Last updated: 01/09/2009 11:00:00 AM
It is only a matter of time before real talent will be out and Lamya is brimming with it. Born in Kenya of Omani descent, and raised in Sheffield, England, Lamya (pronounced Lamb-ya) writes, arranges, performs, and produces all of her own material. A classically trained opera singer whose gorgeous vocals are best known from her work on Soul II Soul's Vol. II: A New Decade and Vol. V: Believe; she has appeared on records by some of the biggest acts of the last quarter century, among them David Bowie and James Brown as well as recent work by Duran Duran, Anjelique Kidjo and Cheb Mami.
Now it is her turn. Her debut stands alone in the pop music landscape, Lamya's otherworldly vocals supported by laid-back hip-hop and dance beats, luscious string arrangements, guitars, sitars, and a panoply of Eastern percussion. Flexing a swooping five-octave range, Lamya whispers, soars and swirls her souful instrument around her strikingly literary tales of love, defiance, and the uphill search for identity. The songs on her debut album Learning from Falling were culled from poems she's written all her life, some as early as age 11. Lamya's sound- scapes are unique three dimensional worlds that invite comparisons to Bjork and Kate Bush. But Lamya is all her own, managing to balance eccentricity with an inviting melodic accessibility.
Lamya is a very old soul at just 28 years. She's accomplished much in little time - and how has she "I never sleep," she says, giggling. "I sleep every three days. I've been like that since I was a small child. I don't like the dark, so I stay up."
Sent to school in England then Egypt, Lamya ran away to NY after seeing a video interview of Madonna. Retracing the material girl's steps, she arrived in Manhattan to find her own Jellybean Benitez and Danceteria. There was one problem - all of those haunts were gone. "I went to NY and tried to find Studio 54," she recalls, "People said to me, 'Girl, it's gone, where you been?' And I'd say, 'Oman.' 'What? Omaha?' 'No, OMAN!' She laughs: "After that I thought 'What have I done coming here? I just started going around to all of the clubs running up to the dj booths and saying, 'Hello! I sing!' Little did I know that the whole of New York sings!"
She caught a break as featured vocalist with Soul II Soul. She toured the world and became at home on the road, a process solidified by two years on tour with Duran Duran. All the while Lamya crafted her own music, much of which went through rock permutations very different from their present incarnations.
Lamya is exquisite on record and simply breathtaking live. She is a songstress whose instrument needs no processing, whose skill is more powerful the more it is stripped down. She is a woman of paradox, a trained opera singer who prefers to sing pop, a woman more comfortable on stage before 20,000 strangers than in a room with 2, an intensely private person whose lyrics tell her most personal life stories.
The songs on Learning from Falling are as exotic as they are full of pop hooks, as dark as they are sunny, as healing as they are hurting. What else could be expected from a multi-lingual trombone-playing singer? "From living in so many places, I have found that you can convey what you mean without even knowing the language," Lamya says. "If you really understand what you are trying to say, you can communicate on several levels at once. Some things are universal. If I sing the last verse of a song in Swahili, I think people can still understand what I'm saying because they hear the feeling in it."
Lamya's exotic beauty and hypnotizing eyes belie the enticing mystery within. Her looks have already captured the attention of image maker extraordinaire Jean-Baptiste Mondino, whose most recent work includes the photos and videos for Madonna's Music, as well as legendary artwork for Bjork and Prince. After hearing "Empires," Lamya became Mondino's next nascent icon. As only he could say, "She is haute-couture."
Learning From Falling is out July 25th and Lamya's co-producers include Soul II Soul/Massive Attack/Bjork legend Nellee Hooper, Mark Ronson and Justin Stanley who produced Nikka Costa's debut and David Kahne who immortilized Southern California reggae-rockers Sublime. Open your ears and Lamya will open your eyes. She's been waiting a lifetime.