Get Familiar: Shahine El-Hamus
As a small, independent brand, almost all our business is based on personal relationships. One longterm friend of the brand is Amsterdam based Actor and Musician, Shahine El-Hamus who has been working on a new creative outlet and documenting the process armed with the brand new Polaroid GO cameras and Colour Go Film. There is no better time than now to get familiar with Shahine, find out his influences, creative processes and what the future looks like for him.
First of all, how are you?
I feel great! I've been creating a lot but it’s my girlfriends birthday is this week and I don’t have a gift yet so I’m a little stressed though - thanks for having me! I could always just give her this camera but she's seen me with it already.
Did you grow up with a camera around you?
Actually, no I didn’t. Except for the home videos my family used to make with a video camera that took tapes. There was always tangible mediums around me. But film was always around growing up. We watched a lot of movies and always talked about them afterwards. My mom always used to read books for us, I think that’s where our love for storytelling started. My dad is an actor and my mom used to act as well. At age 27, she got pregnant with my oldest brother and she downscaled the acting instead she started writing. I think I always wanted to be in the spotlight as a kid. My mother saw that urge, but always kept me with my feet on the ground. “Don’t rush, wait for the right thing to come.” Actually, she forbid me to do a casting because she thought I was too young. So, I stayed patient. When I was fourteen my patience paid off and I got my first job as an actor, a television show called “A‘dam E.V.A”. A TV-show about Amsterdam and its many stories. Ever since that first time on a set I never left.
What's the earliest images you have of yourself, what were you up to?
I was always trying to make people laugh. When people came over to visit our house I always wanted to dance and show off just because I liked to entertain from a young age. The home videos of me showing off are the first images I think of. It wasn’t that I needed the attention so bad, I was just a very busy child. Everybody always told my mom that I had ADHD. But she didn’t want to except that label until I was much older. My parents divorced when I was two years old. I stayed living with my mom. I have a good relationship with my father, but he wasn’t around in the household where I grew up in. I grew up with my mom and my sister because my brother is twelve years older than me, and he left the house when he was twenty. We made a lot of home video’s and those will stay with me forever.
How has it been for you using this new Polaroid Go Camera?
I really liked the using this Polaroid Go Camera. It's perfect that you can bring it everywhere cause it fits in your pocket or handbag. Super lightweight too. It was very easy to use and I had no problems with the camera at all. The quality of the instant pictures is also great, way better than I expected. Overall a great experience. After a while, the camera just became a part of the crew, we always had it with us and using it became very intuitive. The design is very fool proof.
What was your favourite image you made from the journey?
I think the one in the basement of my producer, Louie. I took a picture of some equipment in the studio and I pulled the picture out too fast because I was so excited. It was totally my fault, and I thought it would be wack but instead it came out crazy beautiful, by pulling it out so fast I had created a sort of tree form imprint with my finger. It also looks like a lightning bolt, a bit which I think it looks pretty cool.
So with this new adventure for you, how long have you wanted to do this?
I started writing my own raps when I was 14 and just freestyling out on the streets with friends. At that age we never had our own space in Amsterdam to chill so we were always out. It started out of boredom and I always kept doing it. Soon friends started calling me "Shine", Greg probably started that. I was still that same energetic child so I embraced it.
When I was 17 I started taking it more seriously by going to studios and trying out different things. At that time I had no clue what I was doing and I was just having fun. Then I met a friend who really believed in my writing skills and potential. Besides that he was a friend, he pushed me to go to studios with him and meet new people. His name is Abel, he is a good friend and now my manager regarding all things music. Shout out Abel.
After trying all these different things, it became clear what to see what I personally really wanted to create for myself. What was missing was a producer who could really lift me up. Louie was a friend of my brother when they were kids. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, but when I bumped into him it immediately made sense. We had a long talk about music and things that were going on in our lives. He told me to come by to his studio, so I did. Musically we aligned right away. We made a few songs and after a couple of studio sessions we agreed to make this a serious project. We didn’t really talk about it a lot, it just happened very naturally.
And being from Amsterdam must be a lot of inspiration?
Yes definitely, Amsterdam never sleeps. I take all the inspiration of things that I see in my life, things that happen to me, my friends and to the city. It's been a blessing to have this city as a backdrop to my life. If life in Amsterdam is rainy, dark and cloudy and I’m a bit down, my lyrics will come out dark and gloomy. And the other way around as well. Also the big mix of cultures and different extraordinary personalities in Amsterdam bring a lot of inspiration. Certainly the late night club scene is very important for my creativity: All the stories and the crazy things that happen throughout the night give a lot of energy and inspiration.
What is your neighbourhood like, especially over the last year with the tourists gone?
I was born and raised in the Nieuwmarkt district, literally the heart of Amsterdam. It’s a little town inside the big city, the neighbourhood community is very strong and a lot of people know each other. Of course I’ve seen the neighbourhood change the last ten years. The number of tourists have increased and a lot of beautiful places are replaced by stupid Nutella Waffle stores. But still when you look closely the same old people work and live there. Not all of them, but still a lot. In 1975 the infamous Nieuwmarkt-riots or Metro-riots broke out because of the construction of Amsterdam’s subway network. A lot of good houses had to be taken down to make space and new constructions replaced them. I was born and raised in one of those new houses. My mom came to the neighbourhood in the eighties. At that time the Nieuwmarkt and the Zeedijk weren’t such cozy and “go-to” places like they are now. There were a lot of crack houses on the Zeedijk and there was a big drug problem. Especially a heroin epidemic.
Nowadays the Nieuwmarkt and the Red Light District is one of Amsterdam’s busiest tourist areas. I’m used to the chaos, maybe it sounds strange but it gives me peace. My head works better when things are crazy around me. It was really peaceful walking around with the Polaroid Go Camera and documenting this neighbourhood with just us locals. I like the peaceful energy of the neighbourhood now that the tourist are gone. The red light district has never been so beautiful. But I also miss the chaos of the hustle and bustle.
What studios have you been in?
I’ve done a lot of studio hopping in search for the right place, the right producer and the right feeling. I still need to make a lot of studio time, I feel that I can grow in my way of rapping into the mic and improve the way I bring the right feeling in my delivery. But I think I went a level up in Louie’s studio. The combination of the mic that we used and the rusty sound of the beats makes everything sound super dusty. For this project we both knew that was the sound we needed to catch.
What’s the writing process like for you?
I write the best when I’m alone, I try to write more in the studio when in session. That’s an important skill I think, but for now the best shit came out when I was alone. By myself I feel no form of pressure, at all.. For this project I came over to the studio a lot, often with a lot of verses already done. We spoke about the themes and Louie works his magic and BOOM. That’s how we did the first three songs, like straight-up.
What did you grow up listening to?
My mother is a big fan of artists like Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Prince, Amy Winehouse, David Bowie & Bob Dylan. My Mom and I often listened to music together. She schooled me very well! At home we also listened to Dutch singer Anouk a lot, she has a couple of albums in her repertoire that perfectly matched my mother's mood at that time. Anouk has a couple of albums about divorce, cheating husbands and love sickness. So sometimes me, my mother and my sister would run around the house screaming Anouk lyrics. I still have a soft spot for her. At a younger age, my sister introduced me to R&B artists like Alicia Keys, Destiny's Child and the amazing Lauryn Hill. My brother was the first one who told me about Hip Hop and Rap. He would let me listen to Nas & Warren G at first but Mos Def and Wu Tang were also very much represented in our house. My father is Egyptian so the Arabic influence in terms on music was also present. I grew up listening to Oum Khaltoum, Fayrouz and Cheb Khaled too. I’m very lucky that my family gave me this musical education and wide range of genres.
What’s the name of your new record?
My debut EP will be titled “Mens van wie”. That’s a hidden sentence in the sample of the last track. You only hear it if you know it. The title is the perfectly summary for the feeling that I want to express. When translated to English it means “Human of whom”. A feeling of doubt in life, but to whom do you owe that feeling?
It’s very sample heavy, what is your digging process?
I personally really love the art of sampling and repurposing music. My favourite beats all contains samples. I always wanted to do a project working fully with samples, so for me this was nothing new. But I got to give a lot of credit to my friend Rik who put me on to old Dutch music from before 1972. Those tracks are forgotten to 99% of the people but some of the songs are straight fire. Thanks to him I started digging myself and together we built a strong collection, I went to the studio basement with Louie and we just listened to all those old songs, he took the best ones and flipped a couple of beats in no time. I have a strong affinity towards analog materials, they archive so well because they aren't going anywhere. Just like the images I made with the Polaroid Go Camera, which will be there for someone to discover when I've long forgotten about them.
You have a good circle around you, who has been around during this process?
Same people as always, my day-ones from our neighbourhood, my close circle never changes. When you are doing things on the big screen (Cinema) people are always gonna feel some way about you. They want to hang out with you or they want to spit on your shoes, you meet a lot of people every day, people come, people go. But at the end you know who’s staying. I stay loyal to the soil. That doesn’t mean my circle of friends and people who inspire me isn’t growing. Because of living in Amsterdam city center I’ve met, and still meet, so many people who are now very important to me and my inspiration. I feel very blessed to have so many talented and driven friends.
What can we expect in the upcoming future?
As far as acting goes, this year is very exciting, and next year maybe even crazier. I can’t talk too much about those projects, but the first movie I’m in drops this summer, be ready. In terms of music, this will be my first project ever so I want to do it well, we’re working on a video/short movie for this EP that will drop together. We are making a lot of music on the side for future projects as well, just keep on making songs. With Louie, but also with other friends and producers. My plan is to do every project with one producer so you can really dive in deep together and secure a certain quality. I want to apply my own rules to this shit, record when I want, release when I’m ready and stay independent.
To celebrate the launch of the new Polaroid Go, Team Patta and Team Polaroid have partnered up to give away a brand new instant film camera to one of our Instagram followers. If you would like to enter, like and save the most recent post on @Patta_NL, repost the image to your story tagging @Patta_NL & @Polaroid for your chance to win the smallest analog instant camera in the world. If you can’t wait, be sure to head to Patta Amsterdam to get your hands on the brand new Polaroid Go, where we are currently stocking the latest offering from the champions of instant photography. The Polaroid Go will be available on Friday, 14th of May on patta.nl and also in Patta Amsterdam.
Header Image by Gyatso Davids
Polaroid Digitisation by Harriet Browse
Product Photography by Andre Amponsah
Words by Passion Dzenga