An Interview With the Belgian Singer-Songwriter, JAMIL KASSAM!
Posted On 03 Apr 2017
Jamil Kassam is a Belgian singer/songwriter, born and raised in Ivory Coast, with an Indian background. From Abidjan to Paris, Dubai to Brussels, and most recently Boston; Jamil draws influence from around the world and embraces many different styles of music, despite his easily recognizable Pop-Identity.
After touring and opening for popular French artists, Jamil Kassam decided to relocate to the United States where he currently studies at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. In addition to touring locally, he is also recording his first solo album with the help of a talented international team he has meticulously put together.
Originally born and raised in the Ivory Coast, I rapidly discovered the true power of music. From the civil war to the bird flu, whenever there was a significant event happening in the country, the Ivorians would draw inspiration from it and create a new musical current. For example, throughout the years of political war, music was vastly used as mean to exorcise the pain: Violence would cease and people would come together, even if it were only for the duration of a song. That’s when I became aware of how powerful music could be. Being bathed in this culture, I aim to sing and use music as a vehicle to raise awareness. As a songwriter, I began writing music to unite people. Artists such as Tiken Jah Fakoly, Emeli Sande or Nneka inspire me. Their songs raised awareness across nations, advocating peace around the world, and sheding light on its ills. Traveling the world gave me the unique opportunity to connect with many different cultures. In every city I have visited, music was always the universal language of the people. As a vocalist and composer, my work is meant to explore and combine many different styles and genres of music, in an effort to create a universal message that can be shared with different cultures. Growing up in Ivory Coast, I developed a deep understanding of African rhythms. Coming from an Indian family, I was taught at a young age classical Indian music techniques. When I relocated to Dubai following the Civil War, I studied the basics of oriental music. Finally, when I moved to Europe, I spent seven years in Paris and Brussels, where I studied classical and contemporary music in conservatories. My main goal as an artist today is to combine all these influences and create universality in music.
Learn more about Jamil Kassam in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for taking the time to share your musical journey with us!
I know you have a very cultured background, so let’s start there. How has living in Ivory Coast, Abidjan, Paris, Dubai, Brussels, and now Boston influenced your musical career?
I don’t know if where I lived actually influenced my career per se but it definitely influenced my music and the way I write and compose. I think all the cities I’ve lived in and all the musical cultures I’ve encountered have strongly impacted my music and shaped my sound in their own special and unique way.
What is the overall message and vibe that comes with your music? How do you hope fans feel when they listen to you?
I really want my music to empower people and accompany them through their journey. I see music as a Catharsis, a mean to let out and escape from reality.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences? What is it about them that inspires you?
Michael Jackson is definitely one of my greatest inspirations. But I can also say Stevie Wonder, Freddie Mercury (Queen), Marvin Gaye, Celine Dion or Chaka khan. And as for more contemporaries, I feel really inspired by Lady Gaga, Sia, Emeli Sandé, Years & Years, Stromae, Jain or the songwriter Justin Tranter. Everything about them inspires me: their artistry, their message, their voice, their sound etc.
What musician would you most like to work with in the future? Why?
I’d really love to collaborate with Lady Gaga. I’m a huge fan of her music and artistry and I really look up to her.
What was the inspiration behind your single “Rise Now”?
“Rise Now” is a song about coming out in all the senses of the term. It’s a song about affirming your own truth no matter how hard it is and no matter how afraid you are.
My original intention was to write about a close friend struggling with coming out as a gay man, but as I was writing and showing it to people, I saw them identifying themselves, their own stories, their own struggle with it.
So I decided to make it more universal so that anyone could relate. Whether it’s an issue about race, gender, orientation, being bullied or just an internal conflict, I wanted this song to be a hymn to all those in need of a voice.
Please tell us about the making of your new video “Have Me All”. How creatively involved were you in the making of this video?
Actually “Have me all” is not a new video and is in fact my very first one. I did it 2 years ago, way before I did “Rise Now”. I was involved in the whole creative process and making of since they were only two other people involved: My good friend and photographer, Steven Réti, who shot and edited it with the help of his cousin Mickael Goupil.
I read that you are in the process of recording your first solo album. How does it feel to be working on such a big project? When do you anticipate finishing the album?
It’s feels amazing! For me, it’s the achievement of many years of writing and finding myself sonically and as an artist. Also collaborating with so many talented producers and songwriters has been beyond my expectations. I’m still in the process of fishing it, so I’m not completely settled on a date yet. But hopefully before the end of 2017.
How do you approach songwriting? How do you capture the inspiration when it comes?
I’m so sorry of if I’m disappointing you with my answer, because I feel like everyone is looking for a real answer to that question but I don’t have a specific approach to songwriting. I just write as it comes. I’m very alert and inspired by a lot of things and when a song seed comes up, I just write with whatever I have near me: my phone, my notebook or even a napkin when I don’t have anything else.
What is the best way for fans stay actively involved in your musical journey?
I’m very active on social media especially on Facebook and Instagram. So if people want to be involved in my musical journey they should follow me on Instagram and Facebook. Here are the links:
FB: Jamil Kassam – https://www.facebook.com/JamilKassamMusic/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
IG : @kassamjamil – https://www.instagram.com/kassamjamil/
Are you using social networks to speak to your fans?
Of course! I think it’s very important to be connected with the people And they are more then welcome to interact with me!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Yes! I’m planning to tour soon so they should look out for concerts in their cities. And thank you so much for having me!