- 20 Feb 23
Ahead of his Vicar Street show on March 5th, indie artist Tamino talks about the importance of personal connections to his musical process, his 2022 album Sahar and more.
Over Zoom, at the not-so early hour of 9am in the morning on February 2nd, a call connected.
The Belgian-Egyptian singer-songwriter Tamino is certainly no stranger to performing. Sahar is the musician’s second album, and he’s been putting out music since 2016, when he first released the single ‘Habibi.’ He shared his first album Amir in 2018 after performing across Europe in various summer festivals, later playing the coveted SXSW festival in 2019.
The interview began rehashing details about the tour set to take off February 5th in Stockholm, Sweden. While most of the European and UK stretch will see him accompanied by the band, the Scandinavian and American dates will be solo.
Tamino’s rise in popularity has allowed for a talented touring band to accompany him around the world. The 26-year-old, in his soft-spoken, amiable way, expresses appreciation for his newly-appointed backing musicians.
“They really feel like family by now," the singer-songwriter smiled, "The set-up is we have a drummer, a base-player, a keyboard, and our new addition is a cello player. It’s a lovely group of people. Also the crew around it: a lighting engineer, a sound engineer, tour manager, roadie, guitar tick, monitor man - it’s a lot of us on the road when it’s the full band experience.”
In addition to a plethora of charming tour-mates to travel the world with, the larger-venue tour certainly has other perks.
“We travel by night-liner when we’re with the full band," he continued. "What I like about that is that you go to sleep on the bus and wake up in the next town. So you don’t have to be awake and alert for a seven-to-eight-hours straight drive."
"That’s how I used to travel in the small tour van, where you live through every minute of a boring drive,” Tamino recalled. “I really like waking up in the next place without having to go through multiple existential crises while sitting in the back of a tour van. That’s fun.”
While on tour, indie rock artist is expected to make a stop in Dublin to play the phenomenal venue of Vicar Street. It won’t be his first time in Ireland, however, even if it will be the first time he has his band backing him up here. On one of his previous trips, he opened for Lana Del Rey once for her Malahide Castle show, delivering a spine-tingling show at the Button Factory in December 2019.
The Belgium-Egyptian singer-songwriter has generally found a warm welcome in Ireland.
“I think the people are really, really kind. Music is all around. I’ve only had beautiful experiences there. Probably the first time I had been to Ireland was for a TV show called Other Voices, which was in Dingle. That was great. Such a warm welcome."
The Other Voices performance certainly wasn't like other concert experiences.
"The concept was you had to do a concert set in a church with an audience that was broadcasted live. The whole town was watching in the nearby pubs. That was super special because afterwards, after our set, we went to a couple of these pubs and people recognised me from the broadcast and were super kind. I had some Guinness with them.”
As conversation led into artistic endeavours, like the most recent videos on circulating YouTube, Tamino commented that the feel of the new album is “probably more ‘roomy,’ less ‘churchy.’”
Connection seems to be a focal point for him. While not a music video, his filmmaker and photographer brother, Ramy, pitched the idea for ‘The Longing" Live on YouTube. It certainly wasn’t the first time that Tamino has worked with his brother. It certainly won’t be the last.
“We’ve been trying out stuff together ever since I was making music and he was starting with photography. And then we became colleagues later with the first album."
"With my first EP, he made the album cover for that. He made the album cover for the first album. He’s always on tour with us. He has directed some music videos. We will always be working together, not exclusively, but we will always be working together some way or another.”
The experience of working alongside his brother fostered something deeply personal and comforting within the music making process.
“It has definitely given me a feeling of safety regarding the visual aspect of things." Tamino carefully, contemplatively said. "That’s just something I don’t have as strong visually as I have musically so it’s not easy to fall into the hands of someone whose judgement you don’t actually trust, but with him I do."
"If there’s something that I’m worried about it’s quite easy to communicate that.”
It’s no longer just a connection with his brother that builds that coveted feeling of safety in Tamino’s music making process, he assures. The indie singer seemed excited at the idea of sharing one of his latest projects - a new music video for his song, ‘Sunflower,’ which some of his closest friends and his brother directed together.
Their involvement, he fondly remarked, made the experience “even more of an adventure."
"You’re going through a very intense creative process with very intense friendships or relationships.”
Either way, a personal connection to his collaborators in the industry, whether it be tourmate, brother, or friend, is crucial.
“Let’s say you meet on Instagram and then you meet up in the studio and ‘Okay, you have to start working.’ That feels a bit like you’re missing some steps. I feel like a personal connection is very important to establish first."
Explaining further, Tamino explored what it was like to work with a co-singer on one of his newer tracks. "That’s actually why Angèle felt like the best choice for ‘Sunflower.' Not only because of her beautiful voice and I feel like she embodies the character, because there are two characters in that song - I really wanted to have someone singing who I could see as the character in that song."
The "Angèle" in question is the Belgian singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress. Popular in France and Belgium, the pop artist's debut album, Brol, released in 2018.
"Those were not the only reasons, it was because we got along really well. I had already spent some time with her," he paused, before continuing. "I felt really comfortable around her and she around me. Basically, we were friends before we started working together. I really liked that.”
The combination of topics, between touring and friends, lends itself to asking plans for the future. The alternative-rock and indie artist expresses interest in playing more venues in new countries, like India and Japan, across continents like South America and Asia.
"I'm not sure what the concert possibilities are there, but I'm sure there are touring options."
Since Tamino doesn’t just hail from Belgium and Egypt, but Lebanon too, he hopes to play there one day. Finding roots in so many places does raise the question about what he defines as home, though.
The Belgium-Egyptian singer softly laughed. “I’ve actually been thinking about the concept of home a lot lately."
The following contemplative pause lasted for about a second. "Sometimes I don’t really know how to define home. What that is. If I’m even able to recognize that feeling of being home."
"Sometimes home can be a person, it can be multiple persons, like a group of friends or community," Tamino carefully continued. "It could be an actual, physical place where you feel at home, it can be a city, it can be a country.
"I guess I’ve felt feelings of being at home in multiple of these options or whatever, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t be able to say what home is right now.”
Whether he can define the tangible concept or idea of home or not, it doesn’t prevent Tamino from connecting with his roots. Known for playing several instruments, like the piano and the guitar, fans of the artist will know that he's recently began playing the oud, a kind of lute. It has been a particular source of inspiration to him, connecting him to his father’s Lebanese and Egyptian heritage.
“It feels like an instrument that I feel connected to can be a source of songs, of ideas. The oud is a beautiful exploration because I don’t speak Arabic."
Even with the Persian lute, Tamino is trying to bridge that verbal gap, taking lessons online when he has some spare time. Until then, music acts not just as a form of expression but as a method of emotional connection, transcending the limits of vocabulary.
"I feel like my understanding of the culture of my father and that side of the family, I am able to touch upon it easier through music. It just goes faster. Music is a language that I understand easier all throughout my life. In that regard, it’s a beautiful exploration. It’s also a beautiful sounding instrument that inspires me.”
Hypothetically, if he were to try his hand at a fourth instrument, there lays an intriguing interest in the duduk, an Armenian flute. “It looks quite small but the sound that comes from it is very deep and very melancholic.”
It is a long shot, though. “I feel like three instruments is already so much to do.” For now, it seems that Tamino is going to focus on his tour.
Tamino performs at Vicar Street on March 5th with special guest Isaac Gracie. Get your tickets here.