“I was singing before I could speak,” reveals Tamara Qaddoumi, the rising singer-songwriter who made waves with her first single, Flowers Will Rot, earlier this year. The creative, born and raised in Kuwait, is now back with another track from her EP Dust Bathing, which she has released exclusively with Vogue.me. Ripe offers a “message of empowerment”, according to Qaddoumi, and also comes with an accompanying video crafted between regional talents.
Directed by Simon Benjamin, produced by Jordan’s Zein Zubi, and styled by Creative Space Beirut and designer Roni El Helou, the atmospheric clip is rich in a contemporary minimalism, perfectly echoing the refined poetry of the lyrics. “We met one week before our shooting in New York and clicked right away,” says Qaddoumi, who is based between Kuwait and Beirut, of filming the video. “The entire process was harmonious and a great bonding experience – and I was so blessed to be surrounded by people who uplifted me and really believed in my work.”
While the singer, who recorded both English and Arabic tracks for her EP, may have grown up across the world, having studied in London and Boston, her homeland has made a great impact on her work. “I tend to write a lot about nature and in nature, because it’s something that I lacked growing up in the sleepy desert of Kuwait – however, with Dust Bathing, I found inspiration in a country where nothing grows,” says Qaddoumi. The vocalist, who also has Scottish, Lebanese, and Palestinian roots, grew up listening to Carole King and the Bee Gees, courtesy of her mother, before realizing her musical ambitions at the tender age of 4. “After watching my first musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, I knew that I wanted to be on stage for the rest of my life.”
Spending her childhood in school choirs and community plays, Qaddoumi released her first track back in 2012, with her longtime friend and producer Wilma Archer. And it was Archer who first pointed out that the singer’s voice leaned towards a maqam scale (Arabic scale). “I wasn’t aware that I was capable of hitting that type of tonality on my own, but I wanted to explore it once he pointed it out,” says Qaddoumi. “It’s a delicate yet powerful and rewarding feeling that makes me feel closer to my roots, but I’m still learning.” Citing Dinah Washington, Edith Piaf, and Erykah Badhu among her musical influences, it’s no wonder that the songwriter turns to strong women for inspiration, having herself overcome adversity to follow her creative path.
“In Kuwait, the industry doesn’t focus on gender – because the industry has always been controversial for all those brave enough to swim against the tide, trying to pursue it,” Qaddoumi muses. “Growing up, it felt like I was rebelling – I wasn’t. I wanted to be true to myself and make my family proud, but there was only one thing I really wanted to do to fulfill me and that was music.” However, things have changed as the years have passed, the singer says, revealing “the new generation’s confidence expanded Kuwait’s music industry, and gave people a chance to express themselves creatively”. “We all work hard to uplift one another rather than divide ourselves with gender.”
So, what can we expect from Qaddoumi next? The emerging talent hopes to tour and deliver more live performances, adding that “that new music is starting to tap at my windows”. “But most importantly, I want to keep finding checkpoints of my truth along the way, exploring my language by working more on my Arabic tracks, and doing what I love for the rest of my life – because it would be a privilege.”