your audience?’
T: I hope that my music makes people think more deeply about life and humanity. I hope that it can bring us all together, no matter our differences, and knowing that the most important similarity we have is that we are human.
WYV: If you could give the artists reading this one bit of advice, what would it be?
T: Remember to be patient. Stress is hard to avoid nowadays, but patience will solve everything. Take a deep breath and think things through, everything will work out in the end!