Today Bobbie Lakhera tells the story of Ziad Kay, the Brixton singer whose music video we featured yesterday in the advent calendar
It started with a Khwiss… Ziad Khwiss to be precise. Performing as Ziad Kay, the Brixton-born singer-songwriter is rapidly making his mark on the local music scene. Bobbie Lakhera spoke to the Leander Road resident to discuss his first video, making music in Brixton, and why, despite his mother’s best efforts, he has no plans to become the next big Arabic singing sensation
From open mic nights at the Ritzy to recording his first EP at Artspace Studio, it’s been a busy year for 28 year-old Ziad Kay. Deciding to explore his childhood passion for singing, his dulcet tones and wistful lyrics are gaining him quite a following, encouraged by the release last week of the whimsical video for his single Closer to you. The song charts his simple declaration that he would do anything to be with the one he loves. Hearts will break.
Shockingly, despite my sparkling personality and womanly charms, no one has yet composed a song in my honour. Therefore, I was quite intrigued as to who inspired such heartfelt lyrics. Looking coy, but accepting I wasn’t going to let it rest, Ziad confessed, “There is an ex, she lives in America now. Everyone’s been through it, haven’t they? It was some time ago.” Ah, young love. Damn that ocean!
Ziad roped in family and friends to make the video, recorded at Brixton Community Base, Talma Road. “They knew I didn’t have much money to produce it, so they did it out of love. My nephew and niece are in it, neighbours who have known me all my life came to help. My friend Mark [Bellot] shot the video and one of my brothers edited it.”
It’s quite an achievement for a young man who only decided to make his singing a priority a few months ago. Although writing and performing songs from a young age, music had taken a back seat to his job at a hotel in Russell Square. It may well have stayed that way, were it not for the unlikely intervention of that celebrated Scots hero – tennis player, Andy Murray.
“The decision to go for it came about in quite an unusual way,” explained Ziad, looking rather bemused himself that it was the US Open champion who provided guidance. “I watched him lose the Wimbledon final and when he broke down speaking to the crowd afterwards. It was clear how much he wanted it and it struck a chord with me. I bought his biography and realised he has worked so hard to get to where he wants to be.
“I was thinking, ‘Why haven’t I done that? What has stopped me from pursuing my music?’ Sometimes we forget what makes us truly happy, just get caught up with other things. So I made the decision and gave myself until February next year to produce an EP.”
Giving himself a deadline focused Ziad and he completed his EP – Somewhere to Belong – well ahead of schedule. “I have taken four months to get my EP done, shoot my first video, and start performing on a regular basis. I have done more with my music in these months than I have in my entire life.”
God bless Andy, but he is not Ziad’s only inspiration. Twenty five years since its release, Ziad noted how Michael Jackson’s Bad had a huge influence on him as a youngster. “My first memory is of me and my brother – we had the Bad jackets! We were always singing and dancing, and I wrote my first song when I was ten.” His dad introduced him to music from The Beatles to The Supremes, he discovered gospel and blues, and growing up in Brixton there were plenty more genres picked up just walking the streets.
“Every song on the EP reflects a part of my life, but I was raised with such an eclectic mix of music the tunes are quite different. There’s a folk song, pop song, ballad, acoustic number and dance track. You should be happy I haven’t rapped on there!”
Recorded at the Artspace Studio on Brixton Hill, Ziad was grateful for the help and guidance of the team. “Olsi [Rama] at Artspace got involved and helped with the music production. I recorded the first song Move Fast in April and went back in July to start the EP. I had written Closer to you by then and he arranged a session for me so we started working on the first two tracks. As soon as we were finished, I started performing them.” This was at the open mic nights at the Ritzy. Despite the nerves, Ziad is clearly excited to be on stage again. “First time I performed at the Ritzy was the first time in a long time. At open mic events people are very respectful of the artists, it’s a great place to go and test your music.”
Followers of @ZiadKay can see for themselves the level of support from other local artists. Par for the course, Ziad and other south London musicians regularly promote each others’ work. “I just want to help people the way I have been helped. People got involved with my stuff and it doesn’t hurt to do the same for someone else.”
Fluent in Arabic, Ziad’s mum is keen to see him sing in the language in the future, but he’s less so. “Have you heard Arabic songs? Seriously, they go on! No lie, they can be like fifteen minutes at a time – that’s my whole current set list!” he exclaimed, bursting into laughter.
He may not need to make one long epic song, but I think there’s a few folk out there who would happily listen to him singing for fifteen minutes and more.
Brixton Community Base (Talma Road, SW2 1AS) www.bsvcc.org / 07958 448 690
Artspace Studio (Brixton Hill, SW2 1RS) www.artspacestudio.co.uk / 020 8671 1977