Tamino, Soothing Sonic Innovator, Goes on Post-Pandemic Tour

23 May, 2022
Bel­gian singer-song­writer Tamino aka Tamino-Amir Moharam Fouad (pho­to Annett Bonkowski).

 

Melissa Chemam

 

His music was one of the great son­ic high­lights of the pre-pan­dem­ic months for me, right as I began teach­ing music jour­nal­ism in Bris­tol. Tamino released his first album, Amir, in 2018, and toured intense­ly the whole of 2019.

With a mix of Egypt­ian and Lebanese roots and a youth spent in Bel­gium with his moth­er, after his par­ents’ ear­ly sep­a­ra­tion, Tamino’s music offers rare encoun­ters between Arab and west­ern sounds.

Now, after many tour date can­cel­la­tions and a dif­fi­cult two years for him (along with the entire music indus­try), he is back with a new song:

 

 

Tamino expressed him­self sim­ply on his social media chan­nel mid-April: “It’s been a while, feel­ing proud and excit­ed to final­ly share this with all of you. ‘The First Dis­ci­ple’ out now.”

The singer-song­writer is work­ing on an entire new album, and, after releas­ing this first song, announced that he was about to tour Europe in June 2022, start­ing with one date in Paris on June 14th and anoth­er in Lon­don on June 20th, then lat­er in Turkey, Bel­gium and the US.

Born in 1996, Tamino-Amir Moharam Fouad lived with his Egypt­ian father and Bel­gian moth­er until their sep­a­ra­tion when he was three. He then grew up in Flem­ish-speak­ing Bel­gium with his mother.

On his father’s side, he comes from a fam­i­ly of musi­cians and is the grand­son of renowned Egypt­ian singer and movie star Muhar­ram Fouad, who was giv­en the nick­name of “The Sound of the Nile.”

 

 

His father had an immense col­lec­tion of music from Egypt and the Arab world, and his moth­er was also a music fan; from her records Tamino dis­cov­ered some of the best west­ern rock music, espe­cial­ly the music of John Lennon, which left a mark on him as a boy.

Tamino began singing at home after school. He wrote his first song at 14, and a few years lat­er immersed him­self in Ara­bic and con­tem­po­rary music, nam­ing the Tunisian oud play­er and com­pos­er Anouar Bra­hem as a major influence.

 

 
He lat­er stud­ied music, from the age of 17, in Ams­ter­dam, where his excep­tion­al­ly wide rang­ing voice didn’t go unnoticed.

“It was very nat­ur­al to always sing with­in my full range,” he told the BBC a few years ago. “I think it was because I could express some emo­tions bet­ter when I sing a high­er set of notes and some oth­ers that are expressed with­in the low­er frequency.”

His first name — Tamino — from The Mag­ic Flute by Mozart, gave its title to his first EP. His sec­ond name, Amir, “prince” in Ara­bic, is from his first album, on which he sings in Eng­lish, some­times deploy­ing words in Arabic.

His first album def­i­nite­ly sounds like it was inspired by all the afore­men­tioned influ­ences, and I sus­pect his grand­fa­ther in par­tic­u­lar, as the track “Habibi” lets us imagine.

 

 

Con­tribut­ing to this record was no less than British band Radiohead’s bassist Col­in Green­wood, as well as Arab musi­cians from the Near East, who after the release often accom­pa­nied him on stage. 

Fans, fel­low musi­cians and music crit­ics imme­di­ate­ly praised the album. The Inde­pen­dent in the UK even com­pared him to the bril­liant late singer-song­writer, Jeff Buckley.

Tracks like “Sun May Shine” and “So It Goes” sound more East­ern than the oth­ers, the singer per­form­ing then with a Brus­sels-based orches­tra (or firqa) made up of refugees from coun­tries includ­ing Iraq and Syria.

“It was a con­scious deci­sion to record with an Ara­bic orches­tra on some songs in order to empha­size it,” he told the BBC. “The sound is so beau­ti­ful, they bring such great­ness to it, this almost roy­al sound.”

 

 

Some peo­ple in the music indus­try have for a long while expressed the view that it can be risky to mix Ara­bic music with soul, dub or hip-hop. But more and more musi­cians based in Europe as well as the SWANA region are explor­ing this field suc­cess­ful­ly and with authen­tic­i­ty, their mem­bers being from the Arab, Turk­ish or Iran­ian cul­tures, with a con­tem­po­rary twist, embody­ing their per­son­al fam­i­ly jour­neys through migra­tion. Key among them are Syr­i­an Arab singer Omar Souley­man and Egypt­ian rap­per Ahmed Mekky, both of whom are also influ­enced by west­ern musicians.

Unde­ni­ably, Tamino is a proud off­spring of a mid­point between dif­fer­ent influ­ences, and god­ly music. 

 

You can lis­ten to “The First Dis­ci­ple” by Tamino on his web­site, and fol­low Tamino here or on Face­book, Twit­ter or Insta­gram.

 

Melissa Chemam is a cultural journalist, lecturer, and the author of a book on Bristol’s music scene, Massive Attack – Out of the Comfort Zone. A TMR contributing editor, she writes a monthly music column in which she explores Arab music and the greater Middle East, and how they influence music production around the world. She tweets @melissachemam.