By: Mariam Elhamy
An accomplished law graduate, Nouran AbuTaleb started out singing songs for Fayrouz at Room Art Space and Darb 1718. “I’m very proud that I’ve pursued law, even if it was for a very short time,” shares Nouran. We sat down and got all the details on how her music career started, the many interesting artists that she’s met and what she’s learned from them technically and spiritually.
What was it like growing up as a daughter of an opera singer?
My mom not only sings opera, but also sings in Arabic. I used to listen to all kinds of music, not only classical. There’s a video of me singing Umm Kulthum and Asmahan when I was three years old. Music was a big part of my childhood!
When did you realize you want to be a singer?
I first realized I wanted to sing in middle school in Kuwait, I participated at a talent show and I was surprised to learn that my foreign teachers, who didn’t understand a word I sang, enjoyed my singing very much. I received so much support, encouragement and good feedback from all my classmates.
I really looked up to female idols like Um Kalthoum and Fayrouz. At a very young age, I joined many music circles. I studied playing Oud at Beit el Oud when I was 13, and got exposed to many musicians like Cairo Steps, Amr Salah (the founder of Cairo Jazz Festival) and the band Eftekasat. This was a very interesting part of my music career, because I got great feedback and it allowed me to set up many collaborations with a lot of established artists.
What sparked your love for jazz music?
It started with Ziad Rahbani, Fayrouz’s son. I used to listen to his music when I was 10 and was fascinated by it. When I joined the GUC Music Ensemble, I learned more about jazz and especially when I met Amr Salah. Later, I attended concerts for The Riff Band, Noha Fekry and Eftekasat and started working with Samer George, a great jazz musician. My love and knowledge for jazz amplified.
Tell us your memories of your first concert?
I did a tribute to Fayrouz with Samer George (bass guitar), Mostafa Saeed (clarinet) and Hany Bedeir (percussion) back in July 2018 at Room Art Space. The tickets were sold out 2 days before the concert, which was amazing! I consider this my first concert because I was super nervous at first, but I was so happy when people really showed their admiration … I guess I just needed the validation!
In terms of singing, which area would you like to work on and improve in?
Every artist or musician should always keep a balance between knowing the areas that they want to improve in, learn about and work on but not bringing themselves down in a self destructive way. When artists get too comfortable and start thinking that they don’t need to study anymore, that’s when they’re in deep trouble and it immediately shows on their work! I aim to create a balance between presenting different types of moods for music, being diverse, making interesting and valuable music and maintaining an identity.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from the music teachers you’ve worked with so far?
I am very grateful for all the great musicians that I encountered, got to know and worked with. Every single one of them didn’t only teach me about music in a technical sense, they actually taught me about life in general! Young musicians always want to show off all their techniques and tricks, but one of the great lessons I’ve learned is: “Less is more!”
I’ve learned how to stay true to myself, how to focus on my emotions and how to express what I want to say. All my music teachers are great inspirations in that sense.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue singing and become famous?
The best thing to do based on my own experience, is to attend as many music workshops and classes as possible. Go to all of them! Even the ones you think are not interesting, because at the beginning it’s very important to explore everything before you start to form an idea of what you like and what you don’t like. Attend live concerts; watch how the audience interacts and responds to performers, and how performers act on stage. And last but not least, just start! Even if you go through a terrible experience, it will teach you something.
As for promoting yourself, let someone who understands marketing do it for you and do some research on what others are doing. Record everything you do and share it. Have patience, remember why you’re doing this and enjoy it. Don’t overthink about the future. I know it’s difficult, but it’s important to be present and enjoy the moment.
Where’s your favorite place to travel to?
Spain, Tunisia, Jordan … even though I’d never been to Lebanon, I would love to go there!
Are you working on any current projects? What can fans look forward to?
I just came out of a great experience, collaborating with two international artists at the Cairo Jazz Festival. I performed with Italian pianist Livio Minafra, a great jazz pianist known worldwide and also the Austrian band Birds Against Hurricanes. We collaborated on two performances and it was such a great experience! Following the release of my song Fawazeer, I’m currently working on my own originals and I can’t wait for them to see the light. I also have a lot of upcoming live performances in Darb1718 and in Room Art Space, later in the year I will do some performances in Alexandria.