MANAMA: Just 18 months after moving to New York for university, Saudi-Ecuadorian musician and producer Mishaal Tamer (who goes by the moniker Mishal) is living the dream, having just released “Friends,” his first single on Sony Music.
It follows on from “Arabian Knights,” which he posted to SoundCloud late last year — a lo-fi chillhop track with Arabic, English and Spanish lyrics. The homemade video for that song, shot in Jeddah, now has around 2.8 million views on YouTube.
“Simplicity is best. It’s key and it’s very difficult to come up with a really good, simple melody,” Mishal tells Arab News. “But if you do and it comes from the heart and if you make it elegant and sweet, then you can make good music.”
That’s a lesson he says he learned back in his schooldays when he worked with various amateur bands. “That’s what gave me a good ear for composition and arrangement; working with these bands, just trying to figure out what sounds good where.”
While “Friends” is solely in English, unlike “Arabian Knights,” Mishal feels it still has an international flavor. “Most of my melodies are very Arabic- and Spanish-inspired. Anybody can like any of (my) songs,” he says.
“Friends” was inspired by his time in lockdown, he explains: “I was here in New York; I was already missing my friends and the lockdown kind of amplified it. I write all the music I make and not all the time do I realize what I’m writing about, the words just kind of come. For ‘Friends,’ I feel it was a song that I needed to write to help me get through the quarantine.”
Mishal started to play guitar aged nine when a doctor gave him a guitar as a gift to help with his recovery from a broken arm. The doctor left Saudi soon afterwards, and Mishal would love to reconnect with him.
“I never got his proper name. I wish I could find him and thank him,” Mishal says. “I hope that, if my songs do well, he will hear me one day and I will let him know that it was because of him that this all started. I’m eternally grateful to him and our guitar.”
It was the first stroke of luck in Mishal’s seemingly blessed career. His deal with Sony is, he says, “a crazy story” too.
“When I came to America, I was very, very shy and I didn’t want to speak to anybody. I started putting out these little Instagram clips and they got a lot of views. Eventually people started telling me ‘Go to a studio and record something.’ So, I went to a studio for $30 an hour. I had this idea for a song and finally, in a studio, I could go with all the music that was in my imagination and make it reality,” he explains. “I met this engineer. It was supposed to be a one-hour session, but we stayed up till six the next morning making these songs. There was someone who was going to see an American rapper, who was in the studio. He passed by and heard me, and he cancelled his meeting so he could talk to me and about my music.
“That was the first person I met from the record label,” he continues. “‘Arabian Nights’ was actually the first song to come out from that time and “Friends” is the second. I would be sleeping in that studio working 24/7. The studio manager is a songwriter as well and he would let me stay for free and, in exchange, I would help him write songs.”
While his time in America has proved fruitful so far, Mishal says he’s eager to get home and perform: “Next year, once this whole corona thing is over, I would love to come back to Saudi and see the people back home and I hope to give them one hell of a show.”