This week Deeba sits down with Hisham al Maskari, aka Sham, an Omani rapper, singer and songwriter who has
just released his second album in the US
If you’ve seen Sham’s music videos on YouTube, you’ll notice that they’re filmed on speedboats and beaches, in expensive nightclubs and swanky apartments. When I saw them for the first time, I was amazed to see a local singer explore a genre like rap and it came as quite a pleasant surprise. Sitting down over a coffee, Sham recalls, “I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember.” In fact, as young as eight years old, Sham was listening to the likes of Michael Jackson and later to 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, R Kelly, and Dr Dre – all of whom have inspired him.
By the age of 15, Sham had already started writing his own songs and began participating in talent contests. His parents weren’t surprised when he moved into music full time after finishing his degree in Business Management in Malaysia. “I was brought up in an open atmosphere and my parents were always happy to see me excel in the fields I was fond of,” says Sham.
And excel was one thing he certainly did, releasing his second album, Take Your Body Over, in Los Angeles two months ago. The album was three years in the making and launched in grand style in the presence of various celebrities, including football legend David Beckham. “The response in America was amazing,” Sham beams.
The young Omani has the honour of being the first Middle Eastern artist to launch an album in English in America, a market that is notoriously hard to break. Sham will now turn his attention closer to home as he focuses on Asian markets. “I want to come back and become huge in Dubai and the Middle East,” he tells me. “A lot of singers and rappers from the States are looking at Dubai as a huge potential market for their music and they want to launch their albums over there.”
Sham believes he produces “feel good music” and only covers topics that concern him. “I sing about love, being happy, money and nice cars. I can’t rap about guns because I haven’t seen them, I don’t want to be rapping about something that I don’t know.” Muscat gets a mention in some of Sham’s songs and the rapper looks forward to giving more exposure to Oman in the future.
“My style is a mix of singing and rap. Even though I rap, my songs have melodies to them. My producer SAL is really bringing out the best in me.”
If you caught the end of the Asian Beach Games in Muscat in 2010 then you will probably recall Sham performing at the closing ceremony and since then, he has gone on to share the stage with some of the industry’s top names, including household names such as Akon, Ne-Yo, Sean Paul and Jay Sean.
Before all the lights and the fame though, there was a Malaysian producer called Yasien. “He took me with him to a music awards ceremony that really opened my eyes,” says Sham. “I loved everything about it and was hooked from there on.” The rapper went on to write a song with Yasien and his group, hitting number one on a local radio station. These days though, Sham finds himself in high demand and has become somewhat of a globetrotter, splitting his time between Oman, Dubai, London and LA. It all sounds incredibly glamorous.
Sham finished his degree and then moved into his music career, a path he encourages many others to take, “It’s what I tell everyone,” he says, “finish your studies first and then follow your dreams. “Everyone out there who has a dream, just believe in it. There will be a lot of bumps along the way and a lot of negative people telling you that you can’t make it, but all you have to do is just believe in yourself.”