Meet the electropop trio who are trying to usher in a new era of Arabic music: United Arab Talent.
Frontwoman Nina Abdul Malek, newly a blonde, is at once both distinctive in style and reminiscent of pop star Rita Ora. At 22, she’s made a name for herself by appearing on Star Academy 8 and building a social media persona. On Instagram, where she fashion blogs and posts clips of herself singing in a warm, traditional timbre, she has nearly 900,000 followers.
Meanwhile, fellow band member, French-Tunisian rapper Bashir “Tunisiano” Baccour, 36, brings to the table two solo albums and a sense of humour, while Saudi hip hop artist Tareq Ali Foudah, 26, puts his poetry to the test.
The three were perfect strangers when they started. But their instant chemistry made UAT — uniting the Levant, North Africa and the Gulf under one ‘secret project’ — a possibility.
They spent ten days recording their 14-track debut, including solo and band work, set to release in September. Their first single, Mashiha, is slated for digital release on June 15.
In Dubai to launch the project, Nina spoke to tabloid! about what it was like to create something out of nothing, and what her many fans can expect.
How did you feel when you listened to the finished album?
I felt like I’ve never heard anything like this, from when I was born until now. No one in the Arab world has done anything like this. I felt that we were making history. I felt that I’m proud of myself, and I’m proud of the team. We did a great job — it’s something extremely difficult to finish in 10 days. I was like, “This? We did this in ten days?”
Did you sleep during those ten days?
What kind of sound can people expect? Is it experimental?
Because there’s a lot of diversity in the album, a lot of genres, we’ll get to know what the public likes best, so that we can concentrate on that more later on. So yes, a bit experimental. We put everything we have — everything we know — into this album.
What was the first meeting with Tareq and Bashir like?
Bashir doesn’t speak English or Arabic, just French, and I don’t speak French. So [our co-producer] Asri was always between us, translating. Even if I wanted to make a joke, he had to translate it. It was so hard! But [Bashir] has such a baby face and he’s so charming, it was easy to get along with him and have a laugh. The second day, Tareq arrived. As soon as I saw Tareq, we both instantly started laughing — I don’t know why!
What’s the message behind the album?
Positivity, always smile, always dance, life is easy, be kind to each other.
How did you find yourself exploding on social media?
My whole life, I sing in stairwells. I like the echo that exists in stairwells. Randomly, I posted a video, 15 seconds [on Keek, about three years ago. Just before Christmas.] It went viral. The world started to talk about me — people from Kosovo, Australia, America, people who don’t speak Arabic, but they heard my voice. There was no music, just me, and an echo. A pretty girl singing, if you’d like.
What do you hope will happen when this album is released?
I hope that people accept it easily. I hope our efforts will be recognised. I’m sure that they will — nothing that you put your heart into goes to waste.