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.