“The song is a celebration” says Tamtam, who first drove at the age of 18—in a green Jeep—when she was studying economics at the University of California, San Diego. “I want to stand up for this amazing positive change that’s happening in Saudi and in the world!”. Tamtam has always explored themes of identity, women’s empowerment, gender equality, and perseverance in the face of adversity in her music, but as a Saudi woman her bravest act may just be her work in video. “I want my music to start a conversation about life, humanity, and love,” says Tamtam. “I want to bridge a gap between the Middle East and the West so people can begin to see each other as one.”
That wasn’t always the case in Tamtam’s career. For her first single, “Little Girl” she caved to the will of her family and friends, who urged her not to show her face on a public forum like YouTube. That experience forced her out of the shadows and ever since she’s used the medium of video to make statements about combatting societal pressures as a progressive Muslim woman. For the upcoming “Drive” video Tamtam and her girlfriends cruised around Orange County in a vintage yellow Mustang convertible—“my dream car,” she jokes—exercising their freedoms as quintessential California girls.
Despite the pop overtones, the metaphors behind the “Drive” video run deep as do those in the soon-to-be-released singe and video “Rise,” which was directed by Saudi-born, LA-based writer, actor and director Meshal Aljaser, who took Tamtam’s lyrics—about pursuing her musical dreams since age 11 and rising above the haters andnaysayers ever since—and translated them into an exploration of arranged marriages shot in the desert north of Los Angeles.
“I wanted a Saudi director who would understand the struggle of forging a career in the arts and living a progressive life as a Muslim woman in 2018,” says Tamtam. Tamtam’s performed at the recent fourth edition of Kuwait Rising, a festival of emerging music from the Arab world and beyond, produced by multimedia artist and social entrepreneur Zahed Sultan. The 2018 edition featured performances by Grammy award-winning British soul singer Joss Stone, Indian-American jazz composer and producer Sarathy Korwar, and Franco-Lebanese electro artist Hadi Zeidan.