Tamino Moharam Fouad in concert in Cairo, releasing a deluxe version of his album
Tamino-Amir Moharam Fouad will be in concert in Egypt for the very first time on Saturday October 12, at Cairo Jazz Club 610 in Sheikh Zayed as he prepares to release a deluxe version of his debut album, Amir, as well as a video clip filmed in Cairo for the song “Indigo Night”.
It’s been a breakthrough year for 22-year-old Tamino, the Antwerp-based musician of Egyptian and Lebanese heritage, with his voice infiltrating the far corners of Europe and beyond building a fanatical fanbase around his startling, visceral, and stirring emotive sound. The grandson of famous Egyptian singer and songwriter Moharam Fouad, he plays his grandfather’s guitar on stage and is deeply influenced by his musical heritage:
“Bringing my music to my fatherland, Egypt, has always been a thrilling idea. It’s a dream coming true to be playing there for the first time soon. When I was very young, after living in Cairo for some time, my parents divorced. The rest of my childhood was spent in Belgium, where I learned about Egypt through stories and music. Especially through Arab music of the golden age I felt a strong connection to the country of my father. Even though I don’t speak Arabic, I’ve always felt this connection to the music. I may not understand the lyrics, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling deeply moved by the music.
I hope to establish a strong connection with the Egyptian people, just like he did. One thing I know for sure is that music brings people together and I can’t wait for my music to bring me and my brothers and sisters in Egypt together.”
The deluxe version of Amir, released 18th October 2019 through Communion Records, will feature two recordings which originally missed the tracklisting for the first version; one of those, “Crocodile”, is streaming now, and the other, “Indigo Night”, features a video clip filmed in Cairo. The deluxe release will also feature two new live recordings, performed alongside the stunning Nagham Zikrayat Orchestra who also feature on the original album, two demo recordings of “Chambers” and “Tummy”, and two stark live recordings from a show at La Cigale in Paris from earlier in the Spring.
Although the majority of the playing heard on Amir is Tamino himself, he is joined by a collective of Arabic musicians based in Brussels called “Nagham Zikrayat”. The orchestra is predominantly made up of professional musicians from the Middle East, most of which have refugee status having predominantly fled from Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia and Syria. Members of the orchestra are long-standing fans of Tamino’s late grandfather, Moharam Fouad, a famous actor-musician in the golden age of Egyptian cinema. They contacted Tamino to request his performance at a concert in honour of his late grandfather. Not being a native speaker, Tamino politely declined but invited the orchestra to assist him in the making of Amir.
Tamino is making a very special first trip out to the Middle East and North Africa in October, taking in debut shows in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. The demand for his arrival out there is testament to the word of mouth momentum that Amir has already accumulated outside the typical touring countries that he’s already made his name within.
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Of Belgian, Egyptian and Lebanese heritage, Tamino – named after the hero of Mozart’s The Magic Flute – began singing early, hollering along to the music (the Beatles, Serge Gainsbourg, Tom Waits, opera, jazz) his mother played at home. He also started learning piano, and was soon immersed in the works of Bach, drawn inexorably to their precision and simplicity.
Restlessness distracted Tamino from his piano studies when he was younger, as he gravitated towards pop and first performed live as a 14-year-old. Three years earlier, he had reunited with his father (his parents divorced when he was three), and once again began going to Egypt on a regular basis. Visiting his grandmother one day, Tamino was going through things left by his grandfather, the famous Egyptian singer and actor Moharam Fouad, known as “The Sound of the Nile”, and made a discovery that would prove crucial to his writing: “I was sorting through a storage cupboard and I found my grandfather’s Resonator guitar; it was just lying there. My grandmother was like: take it, have it. I brought it back to Belgium and had this urgent sense that I had to play it. And within a month, I could. I was completely obsessed with it. Now, I play it when I perform live. It originally belonged to one of the best guitarists in Egypt, and was made especially for him. And then he gave it my grandfather shortly before he died, so it meant a huge amount to my grandfather, who had been gifted it by his great friend. And now, its journey continues.”
Infectiously passionate about what he does, Tamino says that the greatest joy in writing comes from not understanding the mechanism, rather than seeking to pinpoint the process: “The best art is the art that you don’t completely understand, where there’s this stubborn grey area, as David Bowie said. Where you never quite know. Mystery is underrated.”
Tamino’s debut single “Habibi” is a song of startling visceral power. Aptly, from a musician whose upbringing and trans-nationality elude narrow questions of provenance and pigeonholes, it is one of those songs that make a mockery of questions of era and genre, at once ancient and modern in its portrayal of a love that is majestic but doomed. Musically, it is, like so much pop today, all over the place, uncategorisable, gloriously impervious to considerations of style, fashion and commerce. At the same time, there is something so other-worldly, so defiantly individualistic, about Tamino’s songwriting, his octave-traversing voice and ethereal falsetto that attempting to categorise them, or him, quickly seems futile.
Another unmissable feature of Tamino’s music is his use of Arabic vocal and tonal inflections. They crept in, he says, and it took him a while to realise. “At first, it wasn’t at all deliberate, they just slipped in to the music. I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it.” Yet the aim has, Tamino emphasises, always been to find unusual combinations, to join the dots and in the process locate new sounds and textures.