x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The singer Tash offers up East/West fusion

It's a brave move by Sony Middle East to have Tash as their first-ever signing. Is he the next big Arabic pop star?

Sertac Nidai, aka Tash, realised he was on to something when he started merging his eastern tastes with R&B. Pawan Singh / The National
Sertac Nidai, aka Tash, realised he was on to something when he started merging his eastern tastes with R&B. Pawan Singh / The National

The pop music world has many examples of aspiring pop stars either changing their foreign names or losing their ethnic musical twist.

The increasingly homogenised pop world, jaded managers would advise, has no room for international flavours. And besides, did fusion not die long ago?

So perhaps it's a brave move by Sony Music Entertainment Middle East to have Tash (real name Sertac Nidai) as its first-ever signing.

Already, the 24-year-old self-labelled "fusion artist" has been announced as the face of Sony's new tablet - and his debut album, The Deep End, blending pop and R&B with Arabian and eastern rhythms, is out today.

Speaking from Dubai's Media One Hotel, Tash says his global muse stems from a childhood growing up in London, the son of Turkish-Cypriot parents who were fans of Arab music.

It was the soaring Arabian melodies that prompted Tash to pick up enough of the language to sing like his childhood heroes.

"As far back as I can remember I wanted to add as much Arabic, Oriental and Turkish flavours with the UK or western feel," he says.

"There was always Turkish, Egyptian and Greek music as well. We would go to weddings and then you hear that beat, it always resonated with me. You know that feeling you get in your stomach, it really struck me at a young age."

Tash describes how he overcame boredom by banging eastern drum patterns on tin pans and available furniture; a skill leading to him drumming as part of London fusion groups in his late teens.

However, it was once he began mixing his eastern tastes with his love for American R&B, particularly the vocal stylings of Destiny's Child and Vanessa Mae, that Tash thought he could be on to something.

"Sometimes it can be a challenge to sing English over Arab beats, but I didn't care because I liked it and it became more and more natural for me," he says. "But then sometimes I didn't want those two styles to fit. I wanted it to sound unnatural. I am blessed that Sony took a shine to it."

It was at a London video shoot a year ago that Tash was introduced to a Sony official. The company wasted no time in signing him up and bustling him into a studio to record The Deep End.

While its 14 tracks contain some of the Arab fused-pop he promised, particularly the infectious single Habibi Leh (available in both English and Arabic versions), which is being picked up by local radio stations, the album also has its fair dose of R&B ballads and up-tempo dance-floor fillers. Tash says he is confident it will attract new listeners.

With the success of Jay Sean - another Londoner blending western pop with his ethnic roots - Tash sees this as an ideal time to expose punters to something different and possibly pave the way for other local talents marching to their own beat.

"If it manages to open doors for others in the local area, that is a fantastic thing," he says. "Especially for those who have their own flavour or interpretation of what it sounds like to do a fusion of East and West."

 

sasaeed@thenational.ae

 

The Deep End is out on Tuesday.