Beautiful lyrics, Arabic poetry, multicultural melodies and tunes, a female singer, and a breast cancer awareness campaign – things that we typically associate with Saudi Arabia? Perhaps not, but that is what TamTam presents to the world.
On December 12th, 2015, Princess Nourah University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the venue of a special event: 10KSA. Initiated by Princess Reema to inspire greater female awareness of preventative diseases in the Kingdom, the event brought together over 10,000 women to discuss breast cancer and to create the largest human pink ribbon ever recorded.
Among those performing and, of course, advocating for a change in the debate on breast cancer, was TamTam. Born and raised in Saudi Arabia and now residing in Los Angeles, TamTam is known for her beautiful voice, but perhaps most of all for the strong political messages of her songs. And in her latest song, We’ve Got Wings, she raises the topic of breast cancer, an issue which was previously considered taboo in Saudi Arabia.
This issue is particularly close to her heart. “My biggest inspiration for the song was my aunt who is a breast cancer survivor. It is amazing to see how strong she became fighting the disease; even though to the world, she may have looked weak, on the inside she was stronger than ever. Thinking about my aunt and knowing what she went through is what really helped me write the song.”
And the campaign left an important imprint on her. “At first, I was inspired by the campaign itself; seeing all of these Saudi women come together to inform and encourage one another to become more aware of their bodies is so important, especially for women in the Middle East. I also have to say that the fact that this was happening in my country made me so proud!” And more broadly, she wants the song to be an inspiration for anyone going through a rough patch in their lives.
The truth is that TamTam is much more than just a proponent of women’s and civil rights – she is quickly becoming an icon for female singers from across the Middle East.
She reflects, “a lot of the messages in my music has to do with not giving up and always following through with our goals and dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem to us; this is because being a woman from Saudi Arabia who is pursuing music as a career is something that many people from more conservative backgrounds in my country would not approve of.” TamTam hopes that her music encourages everyone, especially young women around the world, to pursue their dreams, and to not let other people’s opinions stand in their way.
TamTam is a huge inspiration for aspiring musicians across the Middle East. And her political statements are showing the world a new side of Saudi Arabia – that of a strong, young, female population, who are not afraid to speak up and use their talents and passions to make their voices heard.