Introducing Ramey Dawoud from ‘Faisal Goes West’
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Ramey is an emerging artist who is already setting a precedent on the African music scene. Ramey’s nostalgic memories of his homeland the Sudan gives part inspiration for his music together with his experiences of living in America, where he moved as a refugee at a young age. Aside from the music, Ramey has just wrapped up his first movie role in, “Faisal Goes West” where he plays the main character, Faisal, a refugee who moves to America from Sudan and has to learn to adapt to the way of life. This is a storyline that’s all too dear to Ramey’s heart. Ramey tells us more about his journey, experiences, inspiration and achievements
Jamati: Who is Ramey Dawoud, give us a background of yourself?
I am a Nubian from far north Sudan. We are an indigenous people, the original inhabitants of North Sudan. My family moved to Alexandria, Egypt before my birth due to political unrest in Sudan and Egypt is where I was born and lived until migrating to the US in 1999. I have always been interested in music, acting, and art in general. I also enjoy drawing/sketching.
Jamati: Having been brought up in Egypt and then moving to America, how was it getting to adapt to a different culture?
Adapting to the new culture was somewhat difficult but at the same time I had the advantage of being young. I was 8 years old when we moved to the US so my English developed quickly. However, there were certain things I had trouble getting used to, somewhat of a culture shock you might say. For example, school lunch–I remember one incident where I bit off the tip of the salad dressing case and I got salad dressing all over my face in front of the whole school! The way people dressed, acted, thought, everything was new.. different, but that is what comes along with being a refugee.
Jamati: How did you get into music?
I fell in love with music at a very early age. I remember in Egypt, I would stand in front of the mirror with a comb in my hand for a mic, pretending I was performing at a concert. At Sudanese weddings and gatherings I would stand next to the band and just be amazed at what was going on. Just the keyboard, and the mic and how everything worked was very fascinating for me at a very young age. Muhammad Wardi, who is Sudan’s and one of Africa’s giants of music is not only Nubian but he is also a family friend. When I was at my aunt’s house in Cairo, I was looking through the phone book and I saw his name and number. At the time I didn’t know exactly who he was or how big he was but later on I realized that, that specific moment would be one of the seeds that would grow into what I stand for and attempt to accomplish with my music today. Now when it comes to hip hop, I was influenced by Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, and Nas to name a few. Those are the guys that got the gears in my head spinning. After listening to them and others such as Lauryn Hill, that’s when I told myself “I want to do this.”
Jamati: What is the inspiration of your music?
I am inspired by just about everything, both positive and negative. Whether it’s a huge event like a war or famine, or something as simple as a bird fluttering its wings outside my window. As far as specific events go, I would say the forced migration of the Nubians and the building of the High Dam is a huge one. In 1962 Sudan and Egypt built the Aswan High Dam, which did have its benefits but it also had its fair share of negative consequences. For example, a huge portion of Nubian villages were flooded under the waters of the dam, along with artifacts that date back to at least 5,000 BC. The relocation of the Nubians was a crushing blow. We were in a new region, different from where we have lived for thousands of years, since the beginning of civilization. Leaving our homes also meant the new generations would eventually lose their native tongue, which is happening today as we speak. Other than that, I try to touch on subjects that the majority of people can relate to, just everyday struggles of life, love, failure, success, people holding you back, you know just things you and I and the next person can say “yeah, I have gone through that.” As far as other artists are involved, Bob Marley would be a huge huge influence without a doubt! I really can’t say much to explain how much I love Bob Marley’s music and message.
Jamati: You come out as very conscious and knowledgeable in your music, what is the message you want to pass with your music?
I just want to be able to help people. I want someone who is going through something, whether it is tough, or easy, happy, or sad, to listen to my music and relate to it and hopefully ease their pain… or get the party started depending on the mood (hahaha). I care more about making music that can last than having a hit single that will only be popular for a few months.
Jamati: How has the reception of your music been so far?
The majority of the people who have heard it, enjoy it. Most of my fans are in Africa… Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and Egypt seem to know about it the most. I am still up and coming, with a very young career so I have a long ways to go. Residing in the US and specifically in the town I am in, my type of music or the “message” in my music isn’t very popular. Most people here would listen to artists that are materialistic, I won’t mention any names but basically artists that you would see on BET or MTV. On the bright side, it makes me stand out so there is a positive to it.
Jamati: Describe your highlights and challenges since joining the music industry.
Highlights have been, performing at the Gatwitch Festival in Nairobi, Kenya, being nominated for Best New Artist at the 2012 KC Entertainment Awards which I am the only native African nominated in the awards! If I win it will be a win for all of Africa, and landing the lead role in the independent film “Faisal Goes West”. Everything leads to another, so performing somewhere such as Nairobi helped me get in touch with people that lead to radio play, which lead to getting in touch with even more people. So one thing leads to the other. Challenges have been getting my name out in the US. It is difficult here to get radio play, because the radio doesn’t play “positive” music as I mentioned earlier. My underground following is great and I’ve gotten radio spins as far away as Australia but here in the US it looks like it will be a difficult task to accomplish.
Jamati: You started out as part of The Ambassadors. Are you still part of The Ambassadors, Nile Nation?
The Ambassadors do not exist anymore. Those that have been following me since the start know about The Ambassadors. Kareem, my Ambassadors partner and I are still on good terms and we get along just fine. The split was more for personal reasons. Going solo, has been great for me. Now I have more creative control over my music, more freedom, and flexibility when it comes to travelling and doing shows. Nile Nation was the independent label founded by Kareem. That has also died down, but I am not saddened at all by this and neither should be my fans. Like I said, going solo has been a great move and I am loving it so far.
Jamati: Tell us about your current album, how is it going and when can we expect it?
Currently I am working on a mixtape. I don’t want to release an official album quite yet. The mixtape is coming along great! The singles so far have gotten amazing feedback. The first release was “Understand” and the second is “Believe In Me”, both have gotten radio play and are fan favorites. I am working on releasing the 3rd single, “Simple Man” which I believe will get the best response. I haven’t decided on a name for the mixtape quite yet so I don’t want to give anything away that is unofficial. I’m looking to release it by the end of the summer, sometime in August.
Jamati: Whom have you featured in the album?
I will have features from Mosno Al-Moseeki, who is an amazing singer from Sudan, and is affiliated with the Sudanese band Nas Jota. Emmanuel Jal, and Arama Mara will also feature on my project. You will hear production from Kareem (formerly of The Ambassadors), myself, and Anno Domini Beats.
Jamati: You have just finished the production of your first film “FAISAL GOES WEST” which you say is dear to you. Tell us about it?
‘Faisal Goes West’ is an independent film directed by Bentley Brown, who has spent time in Sudan and Chad and not only knows how to speak Arabic but he understands the culture of Sudan. The film is about a young Sudanese man, Faisal, and his family as they migrate to Dallas, Texas and their struggle with the new culture, economy, language, etc. The movie means a lot to me because it tells my story in a way. I can relate so much to Faisal, as I was once facing those same struggles and in a sense I still am today. This is also the first ever Sudanese-American film so we are making history!
Jamati: What is in the works for Ramey in future?
I will leave that up to the Almighty to decide but I do plan on working harder, connecting with more people, more music, movies, and do what it takes to get my message out there and try to help as much as I can. I always tell people and tell myself that all we, as humans can do is try. Whether we fail or succeed is up to God.
Much love to Wanjiru Ndung’u and Jamati!