Falling From Learning
My 15 Minutes With Lamya

Rick Ojo McGrath

Hey, LR:

Wow, what a wacky day yesterday was... you know, I think it's the first October 12th I've lived through that had enough action to warrant a diary entry. It was, of course, my day with Lamya, the sexy, gorgeous Omanese pop hip/hop pre-diva.

You remember last week I was hoping to get to talk with her -- for sure to see her concert -- as she swings through Toronto on a mini-tour to showcase her multi talents to the music movers & shakers in east coast major markets. Well, I did get the interviewing gig -- it turns out Culture Court pulls major weight -- and according to instructions from the local record company flackette, a pierced little blondie named Sue, I was supposed to meet Lamya at her hotel on Saturday at 3 o'clock.

I show up pre-punctually, my digits clutching my digital tape recorder, digital video camera, and digital pen... hey -- it can't all be hi-tech. Our trysting spot is the low-tech Comfort Inn, a semi-squalid downtown hotel that indicates Lamya's lack of a platinum cd. It's in an interesting part of Toronto -- about a blowjob away from the heart of this burg's gay & lesbian centre -- but I find out more about this later...

Sue is there, and it turns out I'm first on the interviewer's list -- a good spot because we all tend to ask the same questions and I've found from experience that music stars tend to burn out telling the same yarns over and over. Will we do the interview in the hotel? No, Sue decides, we should go to a cafe or coffeeshop to do the deed. I'm figuring Lamya has a messy room -- I once interviewed Fleetwood Mac as we all draped over their hotel beds -- so Sue deeks out and returns with news there's a Starbucks (natch) across the street. We head over, find some tables, and I get set up for The Star to arrive.

Lamya in TorontoAnd arrive she does. She's taller than I imagined, poured into skintight low rider jeans, with her torso squished inside a torn denim shirt, stylishly decorated with chrome biker buttons on the left shoulder, and some frayed fringe on the other. The ripped front dives deep over her deeper cleavage, and I can plainly see a pink pushup bra, lifting and separating her butterscotch boobs up for review and admiration. A small line of drool appeared at the corner of my mouth. Her face is not recognizable as the few sexy-artsy photographs on her website, but she's definitely an arabic beauty, with aquiline nose, stupendously huge eyes, luscious lips, and very, very long jetblack hair, held in a ponytail by an equally long piece of cloth. Her eyes are, unfortunately, hidden by big, wraparound Gucci glasses. One finger on her right hand displays a monster ring... which is a letdown, as most of her official pix show hands which have been art directed by Richard Starkey.

Up she comes to my table, breathless and apologizing for being late. Hey, man... why do they do that? Like I'm gonna get pissed off and leave? Anyway, I welcome her to Canada, and she sits down to her coffee -- low-fat latte, I think. I start off by showing her a copy of my CC review of her cd, Learning From Falling, and she seems pretty excited to get it -- in fact, she starts reading it right away. I remind her we only have 15 minutes to make her famous, and then I interrupt myself by asking her to autograph her cd. She's curious about my "Ojo" nickname on the review, so I explain it's Spanish for "eye" -- the eye of my camera -- and she thinks that's cool, so she signs my cd To Rick, 'eye, eye' thanks so much for the informed support, yea, verily, yea, Lamya. Yea, verily, yea?... for a second I thought I was with Danny Kaye in The Court Jester.. does the chalice from the palace have the brew that is true?

LamyaSo I finally stop ogling and she stops autographing, and I try to get down to it. As you know, I'm interested in the creative process, so we start there. I know she writes all her lyrics, so I wonder where the melody comes from. No, no, I write the music, too, she says. In the shower? I hopefully ask. Sometimes, she says... that's a deadend, so I ask about the genesis of the songs on her cd. Empires, it turns out, isn't an ironic statement about imperialism and femininity, but stems from the fact she's a recluse at home, and likes to have the TV on without any sound. She was amused one night when a program about the initial development of America was followed by another show on an upcoming election. Her list of "men to match her mountains" has nada to do with her breasts, but actually is a shopping list of the type of imperialists needed to grow an empire. Jeez, man, I liked my sexist version better.

LamyaIn Black Mona Lisa she calls herself a "lone bohemian", so I was interested in why a 20-something hip hopper would use a word like bohemian as a self-describer. That's right out of the later 50s, early 60s, I said... coffee shops, beatniks.. yes, she says, her eyes lidding provocatively, I was born too late... I would much rather have been around in the 60s... I'd like to be your age. Hey, man... dig that... we may be old, but it seems to be a small price to have been there during the "golden age". Yowser!

LamyaI then move on to her finger-pointing songs: Judas Kiss and Never Enough. The cd liner notes dedicate Judas Kiss to "JT of DD"... now, we know she used to tour as a backup singer for Duran Duran, and JT has gotta be John Taylor, right? No, she says coyly... it just says JT... that could be anyone. Yeah, sure, Lamya. Is the addict in Never Enough also a real person? Yes, she admits, but she's not saying who... and then drops the name Peter... I still dunno who's she's talking about.

My research has revealed that one of the cd's better songs, Never's Such A Long Time, is dedicated to singer/songwriter/actor Ian Dury, and I'm wondering about that. It turns out she met Ian before he died of cancer, and was drawn to him because he was afflicted by polio -- as is her father. She waxes on about Ian's career, and then we move on.

I'm getting into this now, but my reverie is interrupted by a tap on my shoulder. It's Sue, our mistress of ceremonies, and I've got two minutes to wrap it up. Time to cut to the chase, I think, so I ask if her arabic background has caused her any post 9-11 problems. I'm thinking of nutty americans here, man, but I'm startled by her answer -- it's not the infidels giving her problems, no, it's the Muslim community. I was really afraid of being threatened like Salman Rushdie, she admitted. But it's OK now. Whew. Altho I gotta say I was tempted to let her hide out in my basement. For free.

We wind up with a quick peek at the future -- yes, she thinks she'll be touring "forever", and she's already gotten another cd written, with some songs already recorded, and she's been making the obligatory rounds of late-nite and daytime TV shows, putting in the hours and paying her dues. Tell ya the truth, I'm surprised she's got another cd already done... the usual routine is you've got your entire life to use as fodder for the first, and then it gets harder for the second. But I get the feeling she can write about damn near anything. She laughs, then surprises me with an admission -- she's always wanted to do an album of songs by guys who have committed suicide! Hey, man... that would be cool, eh? But she can rattle off the names -- Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, Phil Ochs (mow, that would be zany -- I Ain't Marching Anymore... I'm Hip Hopping). And then the bombshell -- she admits she often has thoughts of suicide herself.

The interview ends with a promise to meet up again that evening at her small club music industry gig, and her final words -- do you have any requests?. Black Mona Lisa, I say... and she screws up her face. Duh, I say to myself, of course she'll sing that one. OK, Judas Kiss, I offer. She smiles. Take that, JT.

So, LR, what's she like to talk with? Oddly difficult. First, a coffeeshop on Yonge Street is not an acoustically great place to try and record someone. The high ambient noise was exacerbated by Lamya's very soft voice, her upmarket Brit accent, and her endless weaving, bobbing, hair adjusting, and most interesting -- wiping off the minuscule beads of sweat that glistened on her rich, full upper lip. Yes, indeedy... Lamya's a sensual treat. She's one of those touchy-feelie people who like to wave their arms around when they talk... and often those waving hands and those long, musical fingers land on you... shoulder, arm, wrist, back of your hand. It's obviously a cultural thing, but ya gotta love it... especially in our current paranoid bubble, where pretty well nobody lays a hand on you without those grotesque rubber gloves.

Interview done, I hang around for another 15 minutes, surreptitiously taking video of her while she no doubt told the same things to the next interviewer. Then it was away and time to get reorganized for the evening concert.

The gig was at a small bar on the western fringe of Little Italy (the largest community of Italians outside of Rome), and it was doors at 6, show at 7:15. Early, yes, but this wasn't really a money-making concert, as half the crowd was invited by the record company to showcase their new talent. I caught up with a couple members of the band during the wait, and found out this was just a touring unit of three guys -- percussion, guitar, keyboards/bass/backup vocals -- and I could look forward to some interesting variant renditions of what turned out to be a 10-song set.

Remember I told you the hotel was close to Tranta's gay community? Well, I find Sue and she tells me Lamya is hugely popular among gays. Why, I stupidly ask. Actually, Sue's not sure -- something about the diva thing, she volunteers. Sorta hopefully. Whatever the reason, they're out tonight. I remember yr famous analysis, LR -- I've got it here somewhere. Oh yeah, you wrote: "Gays? Sure. All these fatales have a large gay constituency. In fact, it's the gay club scene that keeps them going. That Verve Remixed CD finds its biggest audience with the gays. Think of the implications of this, the anthropology of it. The matriarch, the queen, the feminization of culture. The traditional male singer has been marginalized. Elvis either embraces homosexuality or neo-nazi revisionism." Cool stuff, man. I check the crowd. Are there any neo-nazis around? Then I see a guy who was also one of "The Four Who Interviewed Lamya", so I sidle up to pass the time.

Who you write for? I ask.

A website, he says.

So do I, I say, Culture Court. You?

Gay Guide Toronto dot com, he says. All one word.

Cool, I say. Is that like a bus tour?

At the front of the stage a group has formed, led by some cat wearing a porkpie hat, a weird little red poncho-shawl, and white sleeveless shirt. Extroverted? Well, his left eye was encased in black makeup that stretched up over his forehead, and his hair was mostly shaved, except for a tadpole-shaped furry patch with a tail that curved across his neck. Wild and noisy before the show, he would later become even more of a complete idiot.

Lamya et al finally arrive onstage 30 minutes late -- she's wearing the same reveal-all outfit from the afternoon -- and off they go, trying to play and sing over the insane howling of the aforementioned matador/madador, who becomes almost delirious in the face of his femme fatale. She shoulda told him to go kill somebody. After a couple songs, damaged by his howling, one of the record company henchmen swanned in and quietly asked him to cool it. It worked for awhile.

The concert itself was marred by very bad sound... too few speakers, so the soundman cranked it to oblivion. In a sense it didn't matter much, tho, cause regardless of the sound it was very apparent this lady's got a magnificent set of pipes and can belt out an amazing range of notes -- in fact, I think she showed a greater vocal range at the live gig than she does on the LFF cd.

Hi-lite of the concert was Empires, and she does it like it's done on the video, with her singing and beating the hell out of a couple drums. The song really cooks, and the crowd was singing and swaying along in a very unchristian rapture. Did it go all night? Sadly, no... nine songs and the band left the stage, and Lamya was cajoled into doing an encore... and then... gone. Apparently she was having din dins with the president of BMG Records Canada, and you don't keep the label brass waiting (too long).

I ripped off a poster for my collection, said bye bye to Sue, went out, retrieved a parking ticket from the car's wipers and drove home. It was only nine o'clock. About 25 years past my bedtime.

© Rick McGrath 10/02


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