From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal Music, Egyptian singer Bsmalla is going places

From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal Music, Egyptian singer Bsmalla is going places
Basmala Alaa has so far released six Arabic songs with Universal. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 July 2022

From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal Music, Egyptian singer Bsmalla is going places

From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal Music, Egyptian singer Bsmalla is going places

DUBAI: The 20-year-old Dubai-based Egyptian singer Basmala Alaa — who goes by the artist name Bsmalla — recently released her debut single on Universal Music MENA, having signed to the label after garnering more than 4 million followers on social-media platform TikTok over the past few years. 

At first, Alaa didn’t sing in her TikTok videos, but — as she gained popularity, she decided to test the water with some covers of popular Arabic songs. 

“I’ve been singing since I was 10 years old,” Alaa tells Arab News. “The older I got, the more my voice developed. My parents noticed it and would say: ‘This child has something special.’ They supported me a lot, but I was also training myself.” 

 

 

Self-taught Alaa might have inherited her love of music — and talent for it — from her father, who was in a band during his formative years in Egypt. “He made me listen to music and helped me understand music,” she says. 

“I will never forget how my family have always stood by me,” she continues. “Not many people have supportive families, so I want to thank mine.”

Alaa — who speaks with a noticeable Khaleeji accent, despite her Egyptian heritage, having grown up in the UAE — started posting videos of herself covering songs in a variety of Arabic dialects, from the Gulf to North Africa. Her followers were quick to praise her natural vocal ability. “What encouraged me was people’s comments, saying that my voice is exactly what you hear in the recording,” she says. “I’m not ‘faking’ my voice.” 

Alaa says she’s a fan of Sherine Abdel-Wahab, Asala Nasri, and Kadim Al-Sahir, among others. As for Egyptian pop, she enjoys Tamer Hosny and Mohamed Hamaki. 




Alaa recording the vocals for 'Helo Moodak.' (Supplied)

Her own music isn’t easily classified. She has so far recorded six Arabic songs, she says (an EP is slated for release later this year) in a variety of dialects and genres. “I’m exploring what people like. I like to impress my audience. I love it when they like what I’m doing,” she says. “The style of singing that I like may not resonate with people — I love classic, romantic, calm songs with a lot of emotion, but I noticed that my audience love, from me, songs that have more excitement and a love for life.”

Her debut release, “Helo Moodak,” is a perfect example of the latter — a sweet pop song with a light-hearted video that includes touches of quirky animation with a comic-strip feel, stop-motion footage, and includes scenes of Alaa and a large cuddly toy that she’s alternately throwing around then hugging.

“It’s my favorite song so far,” Alaa tells Arab News. “It’s about a teenage girl who’s imagining being in love with someone. And that person is like her teddy bear.”

 

 

The song was written for her by lyricist Ehab Abdelazeem and composer Amr Al-Shazly. Alaa recalls feeling a little anxious during recording sessions, imagining how things would turn out. 

“I’m not saying that I’m used to recording ‘officially’ yet, but I have recorded many songs. Still, there’s always that slight nervous feeling of thinking, ‘What will people say? What will their reaction be? How’s my voice? What about the video clip?’” 

As it turns out, her nerves were unfounded. The song has been well-received, and there are already plenty of people posting clips of them singing and dancing along to the catchy track. 

“I see a lot of children playing my song and I see adults imitating them,” she says. “That makes me happy. It makes me smile.”

 

 

As a member of the so-called ‘TikTok generation,’ Alaa’s story is somewhat akin to those of Lil Nas X and Olivia Rodrigo, who were also discovered through the video app. TikTok is unquestionably influencing the musical landscape, for better or worse. Alaa, perhaps unsurprisingly, prefers to see it in a positive light.  

“TikTok is a platform for talent,” she explained. “Before I was on TikTok, I was singing on other platforms, but TikTok helped to show my talent more. People see me not just in one country, but all countries around the world.”

So far, Alaa has only performed online. She says she has turned down offers to do live performances, as she feels it’s still too early for her to take to the stage in the real world. “I want to establish myself more first, and I want to have a large repertory of songs,” she says.

The singer currently has 4.7 million followers on TikTok, a statistic she’s still struggling to get her head around. “It’s a very strange feeling. I said to myself ‘Four million people on the planet are literally following me!’ But it’s a very nice feeling at the same time. I’m very happy and I aspire to have more followers,” she says. 

“Music is everything to me,” she continues. “Music always touches something in my heart. I would love to show people what’s in my heart through my music.”


Saudi DJ KEH quit his job to focus on music career

Saudi DJ KEH quit his job to focus on music career
Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi DJ KEH quit his job to focus on music career

Saudi DJ KEH quit his job to focus on music career
  • DJ KEH: In 2017, I went to an event in the Philippines to attend an international DJ (event), and from here the spark started
  • DJ KEH: The nice thing about being a DJ is that you can create a common bond between you and the audience and take them on a journey through music

RIYADH: Though delivering beats and remixes for a living may seem risky, DJ KEH does not regret quitting his job at Saudia to work as a professional DJ.

“My music career started in 2017 with great potential to make a huge difference in the (electronic dance music) scene in Saudi Arabia due to the popularity and unique style,” he told Arab News.

“In 2017, I went to an event in the Philippines to attend an international DJ (event), and from here the spark started,” he said, adding that he was transfixed by the way the DJs at the turntables bewitched audiences with their shows. 

“There, I realized that I wanted to be a DJ. I didn’t even finish my vacation,” he said. “I went back to start learning, but my family was not supportive at the beginning because, as always, there is something strange about anything new … but after a while, my mother supported me in every possible way.”

Now DJ KEH gets requests to play at public and private events, and has played across a whole raft of events in Saudi Arabia.

“The nice thing about being a DJ is that you can create a common bond between you and the audience and take them on a journey through music,” he said of his profession. “Through music, you can enter the hearts of all people without saying a single word.”

He added that he thinks that it is important for music classes to be introduced into all communities.

“It is very important to have music in the community to learn about other cultures. The language of music brings all the world together,” said the DJ.

He says his musical journey has been influenced by many DJ’s, including a close friend.

“I was inspired by my friend and my first supporter, Hani Al-Bangari, and there are many local talents. Globally, there are many, starting with David Guetta and Martin Carol Cox,” he said.

Sharing his future plan, which is to represent his country at the biggest international events as well as possible, he said: “I want to prove that we are successful in all areas whenever the opportunity arises.

“I think the government is giving space to talented local musicians, and this is one of the directions of Vision 2030. Now, my goal and the goal of all DJs is to develop the DJ profession in Saudi Arabia.”


Metallica, Mariah Carey to play New York show for foreign aid

Metallica, Mariah Carey to play New York show for foreign aid
Updated 11 August 2022

Metallica, Mariah Carey to play New York show for foreign aid

Metallica, Mariah Carey to play New York show for foreign aid
  • Rosalia, Charlie Puth, Maneskin and Mickey Guyton will join them in taking the stage at the event
  • The Central Park concert is slated for September 24

NEW YORK: Metallica, Mariah Carey and the Jonas Brothers will be among the acts performing in New York’s Central Park at this year’s Global Citizen Festival, the organization announced Thursday.
Rosalia, Charlie Puth, Maneskin and Mickey Guyton will join them in taking the stage at the event, which is now in its 10th year and is aimed at drumming up support for preserving international aid to eradicate extreme poverty, in addition to a number of other causes.
The Central Park concert is slated for September 24 as is a sister show in Accra, where Usher, SZA, Stormzy, H.E.R., Sarkodie, Stonebwoy and Tems are all scheduled to perform.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a statement his country was “honored” to host Global Citizen.
“We owe to the next generation to live in a world free from poverty, disease and the degradation of the environment,” he said. “We must align forces to make an impact in Africa.”
Taking place since 2012 as world leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly, Global Citizen distributes tickets for free to supporters who pledge to take actions such as sending letters to their governments in support of development aid.
The 2022 event, which Priyanka Chopra Jonas will host, calls on world leaders as well as philanthropists to relieve debt, empower girls, improve food access and invest in climate solutions in countries that suffer climate change’s worst effects but whose carbon emissions pale in comparison to the globe’s richest nations.
“Decades of systemic and political failures have led humanity into the midst of converging and rapidly deteriorating crises — climate, hunger, health, war and conflict,” Hugh Evans, Global Citizen’s co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.
“The most marginalized populations are paying the price of the stagnant inaction of our leaders, and now millions of lives, and the future of our planet, are at stake.”


Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards

Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards
Updated 11 August 2022

Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards

Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards

DUBAI: The iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAWARDS) has announced the winners of its 15th annual edition, with Italy's Antonio Denti taking this year's Grand Prize for his pensive image, “The Kid of Mosul.”

“Chosen from thousands of submissions from all over the world, many of this year’s winning shots depict beauty rising out of isolation and honor photography’s ability to build bridges across lost connections,” read an announcement on the official website.

Denti received the Photographer of the Year Award for his photo depicting a soldier cupping the face of a young boy in his hands, which the organization described as “a moment of tenderness in the dusty rubble of war.”

‘Old Soul’ by Egyptian artist Reem Borhanwon third place in the Still Life category. (IPPAWARDS)

From the region, Egypt's Reem Borhan won third place in the Still Life category with her photo titled “Old Soul.”

Meanwhile, the First Place Photographer of the Year Award went to Rachel Sela of Sweden for her image, “Anti-Social Distancing,” which turns masking up into an act of theater.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by IPPAWARDS (@ippawards)

Kelley Dallas of the US won Second Place for his image “Girl with the Violin.” And Third Place went to Glenn Homann of Australia for his photo, “Wasted.”

Kelley Dallas of the US won Second Place for his image ‘Girl with the Violin.’ (IPPAWARDS)

Top-three winners in an additional 16 categories were awarded to photographers from almost every corner of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, San Marino, Poland, United Kingdom, United States.


UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off

UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off

UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off
  • The star of ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ struggled to embrace her roots as a child in Texas, but that’s all changed now

DUBAI: There are few television franchises as mammoth in reach and longevity as “NCIS.” For nearly 20 years, the crime series, which follows the US’s naval criminal investigative team, has brought in tens of millions of viewers a week, with new franchises regularly blossoming across the country. Now, in Yasmine Al-Bustami, “NCIS” has its first Arab star—and she’s already inspiring young girls across the world.

“I'm always taken aback whenever I find out that I've reached people,” Al-Bustami tells Arab News. “I didn’t really think about the capacity for something like this show to reach people all over the world. Now, I'm seeing these responses all the time, I’m getting messages constantly. When I finally sit down, take some time to read them and take them in, it can be overwhelming. I see that people are taking notice, feel represented and feel seen, and suddenly I know for sure that I can contribute to that in some way. And I’m so grateful for the people who like it."

Yasmine Al-Bustami on the set of ‘NCIS: Hawai’i.’ (Supplied)

Al-Bustami — who plays Agent Lucy Tara on “NCIS: Hawai’i,” the second season of which begins in September and will air on Starzplay in the Middle East — was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and Filipina mother, but moved to Texas at a young age. There, she struggled to embrace her identity, surrounded by people who didn’t understand her heritage, and had never heard of the place on the other side of the world that she came from. 

To fit in, she did what a lot of people in a position where there are no strong role models in pop culture to anchor their identity to — she buried her identity inside her.

“In Texas, I didn't personally grow up with a bunch of Arabs around me. We had some Arab families that we knew that were in school with us, and they all kind of flocked together, once they find out that they were also Arabs. I would hang out with them, but (there weren’t) a lot, really. I tried very hard to fit in with the majority white folks at our school, and tried really hard to just fit in and just be a white person. Whatever that means,” Al-Bustami says. 

Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant, Tori Anderson as Kate Whistler and Yasmine Al-Bustami as Lucy Tara in ‘NCIS: Hawai’i.’ (Supplied)

That led to turmoil at home, as her Arab father worked to instill in his daughter the cultural and religious values that he held so dear, knowing that he was the only strong influence in her life that would do so. It was a mission she rebelled against. 

“Whenever I would approach my dad with the things that I wanted to do, that my friends who were not Arab were doing, we would butt heads. He’s very big on culture, very old-school, and  would just not allow me to do some things. He was just trying to teach us about or faith and our culture,” Al-Bustami says. 

When Al-Bustami went to her father to tell him she wanted to be an actor, he was against the idea, which pushed them even further apart.

“When I expressed to him that I wanted to act, that was something that became a point of contention between us — depending on the project and the role. Honestly, it still is sometimes. That all led me, at the beginning of my career, to not wanting to embrace my identity,” says Al-Bustami.

 

 

Ironically, even as she tried to escape who she was and where she came from, it was acting that brought her closer to her identity. 

“It was only through storytelling and being thrown into stories where I was forced to embrace it because of how I look and because of the opportunities that were given to me,” she says.

But as she got to know other Arab actors, she also started to learn the boundless beauty that her heritage contained, and the amazing stories and true adversity that her colleagues had endured to get to where they are today.

 

 

“The roles I started playing were stories of Arabs and Arab-Americans being surrounded by other Arabs and Arab-Americans. The other actors were so proud, and they taught me so much as I heard their stories and their journeys. It was that motivation that I felt like I needed — that I didn't have growing up. It pushed me to want to learn more. And thankfully, now I’ve built up a strong place in that community, especially in the acting world,” says Al-Bustami.

That love for who she was grew even stronger when she saw how much it meant to people, and when she witnessed what she could accomplish when she wasn’t trying to fit in with the majority, and instead embraced her differences.

“It’s been such a journey. I don't think I’ve ever been prouder to be Arab,” she says. “I now understand how important representation is, and without the ups and downs I’ve been through, I don't think I would have understood that to the depth that I do.

“It’s made me want to learn more about my heritage and my culture and just be more openly proud,” she continues. “I feel like I'm not doing it alone. I feel like there's so many people who are also helping me do it. And it's all Arabs, and Arab-Americans. All of that truly inspires me.”

Most importantly, she’s also learned about diversity within the Arab experience, and as representation increases in Hollywood, the world can see that being Arab means many different things, both in America and across the world. And that there are an endless number of stories to tell.

“The important thing is to make people open-minded, and stop them from being closed-off in terms of understanding the different kinds of stories that I think are important to tell in the Arab world and the Arab-American world. That's helped me so much,’ says Al-Bustami.

Yasmine Al-Butsami (left) in ‘I Ship It.’ (Supplied)

On “NCIS: Hawaii,” Al-Bustami is pushing herself like never before. While her breakout roles in “The Originals” and “I Ship It” prepared her for the grind of weekly television, the stunts and physicality of her current role require intense training and choreography, something she’s worked hard at and is proud of what she’s accomplished, especially in the fight scenes.

More than anything, though, what she’s happiest about are the relationships she’s built on set, and the found family that has made her breakout moment something she can truly be proud of on every level.

“It makes such a big difference when you really enjoy the people. Thankfully, the people that I'm surrounded with every day are amazing. They make it super fulfilling in so many more ways than just work,” she says. “This is such an enjoyable experience for me, and I can’t wait to continue that, and keep trying to make the Arab community proud across the country, and world.”


Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 
Updated 11 August 2022

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 

LOS ANGELES: Bollywood star and producer Aamir Khan spoke about India’s connection with the Middle East while promoting his latest film, “Laal Singh Chaddha,” which was released on Thursday in the region. 

The movie, which is an adaption of the Hollywood classic “Forrest Gump,” tells the story of Laal, a purehearted and intellectually disabled man who lives through pivotal moments in India’s history.

Despite making the film for Indian audiences, Aamir told Arab News that he is glad to see viewers from far and wide gravitating toward it, including those in the Arab world.

“I think Indians have a closer emotional key to the Arab world and to the Middle East,” he said. “I would like to tell all my fans across the Middle East that I want to thank them for all the love they've always given me and my work.”

The actor said: “If someone had asked me: ‘would you like to do “Forrest Gump?”’ I would have thought he was joking.”

The film reinterprets “Forrest Gump’s” iconic moments to reflect Indian culture, including exchanging the box of chocolates on the bus stop for gol gappe during a train ride.

“It kind of spans 50 years,” Khan told Arab News. “So you have the characters in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and then in 2000.  And so every department, whether it's the production design, whether it's the look of the film, the costumes, everything has to change according to that time.” 

“So it's a very preparation-heavy film and really a challenging film, but great fun to do as well,” he added.

The film stars Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor, who plays the role of Chaddha’s childhood love. 

The film also sees superstar Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo appearance.