Kalamesque first made its way to our newsfeed in May 2016 with a song called Ahwak - an Arabic rendition of Beyoncé's Crazy In Love. The Arabized version of the song went viral on social media and currently has more than 400,00 views on YouTube.
The guy behind Kalamesque, Ayyoub Tams, is a Jordanian writer and translator who is known for his multilingual skills and his passion for words. Tams speaks several different languages: English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Greek, and a bit of Japanese and Swedish.
He started off as a translator for several big TV stations such as OSN and National Geographic, where he would translate and create subtitles for the channels. Seven years later, he became the senior editor for U Arabiah, one of Jordan's top fashion magazines.
Tams translates songs he loves and feels a certain connection with to Arabic. He then collaborates with local Jordanian singers to record the new Arabic versions of these famous hits.
Kalamesque currently has a total of six songs on YouTube. The channel holds a variety of translated covers inspired by the likes of Selena Gomez, Toni Braxton and even Turkish soap operas.
StepFeed sat with Tams for a chat. Here's what he had to say about his successful project, Kalamesque.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started Kalamesque
"I’m a translator/writer by profession, and my passion in life can be summed up into two words: music and languages.
I’ve always had this passion for the Arabic language and I’ve always felt it was overshadowed or mistreated. The English language is perceived as being cool or hip, meanwhile Arabic is seen as the opposite.
However, I’ve noticed that people tend to appreciate the Arabic language if it’s in a poetic context, and it was a 'eureka' moment when I realized I can use Western tunes to channel classical Arabic lyrics in an unforced and seamless manner."
How important do you think the Arabic language in music is?
"It’s not a matter of importance, but a matter of taste. There’s that magical touch that classical Arabic music possesses.
In our region, people - the youth in particular - tend to take pride in speaking fluent English and having weak Arabic. We just can’t seem to appreciate our own language, and that’s why I’ve always been looking out for opportunities to open people’s eyes to the aesthetics of the Arabic language."
You write your songs in literary Arabic, why not Arabic slang?
"Other than the fact that it’s beautiful and poetic, literary Arabic is Pan-Arab. A big chunk of our fan base is located in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
Had I been using colloquial Arabic, I would have reached [a limited] audience. I also use Arabic dialect every now and then in order to create some diversity; I find it powerful and grand just as its classical counterpart."
What has been the hardest challenge so far?
"Acquiring a sponsorship or investor to fund Kalamesque. Recording music is a very costly process, everything from booking studio time, production and recording is expensive. At the moment we’re still looking for an entity that can help Kalamesque produce more songs."
Tell us a bit about the writing process
"It mostly starts while I’m driving. I find a song that speaks to me and I have to be head over heels with the song. I start singing along with initial Arabic lyrics which I usually record on my phone so I can start writing properly once I get home.
When I’m done writing, I run the lyrics by Zaid Kandah (one of Kalamesque's singers) to test how smooth the lyrics are when sung. This helps me realize what needs tweaking, and after I make sure everything sounds perfect, it’s studio time!"
Which song is your favorite?
"So far, Ya Leil. Which is a rendition of the popular Turkish Soap Opera Al 3ishk Al Mamnoo3 (Forbidden Love.)"
How are people responding?
"The feedback has been overwhelming. I had no idea people were thirsty for a project like Kalamesque that revolves around classical Arabic.
Just take a look at the comments section on Kalamesque’s YouTube channel and you will understand what I’m talking about. It’s just mind-blowing and humbling at the same time."
Why the name 'Kalamesque'?
"The coined word Kalamesque is a fusion of three words that sum up the project as a whole: Kalam, which translates to 'words/speech' in Arabic; Misk, which means 'musk'; and the suffix '-esque' which brings to mind the Arabesque feel. In other words, Kalamesque means 'the beautiful essence of the Arabic language'!"
Where do you see Kalamesque in two years?
"That’s a tough one! I have big dreams and aspirations when it comes to Kalamesque. I hope in 2 years’ time we can hold large-scale concerts and see the youth celebrate their beautiful language in songs. I also want to include as many local and regional talents as possible under Kalamesque’s umbrella."
What should we expect from you soon?
"We’ve just released Aghanin, our cover of Love You Like a Love Song by Selena Gomez & The Scene.
We’re currently working on a song with a completely new theme; humanity. The song is called Ya Insanu Andis based on the theme song of one of the most beloved TV shows of all time; it will feature a new talent as well, so stay tuned!"
This profile is part of StepFeed's Featured Arabs series, featuring Arabs you should know about. Read previous profile's here.