We have the pleasure in premiering a Cabin Session from new rising star Tamino whose self-titled EP debut for Unday Records has already caught the hearts and ears of many. Tamino is half-Egyptian / half-Belgian and also lives between Belgium and Amsterdam. His many pop influences bubble to the surface of his debut EP but it’s his rich cultural roots that collude in magical ways that are immediately apparent from the opening track Habibi. Whilst there’s a flavour of Thom Yorke, the more traditional sounding melody to his long vocal notes carry an immense sincerity and feeling – he refers to it below as ‘complete surrender’, and you can hear it in every note. The Cabin Session above features him performing Smile, the final track of his EP.
There’s an Egyptian proverb that goes ‘ibn il-wazz 3awwam’; meaning ‘the son of a goose is a swimmer’. Like father, like son. Or, more accurately, like mother, like son.
It is true what they say about blood being thicker than water, although sometimes the peculiar traits of a strong bloodline takes its time to surface.
The first born son of a Flemish, anthropologist mother and an Egyptian, event and sales man father who met in the West-African Republic of Guinee, 20-year-old Tamino Moharam Fouad first artistic love was theatre. ‘It must’ve been the first bite of the performance bug’, he explains. ‘I always had an interest in translating feelings, emotions and ideas into something else, something beyond the casual state of affairs’. Intuitively, his mother named him after the hero and prince in Mozart’s opera ‘The Magic Flute’.
The search for ‘alternative worlds’, as Tamino describes it, also guided him towards literature – ‘there’s seldom a quiet moment where you won’t find me reading a book’ – and, eventually, music. While in high school Tamino was your typical fourteen-year-old punk rocker, playing in bands inspired by bands like Billy Talent. An adolescent phase, looking back, because at home his mom’s record collection opened up his ears and mind to other, alternative worlds. The pop genius of The Beatles and Serge Gainsbourg, for instance, or the smoky, blues bar ballads of Tom Waits’ ‘Closing Time’, and the heartfelt, empowering music of Malian songbird Oumou Sangaré.
‘According to my uncle, as a youngster, I was always scanning the car stereo for oriental flavoured tunes’, Tamino says. This is where the bloodline comes in. Some of the music he was exposed to at home were the albums of his late grandfather Moharam Fouad, a renowned actor and singer in the Arab world, from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. ‘My mother played his music around the house, and I remember being particularly taken by his live recordings with orchestra. There’s a certain kind of raw emotion in his singing, and in Arab music in general, that is mostly absent from Western music. Even when the tunes are kind of cheesy, there’s always something real, something sincere embedded in the voice. Complete surrender, much less calculated than most Western music. Oum Kalthoum, one of the most famous Egyptian singers, also had it; that intense kind of testimony about a past scarred life of hardship and poverty. Just like Edith Piaf, someone else I very much admire’.
When, near the end of high school, Tamino added Radiohead and Jeff Buckley – ‘ever since I was singing in punk rock bands, people kept dropping his name’ – to his roster of artists to be inspired by, it become obvious: ‘I wanted to pursue music. I could either do it by myself in my bed room, or I could broaden my horizons, meet and work with new people, learn new things’. He left his Antwerp suburb, moved to Amsterdam and enrolled in its music academy.
Come 2017, and the horizon is looking bright for Tamino.
He recorded a five track ep with Belgian music veteran Tom Pintens. One of the featured tunes, ‘Habibi’, made him the star of De Nieuwe Lichting, a search for new talent on Studio Brussel’s national radio. Appearing on the same line-up together with established, Belgian artists such as Lara Chedraoui (Intergalactic Lovers), Johannes Verschaeve (The Van Jets) and Koen Wauters (Clouseau) he impressed during the renowned Radio 1 sessions, curated by Het Zesde Metaal, his new Unday Records label mates, also home to Trixie Whitley, Flying Horseman and Hydrogen Sea. This summer, he’s playing Rock Werchter, Belgium’s largest, most renowned festival.
Tamino’s debut ep for Unday Records is not only a showcase of his impressive vocal range, but also an impressionistic tableaux of his many moods and talents. Introspective yet bold. Otherworldly yet firmly grounded in tradition, electrifying yet embalmed in finesse.
Photo Credit: Ramy Moharam Fouad