Music is a 'conversation with someone close’

Kameen lead vocalist and songwriter Hazem Bawab (center) poses with the other members of Jordanian indie band Kameen. (Photo: Handout from Hazem Bawab)
AMMAN — Lead vocalist and songwriter of Jordanian indie band “Kameen” Hazem Bawab describes the process of writing music as a conversation he could be having with somebody who is very close to him.اضافة اعلان

“If I feel like talking about love, I talk about love, and if I feel like talking about philosophy, I talk about philosophy,” Bawab told Jordan News in a recent interview.

One topic he does shy away from, however, is politics.

“I think it’s toxic for music; my major beliefs are more holistic, I like to sing about everything, and I feel that if I give into that and I sing about it [politics], it will overshadow the other stuff,” Bawab said.

Although the past decade saw a boom in the alternative music scene in Jordan, when Bawab started his music career 20 years ago, the indie scene was “weak”, according to the musician.

“There were some underground bands but there was no attraction, there were no fans. … Indie songs that are famous now were actually released a long time ago.”

Bawab discovered his love for music at the age of 9, while learning violin at the National Music Conservatory. He composed his first song at the age of 15 and has been doing it ever since.

In 2003, three of Hazem’s songs were played on the radio anonymously. “They used to play them on 96.3 FM, but I refused to put my name on them, because at the time, I thought that as a musician and a businessman, people will not take me seriously,” Hazem told Jordan News.

Hazem, who at the age of 23 was launching both his music career and his IT startup, struggled with these two sides of his life coexisting in the public eye.

“Imagine a 23-year-old guy with a startup company who sings, and, at the same time, is coming to sell you a software that is worth JD100,000. I had this perception that people will not take me seriously, that they will think my business is not my main thing, because by default, being a musician will outshine being an entrepreneur,” said Hazem.

“If you google my name now, you will find more about my music than you will about my companies.”

Playing music for hours in his room as a child, Hazem says his parents were rather concerned when he took a serious interest in music at first. “I wanted an acoustic guitar and my dad refused to buy it because it cost too much and he said I should focus on my studies.”

He managed, however, to make the money on his own, working for a pizza place while visiting his sister in California.

“That was the first guitar I bought with my own money. … And I still have it, it is still in my office,” Bawab said.

His parents came around after that, he recalled. “They realized there is no stopping this, so they kind of gave in.”

After three years in the music scene, Kameen is finally launching as “a full-fledged indie band”, according to Bawab.

“Before COVID-19, we used to do a couple of our own songs, then ten covers. Now we are going to do ten of our own songs and a couple of covers. We are very excited about it, we are going to be pushing in the direction that we have been moving towards in the past 3 years.”