Nesma Herky has been singing since she was a school girl. But it’s clear in every note she sings that her influences are far and wide. The singer, with Nubian roots, gave us the low down on what you’ll need to do before you start out busting some notes!
What do you do consistently for time management?
Amidst all the responsibilities, obligations, priorities and everything. If I didn’t sing I would not be okay! All the time, I have to sing. I sing everywhere. Every day in the morning I have to sing. When I’m in the car with my kids, they know I’m going to be singing. Even with my fans, on my Instagram or my Facebook page, I always upload videos when I’m in the car singing. Because I’m driving a lot throughout my day, so the only time I can find myself free is when I’m in the car. Sometimes I sing while at work, I manage the Under 5 Preschool in Shorouk. I sing to the kids all the time while at work. Before they nap while washing-up, while we’re eating. Literally, throughout the day. What I do consistently though is that I don’t let a month or two pass without a rehearsal or a jamming session.
What is one resource you wish you knew about when you were starting out?
When I went to university and joined the theater troupe there, we would do musicals. At that time, I got exposed to something completely different. And when I graduated, the exposure was much bigger. I was a fine arts student, so my eyes were open to all kinds of art: music, painting, dance any kind of art. In university, there were those that would dance or paint or act or sculpt there was everything. I was very lucky, to be in university and get to know loads of people that were very talented in so many ways. So, that was an exposure for me to get to know a lot of people, to attend loads of art exhibitions, events and performances, and workshops. University was a resource that I didn’t ask for, I wasn’t seeking it, it was already there! So that’s a blessing. If I go back in time, I would actually give myself some time off to leave work for a bit. I’m a person that loves work. I was working while I was in university and I wanted to build a career with a strong CV to back it. So I was seeking the experience of all kinds. That’s what led me to pursue singing. If I had to go back in time, I would take some time off of work and put time for singing. I was working 10, 11, 12 hours! I was young and spritely back in the day. If I had to do it all over again I would put more time towards singing, albeit I did give time to singing through competitions and workshops but I still would use more time as a resource.
What’s the best career advice anyone has ever given you?
The best advice I got was from Fathy Salama who is a Grammy Award winner. He’s Egyptian, and he won the award through his album with Amr Diab that was in the ’80s. The advice was: “You have to learn to read music”. Till now, I don’t know how to read one note. To be fair, I know how to read a little. I learned how to play piano a little so I know how to read some notes. I attended several of Fathy Salama’s workshops and he always reiterated “You have to learn music theory, you can’t sing without understanding everything”. So, he has a point. He’s the best composer and producer out there. I was very lucky to attend many of his workshops with loads of musicians. And he always had the same advice to give, and I was glad to hear his words of wisdom every time I’d go. “Learn you guys! Read music, write music, read a lot, watch, listen, search, research and think!”. He encouraged me to always explore and search more and not to just take things as they are. That was the best advice, and I got it from him: to always learn and that the world is full of music and knowledge that’s there for those that want to discover it.
What do you do to motivate yourself when you feel like giving up?
To be honest, recently I haven’t had time to think about negative energy or negative vibes or to even think about giving up. There’s just no time to do that anymore. There’s no time to give up. I know this might sound like the opposite of the phrase “it’s never too late” but I have to say it, “It’s now or never”. I may have been a little too patient when it comes to music I didn’t always have music on the top of my list. It was always there, but it was never on the top. But now, I can’t be patient. I don’t want it to be a third or fourth priority. No, I want it at the top and I want it, clear and big and I’m aiming for it. So, when I feel like I’m giving up I look at examples around the world of what people have achieved. The idea that people can achieve unbelievable things really motivates me. It makes me feel like there are men, women and people out there they’re all normal human beings but they’re doing what they want. Also, if someone can’t imagine me making it or if they have a shallow point of view of each other they can’t really imagine anyone achieving anything! These people have me fuming with adrenalin. So, watching other people who are successful achievers motivates me definitely.
What kind of vocal training took your singing to the next level?
I trained with various people because I wanted to learn more about the different styles of singing. I trained with Fathy Salama because I wanted to learn the basics to understand music and music theory. Then, I trained with Nevine Allouba, but I couldn’t continue this because of work I had no time, and at the time I was working with Bassem Youssef and we were shooting, and constantly busy throughout the week. So, my schedule was all over the place at the time, so I couldn’t really proceed. But I did around two months of training with her. Then, I trained with Sheikh Zein Mahmoud I wanted to learn about Al-Sirah al-Hilaliyyah (السيرة الهلالية) and colloquial Sha’abi songs. So, I took a workshop with Sheikh Zein as well. Unfortunately, these are the only ones I’ve done. With Fathy Salama, I’ve taken more than two. My plan is to take more workshops and to really learn music so that it’s not just a passion or a hobby that became a professional career for me by luck. I really do feel the need to study and learn, and that is happening thankfully. I’m doing readings on my own and I watch loads of videos, but I do feel like I want to take more than one workshop, hopefully, that will happen!