Bayou, the young Egyptian singer, has developed a multicultural sound that breathes life into the up-and-coming RnB scene in the Middle East. He recently released his latest single Egyptian Wifey, and just completed his summer tour, “Never At Home”. While juggling being both a student and an artist, he still found some time to chat with KHAMSA and ask him all the big and little questions.

KHAMSA catches up with Bayou to talk music, stage fits, and more.

١ What did you have for breakfast today?

 Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some green tea.

٢ How was that?

Good enough to get got the day going.

٣ How’s your day been so far?

I was coming back from my uncle’s house – my family lives here in California – and I forgot my bag. So I had to Uber back, but I forgot to call them and let them know so it was just me and my Uber driver chilling in the parking lot. That’s my morning.

٥ How would you describe a perfect lazy day?

Good food. An ideally nice couch. Open all the windows. Go for a walk and stuff like that. Not necessarily lazy, but I like to take a deep breath. I like going on hikes or biking.

٧ What makes you laugh?

Arabic humour. Egyptian humour is really funny. It makes me laugh all the time.

١. What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Well, I mean, I used to not really sing other people’s songs too much. But more recently, Western songs like Remember the Time by Michael Jackson, stuff like that.

١١ Why didn’t you sing other people’s songs?

Because there are so many songs to sing in my own life in a more emotional way. I just prefer writing my own songs and being a part of the musical process. I love enjoying other people’s music and other people’s expressions but as a listener.

١٢ What are three tracks that sum up your life?

I think one of them is definitely an Amro Diab track. Probably Tamally Ma’ak from him. And then Biking by Frank Ocean. And Last Last by Burna Boy. Those three sum up my different sides.

١٣ What elements make a Bayou song?

 It really changes. What it may be right now is not what it’s gonna be later because I’m always trying to evolve. I think emotion is super important, and that will always be a focal point. Having it “sing-along-able” and real. 

١٤ Do you have a favourite instrument you’d like to include in your music?

I like the violins – more specifically, Kamanja: Arabic violin. I want to try and get that on some tracks.

١٥ What was the first concert you’ve ever been to?

Jonas Brothers. I was a Disney Channel fanatic growing up.

١٦ If your music can be a part of any show, which one would it be?

Honestly, I’m still getting back into shows and TV and all that stuff. Because for maybe ten years, I just wasn’t watching any. I guess it allows my brain to come up with its own entertainment for me. But I need to get back into it. I’m going to add maybe two movies a week just to be in touch with what people are watching these days.

١٧ Do you not enjoy watching TV?

It was partially because I didn’t have the patience for it. And that’s not a good thing. To me, it also stops you from reading, absorbing life…but that’s just me. Because I know that when I like it, I get easily sucked into it. When I was growing up, I was glued to the TV.

١٨ Do you watch films, though?

Film from an artistic point of view, rather than just the consumption point of view, is a different thing. Watching people express themselves is actually why I want to get into it. I just don’t want to sit there and watch TV all day, you know?

١٩ Have you ever watched Ramy?

I really like Ramy because I feel like he’s me. We have a similar kind of character in the way he’s also trying to figure things out. I think some people don’t like it because they think it’s offensive. But I think it’s real, especially for the Arab American experience. I think there are definitely some parts that are exaggerated to be funny and fun. But I like Ramy a lot.

٢٠ What was the last thing you changed your mind about?

I didn’t like sushi. But now I eat raw Salmon almost every day, so I can probably eat sushi too.

٢١ What’s your dream music collab?

Frank Ocean.

٢٢ Do you have any music guilty pleasures?

 I really love listening to Summer Walker and SZA sometimes.

٢٣ Why would Summer Walker be a guilty pleasure?

Well, there are no guilty pleasures. I just like seeing the other perspective sometimes, and I love their voices. I think all is up for consumption.

٢٤ What inspired you to pursue music?

I’d say there’s a lot of music in me and a lot of songs. And it’s the way that I can get all that out of me comes from being a very emotional person. I feel a lot and the way that that emotion is channeled out of me is through music.

٢٥ What’s the most special compliment you ever got about your music?

I think nowadays, people telling me that I’m their favourite singer is kind of crazy. Because there are so many beautiful voices in this world and for them to say that they like my voice is always an honour. 

٢٦ Have you ever had a memorable fan interaction?

I’ve had a lot of beautiful interactions with fans. A lot of fans sometimes travel to come to see the shows or go for a long two-three hour drive and I always appreciate when I see that. It’s not even convenient for them, but they really wanted to see me. I can’t help but appreciate that.

٢٧ f you could time travel to any musical area, which one would you choose?

Back to the 2000 and 2010s. The golden days of my life. There’s so much to appreciate about music in all eras. Honestly, I love all eras.

٢٨ Do you have a “behind the scenes” story about any of your songs? 

The day that I wrote Egyptian Wifey was interesting.  I was leaving Boston and going to New York. I just finished the midterms. I was burnt out. Naturally, I have to live this double life between being an artist and a student. And I’m blessed that I’m able to be educated as well as to be an artist. But I was on the bus, tired, on my way to New York, and I was looking out the window and began reminiscing about my mom and my grandma and the time I spent with them. Then this lady in front of me started passing out, and all of a sudden, she started choking on her tongue, and she was having a seizure. They stopped the bus, and the good thing about Boston is there are so many medical students that you’re likely to find one on the bus so there was someone there to help her out. And she was a young lady too, maybe 25 years old, and I thought to myself, damn, you can go anytime.

Then I had to head to the studio after that, and I was with my producer, and I was just so overwhelmed, and I was missing my mom. Later, my two best friends came to the studio as well. And I was just bawling out on the mic and tearing up. That’s why the song was so emotional because the song is about missing home and wanting a home through a woman.

٢٩ Thank you for sharing that. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I like to have ginger and eat it raw. Burn my throat pretty much. Or put it in tea with honey and lemon. It’s good for the throat. I like to meditate and I like to pray and visualise the set before I go out. 

٣٠ What do you think is the purpose of music?

 To document human expression, emotion, and stories.

٣١ Would your parents have loved it if you did anything else for a living?

Yeah, I’m sure they would have been happy to see me as a Jeff Bezos or whatever, but I guess who knows what the future holds. But now they’ve been seeing that it’s becoming more than just a nice hobby so I’m blessed.

٣٢ What do you miss the most about your childhood?

 I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I’d say the fact that in childhood, you’re always doing something as a kid. And for some reason, as you grow up, you get the blessing of thought, but that sometimes can paralyse you. I’m trying to get back into the space where the world is new to me again.

٣٣ Were there any specific sounds of your childhood?

The sound of the streets definitely. Old Arabic music playing in the house and the sound of the Quran were a staple of my upbringing.

٣٤ Do you have a happy place?

Yeah, by the beach. Any beach is a blessing. It’s very therapeutic.

٣٥ Who is an underrated artist that you think people should know about?

My friend Hady Moamer is a producer and artist in Cairo. He’s so talented. He’s produced some of the biggest tracks from Marwan Pablo. He’s also produced stuff for Drake. He’s kind of getting started now as a solo artist too. I think it’s a matter of time, so people should get on it.

٣٦ If you could do anything else besides singing, what would you do?

I would definitely give my life up to some sort of cause. I think that’s ultimately what we all want to do. I would like to focus on changing education a little bit and provide it as well. I would like to do this in the future.

٣٧ What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve been very lucky to have amazing mentors in my life. So I think taking one thing at a time – that’s probably one of the things that I feel is very important.

٣٨ What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?

 Have a plan B. It’s BS. It means that you’re scared.

٣٩ If you could attend a masterclass with any legendary singer who would it be?

Michael Jackson. Just sitting there and watching him would be crazy. Quincy Jones too.

٤٠ If you could sing an advertisement jingle for any product, what product would it be?

That’s a good question. That’s something that I think about when I wake up. Nutella, I’d do something for Nutella. I would sing all day for Nutella.

٤١ If you were a contestant on a singing show, what song would you choose for your audition?

I have no idea, actually because you got to think about your voice and what would match it. Whatever song I’m most comfortable doing at the time. I am probably best at singing my own songs.

٤٢ Would you prefer to sing an original song instead?

Not Necessarily? Maybe The Weekend I guess.

٤٣ Do you have any regrets?

I mean, we all have things that we will learn from. I don’t look back.

٤٤ What’s your relationship with social media?

 I’m trying to find more of a balance. Because sometimes, in this day and age, you go and do things outside for social media rather than go do things outside and document on social media. So I’m trying to get my priorities straight.

٤٥ Would you say you’re an organised or chaotic creative?

 Definitely a chaotic one. I’m trying my best to get some sort of organisation done. Not in the sense of full planning, but I think it can help from time to time. Sometimes you do get the rare impulse to write or sing something, and I always tune in.

٤٦ Do you have a go-to performance outfit?

I like leather a lot. But right now, I feel like I’m going through some style change. So we’ll see.

٤٧ What’s the best purchase you’ve ever made?

A leather jacket I bought back in New York. I’ve worn it more than anything in my life.

٤٨ How would your friends describe you?

Driven, passionate, and for the most part caring.

٤٩ What gives you peace?

Being open to anything and everything. Taking things as they come. Not judging everything too much. Sometimes the things you planned for happen, and sometimes they don’t, but it’s about what you do from there. Of course, God, my family, my friends…there are so many beautiful things in this life. I can’t tell you just one.

٥٠Do you have any last words?

Listen to my new single, Egyptian Wifey. And I’d tell everyone just to chill. Everything’s gonna be okay.

Rand Al-Hadethi is an art, culture, and fashion writer who approaches all her creative endeavours with a penchant for storytelling. She explores the intersection of fashion, culture, and society and sheds light on talent and cultural movements across the Middle East and the world. Rand also publishes a bi-monthly themed substack newsletter called WebWeaver™. To reach Rand, email her at rand@khamsa5.com or follow her on social media @rundoozz.
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