Have you ever sat down and wrote something because you were feeling super inspired?
Then you came back to it a few days later and could not really remember how you wrote it? Or why that certain topic was in your mind in the first place?
Almost like somebody else, or some other force found its way to you, to deliver a certain message.
This is how I feel a lot of times with my music.
I often write about things that I reflect upon later and realize how much they mean, or how much I really should listen to my own advice; or rather this other force’s advice.
A part of me believes that it’s my subconscious, almost like I’ll daydream about something one day, and then think about something else while my subconscious is still cooking away at the daydream I was having.
Then when it’s ready, I sit at the piano and it all just comes out.
A couple of years ago when I moved to Los Angeles, many of my friends became obsessed with getting more followers on social media.
Some of them “needed” more followers for their businesses to grow, while others just wanted to “be cool” and “be followed”.
And just the other way around, I remember a time when it was not cool to follow others. So people were grinding away on their Instagram accounts unfollowing people.
Fast forward three years and...
...things have not really changed
I have to admit that I am guilty of the above. Simply because I am in an industry where people will take you more seriously when they see you with a bigger following. Producers will want to work with you, labels will talk to you, venues will invite you to perform. etc.
Although I know the pressures related to social media are unhealthy, I do understand where people, who go to extremes in order to get followers, are coming from.
It can be really frustrating knowing that if you had more followers you would be able to get a certain meeting or work with a certain someone.
Something else that really shocked me about social media, is how everything looks so much fun in photos, and everyone looks so happy. They are showing the most positive aspects of their lives in front of the world, which makes sense, nobody wants to be a downer.
It was not until I went to a party in LA and compared the reality of that party to the social media reality of it.
I realized how fake social media really is!
I moved to LA four years ago to pursue my passion of becoming a singer and songwriter. I am so grateful to have been able to come here and meet so many incredible musicians, producers, and entrepreneurs in music and beyond.
Los Angeles is a special place because it is the hub of the music industry. Before I moved here, I told myself I had to be here. This is where everybody in music is! At least in my mind, it was.
I was right. This is where a lot of people are.
But when there is that kind of traffic in any industry, then you know there will be a lot of other people to sift through, before getting to the legitimate people. When I say ‘other' people, I mean people who say they are managers or producers, yet they do not have the passion or time for it.
If you move to LA not knowing anyone in the music industry as I did, then you will definitely meet some shady people before meeting the real deals. And I spent time meeting those kinds of people, from photographers to music video directors, even movie producers (don’t know how I got on that boat, but you live and you learn!).
My song Rise is about rising above the noise of society. The noise inside your head. And most importantly, following your gut to live the life you deserve!
It is about rising above the challenges we face and never giving up.
I collaborated with Meshal Al jaser on the music video - one of the most talented directors I have ever met. I am so lucky to have worked with him on this video. I did not want to tell him my concept behind the song, because I wanted to see his vision when he heard it.
The story he tells through the video addresses the topic of arranged marriage. Although it is not exactly the story that inspired me to write the song, the conclusion is the same:
If you know what you want in life and you find what inspires you, follow that path!
It is your life and you have got to live it!
The man I marry in the video is a mannequin - a metaphor for not really knowing the other person in the relationship of an arranged marriage.
We all interpret stories differently and that is why I am not going to explain my idea behind the ending of the music video.
I want you to come up with your own conclusions to the ending and what it means to you.
It was such a great experience writing this song, I wrote it with Grandson, who is a super talented singer and songwriter himself.
He helped me tell my story in the most concise way and fit it into a song.
When I was eleven years old I decided that I wanted to pursue music.
I knew it was my calling. I knew it was what I wanted to do.
But at the same time, I also felt that I would not be able to do it. I felt ashamed for wanting something so badly, something that felt so bad for me to want.
We all grow up with rules that shape our ideas. These rules can be as simple as “don’t steal” or “don’t lie”. These rules are to make us better human beings so we can live in a more peaceful world.
The idea of coexisting within our communities is important, and that is why we have traditions such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, the New Year and more. These customs help us become closer and they make us feel like we belong to a community.
But what if we are not part of the same community?
What if we have different traditions?
I grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Although I went to a pretty strict all-girls school in Saudi, outside of school I was surrounded by people from all kinds of backgrounds.
One of my best friends, Nadia, is half-American. I would always have Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at her home with her family. So, I knew that there was a world outside of Saudi Arabia where people practiced all sorts of traditions depending on how they grow up and where they are from.
However, most of my interactions were with my girlfriends at school. A lot of them did not understand why I would celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
After all, I am Muslim and I am Saudi.
But to me, it was more than that.
You may wonder about my song Gender Game and why I wrote it. I get asked if I write songs that have to do with social identity, self identity, or politics on purpose.
The truth is that I do not do anything on purpose.
When I write a song, I want it to come from an authentic place.
I do not pre-plan or over think it.
This is how the best songs get written.
I had just recorded one of my songs called "Little Girl" with producer Zahed Sultan. I was cautioned about releasing the video on Youtube, revealing my name to the world, and showing my face, because of the more conservative society that I come from. But I still decided to release the video and song. I changed my name to Tamtam. And I told the editor to blur my face so that no one would be able to identify me.
Although I was able to go around my fears of society and still release my music, I felt disappointed and sad. I felt I did not have the freedom to be myself because of the thoughts or ideas of other people.
I did not understand why I felt so helpless because of something related to my gender. It’s really amazing how society can engrain a thought or an idea in your mind.
Why should other people’s views affect our own decisions? At that moment I wrote "Gender Game" because I felt that if I were a guy I would not care what society thought. Society would not care either. “I won’t share my face, I won’t share my name in this Gender Game, if I say my name or I show my face I should be ashamed”.
I also discovered something amazing after I wrote Gender Game. I realized that it is actually never about what anybody else thinks. Deep inside, it was about me the whole time. It was about my own fears of being disappointed in myself for going against the norms of society. And it is also the fear of not succeeding. How would that feel? What will I do next if that happens?