Mawazine Sessions: Tamer Hosny on his upcoming Eid Al Fitr film and branching out for new opportunities

Branching out, Tamer Hosny explains, was always part of the plan since making waves with his 2004 debut album Hob.

Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny’s upcoming drama Tisbah Ala Kheir will be released during Eid. Courtesy Youniss Hamiddine
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One conspicuous absence from another star-studded Ramadan television line-up is Tamer Hosny.

The Egyptian pop star, actor and regional heart-throb was due to return to the small screen during the holy month with a new drama alongside actress Yasmina Abdul Aziz.

Speaking from the recently concluded Mawazine Festival in Morocco, Hosny explains his initial comments about the untitled project earlier in the year were somewhat misguided.

“To be honest, we were so confident with the project that we were like: ‘let’s put it out in Ramadan’,” he recalls.

“But then we found ourselves shooting only two-to-three episodes in a space of three months. So time was ultimately against us, but hopefully you will see it next Ramadan.”

However, Hosny fans will not have to wait too long to see him on the screen. The 39-year-old is starring in the much-anticipated drama Tisbah Ala Kheir (Good Night), which will have its film premiere in Egyptian cinemas on Eid Al Fitr (around June 24).

Leading a cast in the dramadey that includes Durah, Nour and Ahmed Zaher, Hosny plays a character who must confront hard truths as a result of a painful physical injury.

Hosny, whose last film was the breezy 2014 romcom Ahwak, says his latest feature is his most-focused performance yet.

With the plot under wraps, Hosny lets slip that he will perform multiple characters in Tisbah Ala Kheir.

“I think it is a new kind of film for me and has a high level of acting – for example, I play a bunch of different personalities in the film,” he says.

“There is also a philosophy to it and some humour, of course.”

The film is also home to a new song – Wara Al Shababeek (Behind the Windows) – a duet with the Lebanese diva Elissa.

“The lyrics are deep,” says Hosny. “The songs talk about life and how people change with time. It is so soulful and sensitive.”

With last year's album Omry Ibatda well received, in addition to a successful film and television career, Hosny is one of the Arab entertainment industry's most successful polyglots.

With peers such as Najwa Karam and Fares Karam – who spoke to The National last week – refusing to enter the film and television world, Hosny is embracing all opportunities.

Branching out, he explains, was always part of the plan since making waves with his 2004 debut album Hob.

“I always wanted to be in this position. I never really saw music and film in separation, they both complete each other. I didn’t want to be like someone else. I wanted to be different and in some way original, so perhaps other artists can follow me. I wanted to show a new way of doing things, in that you can sing, compose, write and act,” says Hosny.

He even points to his thick beard and quiff hairstyle – which is often compared to Hugh Jackman's in the film Wolverine – as a trendsetter.

“I copped some flak in how a singer can have a beard like this and hair like that. Now you can see other artists and young people following this look – this is proof that I feel I am on the right way.”

Another aspect of Hosny’s expansive approach to his work is his growing list of musical collaborations with western artists.

Normally, a no-go zone for peers, Hosny has embraced the idea of working with artists such as Jamaican reggae star Shaggy (2012's Smile), rappers Snoop Dogg and Akon for 2013's Si Al Sayed and Welcome to the Life. While the big-name connections helped ensure a steady amount of hits in the Arab world, it failed to make lasting impressions internationally.

Hosny does not mind as that was not the point. Instead, he points to the collaborations as examples of western artists learning from Arab culture, as opposed to the other way around.

He points to the summery video for Si Al Sayed, where Snoop Dogg wears a kandura and is called "Ma'alem Snoop", while in Welcome to the Life Akon actually sings an Arabic verse in Egyptian dialect.

“I never saw myself or even had the goal of being an international star,” he says.

“But I would say that I always had a goal of western artists singing in Arabic. I want them to experience and engage with our culture – it shouldn’t just be just learning from the West.”

But not all of Hosny’s music can be shared.

Crediting his wife, Moroccan singer Basma Boussil and two young children for giving his life a sense of grounding, Hosny says there are a stack of unrecorded songs that he sings exclusively for his young fans.

“The only way you can hear them is if I invite you to my house and see us perform,” he says with a laugh.

“My wife and I create and sing songs for our kids, just a way to keep the household fun and light. These songs are just for us.”

Next week in the Mawazine Sessions, we feature Lebanese classical singer and poet Jahida Wehbe