He may hail from a very small village in Morocco, but big things are coming up for Ahmad Soultan. The singer dominated headlines last year after becoming the first North African to be nominated for Best Worldwide Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs). It didn’t come easy. The Afrobian singer — known for hits, including Ya Salam and My Jailer — had to win various public votes before even thinking about heading to Frankfurt, Germany to attend the ceremony.
Thankfully the star emerged victorious and was given the chance to showcase his unique style of music to the world. Soultan was in Dubai recently, appearing at Virgin Megastores to officially accept his award for MTV’s Middle Eastern artist of the year. tabloid! caught up with him to find out more about his experience the awards ceremony and what’s coming up next for him.
Q: How was your experience at the MTV EMAs?
A: It was a beautiful experience – everything from the organisation of the event to being there, and being part of the international artists. As an artist coming from North Africa – it was a big deal being respected and treated equally like everyone else. I was happy, because sometimes we have to fight for our rights, but with MTV it was natural for them. I had a lot of fun!
Q: Best Worldwide Act went to Chinese Mandopop singer Han Geng. Were you expecting this?
A: I saw him opening the Olympics in Beijing and I am familiar with him; he is huge. It was going to be hard to beat him. I was hoping to win of course, but it’s cool. I really enjoyed the experience, and I think it’s nice not to ask for too much. The hardest part for me was fighting against the Middle Eastern starts like Qusai, Sandy and Karl Wolf, but you know I decided that I have only one chance, so I decided to promote this vote as much as I can. The way I looked at things was do your best with no regrets. If I lose, then there’s always next year or maybe 2-3 years’ time.
Q: Are you happy with the worldwide exposure you received during the EMAs?
A: Of course I am happy. MTV gave me the support to showcase music that I am happy making. They didn’t tell force me to do any type of music. You have Rihanna, Han Geng, Dima Bilan and Restart, who are all backed by huge record companies, and then MTV chose an underdog in me, it was like a victory for music I think.
Q: You are very active on social media and was constantly Tweeting/Facebooking from the EMAs.
A: Yeah, I pretty much do everything for myself! Haha. Raya from MBC was there; she was cool and maybe happy to have a crazy guy in front of her! And I was recording videos here and there, as well as photos. People on Twitter were asking me to take pictures with people like One Direction, Conor Maynard and Rita Ora.
Q: You even got a pic with Psy.
A: He’s cool; he’s doing his job. Everyone wanted to take their picture with him — even Kanye West! However, other than the stars, I was very interested in meeting managers of the stars, because I was curious to see how these people work. I was also very excited to meet Alicia Keys. We were on the same flight, and she was there with her son, so we had a chat about her charity foundation, Keep A Child Alive, as well as my upcoming projects and stuff.
Q: What’s happening music-wise? When are you releasing your third album?
A: Well, I’m going to release the first single from the album in mid-May. The track will feature Rza from Wu-tang. And then we’ll probably release the full album in September.
Q: Do you plan on working with any Middle Eastern artists?
A: Yes, I plan on doing so. I really like Arabian Knightz; we share the same booking agent in Egypt, so it’d be nice to see what we could do with them. I also have no problem working with mainstream artists as long as I am allowed to keep my identity and produce my part.
Q: What about live appearances? When can we expect to see you in Dubai?
A: I like taking my time, and I would rather perform when things are done properly. There are plans to start a series of unplugged sessions with MTV Middle East, so you never know, that might come up soon! And once the third album is out, I think it’ll be easier to be in touch with world music festivals, because that way I will have new material to support the old as well.
By Rachel McArthur