Of Belgian, Egyptian, and Lebanese heritage, 21-year-old Tamino has written and shaped an album of startling, visceral, sit-up-and-listen power. Amir features a handful of tracks from his debut EP, Habibi including “Indigo Night” which features Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood on bass guitar. 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 Firka (orchestra) is predominantly made up of professional musicians from the Middle East, most of which have refugee status having predominantly fled from Iraq and Syria.
Only a handful of tracks exist out in the ether, but each one is of a remarkable quality. “Tummy” is of no exception, a richly layered track of depth, and haunted by Tamino’s mellifluous vocal. The track is accompanied by a video directed by Tamino’s brother Ramy and Bastiaan Lochs, shot in Antwerp.
“I like the song to be open for interpretation,” says Tamino. “Especially since they are probably the most abstract lyrics I’ve written to date. Although, I can say that, for me, the lyrics are kind of a worst case scenario of what could happen to a person when having success.”
Over the course of Amir, Tamino captures a range of emotions from romance to desolation, and almost everything in between. It’s mood music, painted in a number of different shades.
“Some of the songs on Amir are more on the romantic side, whilst others are more on the apathetic side," says Tamino. "In my own life, I can look at the world and at life in both ways depending on my state of being. The conflict creates an imbalance. Amir is about balance.”
Amir was produced by PJ Maertens and Jo Francken, and recorded at Maertens’ house in Belgium and at Audiworkx Studios in Holland.
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. "That's stayed with me. I really love to keep things simple. If you think of Erik Satie, you realise that just a note, just a chord, can convey this immense amount of emotion. I love Rachmaninov, because it amazes me. But Satie moves me. There is such stillness and feeling in his music. And being touched by something strikes me as more profound than being amazed. I still play Satie, he teaches me such a lot. And a bit of Chopin. But I don't have the patience for Bach, however much I love his music."
That same restlessness distracted Tamino from his piano studies when he was younger, as he gravitated towards pop. He 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 – her first husband, Tamino's grandfather, was the famous Egyptian singer and actor Moharam Fouad, described at the height of his success as "The Sound of the Nile" – Tamino 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. I remember thinking: 'What the fuck!' 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."
Sun May Shine
So It Goes
Sep 12 - London, UK - Courtyard Theatre
Sep 15 - Orleans, FR - Hop Pop Hop Festival
Sep 29 - Vienna, AT - Vienna Waves
Nov 7 - Reykjavik, IS - Iceland Airwaves
Nov 10 - Istanbul, TR - Zorlu Center
Nov 13 - Villefranche-sur-saone, FR - Festival Nouvelles Voix En Beaujolais
Nov 14 - Zurich, CH - Exil
Nov 15 - Milan, IT - Arci Ohibo
Nov 16 - Geneve, CH - Chat Noir
Nov 20 - Strasbourg, FR - La Laiterie
Nov 29 - Brussels, BE - Ancienne Belgique (SOLD OUT)
Nov 30 - Brussels, BE - Ancienne Belgique (SOLD OUT)
Dec 1 - Brussels, BE - Ancienne Belgique
Dec 14 - Amsterdam, NL - Paradiso