R&B singer May Al Qassim talks about her latest EP, recent medical triumph and her "Queen of all Queens"

There are melodies in life that are somber, notes that resonate with deep pain, and chords that mark the battles we silently wage.

For May Alqasim, January 18th, 2021 played one such hauntingly beautiful symphony, a day that saw her undergo a full liver transplant. It wasn't a spur-of-the-moment event but a culmination of years marked by misdiagnoses, pain, and an unyielding disease.

Reflecting on the ordeal, the weight of her journey is evident in her words: "I almost lost my life." This isn't just a statement; it's a testament to her resilience, her grit, and her indomitable spirit. It speaks of her tryst with an illness that, for the longest time, remained an enigma, a shadow that clung to her, growing in its intensity, challenging her very existence. "I can't even begin to express the feelings I have after overcoming something as scary as that," she adds.
The repercussions of her liver condition weren't just physiological. They extended their tentacles, impacting her mentally and emotionally, leading to daunting challenges like anorexia and other severe health concerns. The very foundation of her ailment was a genetic defect—a puzzle that her family grapples with even today.

"Alas, I was born different in every way I suppose."

Yet, in sharing this deeply personal journey, May doesn't seek sympathy; she shines a light on the strength of the human spirit, the will to fight, and the power of resilience. It's a tale of survival, of battling odds, and emerging on the other side, scarred perhaps but unbeaten. May Alqasim's music might be her most known legacy, but her unwavering strength and spirit, particularly in the face of adversity, are perhaps her true magnum opus.

"I feel blessed every day and most of all I found out I have more strength and patience than I ever knew I had."

When the topic turned to family, particularly her mother, a visible shift occurred in May Al Qassim's demeanor. "I think out of all the questions I've ever answered in all of my years, this one is the toughest to even put in words," she says. Referring to her mother, their bond is not just one of mere kinship but a connection forged through shared adventures and uncharted territories. It's a relationship that others might struggle to comprehend fully, for the paths they've traversed together are uniquely their own.

While both of her parents have been instrumental pillars in her journey, both artistically and personally, there's an ineffable radiance that surrounds her bond with her mother. In the monarchy of May's life, if her father is the king, her mother unequivocally reigns as the Queen of all Queens. The support, unwavering faith, and tireless spirit of her mother have been more than just guiding lights; they've been the very essence that kept May grounded during her tumultuous times.

The foundation of May's resilience, the wellspring of her strength, can trace its roots back to her mother's teachings, her sacrifices, and her endless love. To simply 'know' such a phenomenal woman would be a blessing in itself. But to be able to hold her close, to call this paragon of strength "my mother," is a privilege May cherishes with every note she sings and every chord she strums.

A voice that's equal parts nostalgia and innovation. May Alqasim, the musical trailblazer who's defying norms and setting stages on fire. Bahraini music has its stars, but May's distinction is her pioneering foray into English lyrics, a daring move in the country, and elevating genres like hip-hop, R&B, Jazz, and soul. And, while labels sought to bask in her burgeoning stardom early on, May's spirit was too vivacious, too untamable to be confined. Striking out on her own, she's now a solo sensation—her own boss, her own muse.

But there's a twist. May's musical palette isn't just about what's trending now. No, siree! She's best described as a delightful cocktail of old-school hip-hop and R&B vibes blended perfectly with contemporary beats. The result? A sound that's both familiar and fresh, much like sipping an age-old wine from a modern goblet.

Her collaborations read like a who's who of the music world, spanning both regional titans and international chart-toppers. But what's particularly striking about May isn't just her impressive discography or her formidable stage presence—it's her zest, her passion, her unwavering commitment to her craft. For her, music isn't just a profession—it's an identity, a lifelong dance between melody and rhythm.

Now, imagine holding up a mirror, and instead of merely seeing your reflection, you see layers, facets, and uncharted depths. That's 'The Other Side' for you. It's not just music—it's a diary, albeit encrypted in melodies and beats. May, in her bubbly, infectious spirit, offers raw emotion on a silver platter, asking you to consume every ounce of vulnerability and honesty she pours into her tracks. The EP is an anthem to life's duality. For every crest, there's a trough; for every joy, an echoing sorrow. Life's curves spun with both the golden threads of joy and the gray strands of despair. But it's in understanding and embracing this balance that true magic happens. "Those vivid situations were deep, complicated and sometimes dark," she shares.

May's approach is unique. Instead of laying out events or providing chronological narratives, she zones in on emotions. It's like she's opened a window into her soul, showing not what's happened, but how it felt. And honestly, isn't that the truest form of storytelling? It's not about the 'what', but the 'how'. That fleeting feeling of a butterfly in your stomach, the sting of a tear not shed, the warmth of a smile remembered—this is where May's genius lies.

May's 6-song EP is a breath of fresh air. It's an invitation—to step into her shoes, to see the world through her eyes, to feel a heart beating in tandem with hers. By resonating with her feelings, by syncing up with her pulse, listeners find themselves not just hearing, but living her songs. It's no longer about May's story; it becomes everyone's story. And that, dear reader, is the brilliance of May Alqasim.

"This EP is the perfect bridge for what I have in store next!"

Music, in May's perspective, isn't just melody and lyrics; it's the universal adhesive binding us all. It speaks when words falter, touching souls across languages and borders. For her, the beauty of music isn't confined to the one creating it. No, it casts a spell both on the creator and the beholder. Whether you're pouring your heart into writing a verse or simply hitting play on a gloomy day, music gives you agency. It's a tool, empowering you to navigate through a sea of emotions. Ever observed how an artist's choice of lyrics or tone becomes a channel of expression? Or how, as listeners, we instinctively pick tracks echoing our sentiments? That's not just a mere coincidence; it's the therapeutic alchemy of music, allowing us to confront, process, and perhaps even liberate pent-up emotions.

When asked about the music scene in Bahrain. "I need to be honest in saying a lot has changed but that's not necessarily a bad thing." We have come to a stage where artists are finding their voices and are standing true to themselves which allows more room for cross-genre collaborations. Not everybody is following one trend anymore - gone are those days and thus we have become more adventurous as a collective.

May Al Qassim is all about the expression of self, hope, emotional ups and downs, and pain versus victory. "I use a lot of contrast to portray these human emotions" - with an emphasis on the word 'human'," she concludes.

REGIONAL is musivv’s segment featuring Arab artists in the Middle East. Features under this segment are eligible for a nomination under this category in the Musivv Awards’ annual recognition.

September 26, 2023

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