Follow Vogue Man Arabia

S-Pop Star Mishaal Tamer on His Musical Journey, and Embarking on His First Solo European Tour

One of the faces of an S-Pop revolution, the Saudi-Ecuadorian songwriter Mishaal Tamer is set to embark on his first solo European tour this summer.

mishaal tamer

Mishaal Tamer wears shirt, pants, Dior; tank top, CDLP; shoes, Prada. Photo: Abeer Ahmed

Mishaal Tamer has a wildly eclectic taste in music. From legendary Egyptian crooner Abdel Halim Hafez to grunge pioneers Nirvana, Tamer has found inspiration in seemingly disparate corners of the sonic landscape. Add Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, and Saudi R&B star Hajaj to the musical melting point and suddenly Tamer’s unique sound makes perfect sense. Blending indie vocals with sensitive lyrics and innovative instrumentals, including an ingenious self-made “electric oud,” Tamer is both a gifted musician and charismatic performer. He proudly embraces his Saudi-Ecuadorian heritage and has become a trilingual trailblazer of the TikTok generation, perhaps best exemplified by lo-fi chillhop debut “Arabian Knights,” in which he sings in English, Spanish, and Arabic. “From the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met, what I’ve learned is that we are far more similar than we are different,” the artist tells Vogue Man Arabia. “We are all humans with feelings and stories. Some stories and feelings transcend backgrounds – those are the ones I aim to capture in my craft.”

Tamer broke into MENA’s collective music consciousness via a series of social media posts. It began as the release of raw, bedroom-recorded tracks and roughly produced videos like that for 2020’s “Arabian Knights,” shot and edited by his cousin on a budget in Jeddah. “The inspiration came from a lack of resources,” Tamer recalls of his first music video. “We didn’t have a crew or lighting or anything, really. It was just my cousin, me, a cool spot, and a school camera. We were just having fun making what we like.”

Shirt, pants, Dior; tank top, CDLP; shoes, Prada. Photo: Abeer Ahmed

The singer’s ascent since that release has been rapid, and last year, he supported Grammy-winning One Republic on their European tour. In 2024, he will travel the continent as a headline act, forging his own musical path. The seeds for his success were sewn much earlier, however. His first foray into performing came as a young child and there is a video circulating online of him singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” He thinks he was just four years old when the footage was taken. “Music was always a part of my life and a part of me as a person,” he reflects.

But the real sliding doors moment in the young Saudi’s journey came aged nine, when a nasty accident left him with a broken arm and severed nerves in his left hand. The doctor recommended he learn a musical instrument to help with rehabilitation. The guitar became Tamer’s physiotherapy and by the time he was 10, he was writing songs. “I always had ideas in my head, since I was a little kid,” says Tamer, whose moment of musical self-discovery eventually led him to move to the US to study at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. “Imagine you want to be a painter all your life and then one day you find yourself in a room with a paintbrush, a canvas, and every color in the world,” he says. “Now you can finally be a painter; all those imaginary paintings you can bring to life. You wouldn’t want to ever leave that room. That was the studio for me.”

Tamer’s quest to create a career-defining musical masterpiece is ongoing, but the next step is an ambitious new album called Home is Changing, made up of five “chapters” of stories about growing up in Saudi Arabia. “These songs were never meant to be released,” he shares. “I made them at the time purely for self-expression. They ended up relating to a lot of my friends back home. It is not only about growing up but also about what’s going on in my country. Everything is changing and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.”

mishaal tamer

Shirt, pants, Dior; tank top, CDLP; shoes, Prada. Photo: Abeer Ahmed

Few would have blamed Tamer had he opted to stay in New York to pursue his musical dreams, given it has long been a breeding ground for talent. Instead, he has been drawn back to the Kingdom and the opportunity to make music that resonates with young Arabs like him. “I connect more with Saudi because I was born and raised here,” Tamer states. “It’s who I am. I know I look different at first glance, but the truth is KSA is filled to the brim with a variety of people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I am beyond proud to shed light on its beauty and diversity whenever possible.”

Tamer was reminded of those qualities when he performed a special hometown gig as part of February’s Hai Vogue festival in Jeddah’s Al Balad neighborhood. Fans of the singer were treated to a 45-minute set that offered a glimpse into what crowds in Paris, London, and Berlin can expect from his European tour, which begins in May. “It’s been incredible seeing the fans first-hand,” Tamer says. “I am excited and grateful for the tour. It is a good thing for the youth of my country and for anyone to see that you can do this not only as a Saudi but also as an independent artist. Now I have opening acts of my own and seeing them create new fans before my eyes is a beautiful feeling.”

Tamer remains a music fan himself at heart and picks out “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd (“Mama’s favorite”) as one of his most treasured tracks. The lyrics speak to being free and present in order to truly experience life – a sentiment the artist is certainly embracing as he embarks on a European odyssey to share his eclectic S-Pop repertoire with a wider audience.

Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Vogue Man Arabia

Style: Mohammad Hazem Rezq
Production: Mohanned Turki, Shamis Ali, Latoya Kessie
Production assistant: Hussain Battar

Read Next: Mishaal Tamer, Saudi’s Rising Pop Star on Battling Anxiety and Sharing His Culture Through Music

View All
Vogue Collection