Don’t let the eye-catching, exotic looks of up-and-coming pop singer ESMA fool you; the Canadian songstress with the Middle Eastern background is on the verge of stardom, and she embraces her responsibility to be a role model for young women while staying true to her cultural roots.
Recently SoulTrain.com sat down with the singer, who is opening up for rap star Jadakiss in December.
SoulTrain.com: Who are your biggest musical influences?
ESMA: I have many influences, some older and some modern. My number one musical inspiration is Michael Jackson for obvious reasons. He influenced me to want to be a music artist at age four. Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder are two other music legends that inspire me, while Alicia Keys is definitely my top modern influence. From a performance perspective, Jennifer Lopez and Aaliyah are two female performers that inspire me.
My whole life I have always turned to music to get me through tough times and enjoy the fun times. A lot of different music inspires me.
SoulTrain.com: Describe your musical training you have received. How does that influence you as an artist?
ESMA: I was born and raised in Canada but my parents were born in Lebanon and Syria and the family values I was raised with keep me very grounded and true to myself. I speak Arabic and I am very proud of my culture, and I am proud of being Canadian, too. If you are familiar with Middle Eastern music you can hear the instruments throughout my songs.
SoulTrain.com: You have a strong sense of self, and a strong commitment to be a role model for young women. How do you do that and where does this commitment come from?
ESMA: That is where my cultural influences effect the message and my image in music. My mom brought me up to be unique, so I want to be an influence for girls and young women who want to be an artist and show them that there is nothing wrong with being yourself.
There is nothing wrong with being sexy, but you have to stay classy and not overly provocative. This is one of the reasons why Alicia Keys is such a strong influence for me. It is important that I am looked upon as an artist and not an object.
SoulTrain.com: How are you preparing to close out 2012?
ESMA: I am looking to close out 2012 in a strong way, because December will be a very busy month for me! I am opening up for Jadakiss in Canada and also performing at CanadaFest in Palm Springs, California. I am looking forward to 2013, too.
SoulTrain.com: What goals do you have for your career, and where do you want your future to go as an artist?
ESMA: My goals are to continue to gain more of a buzz, and work with my new artist development group that produced my new single, “Force of Nature.” We have a real solid chemistry and it has really showed with my new songs.
I like being an independent artist but I have too much ambition to stop there because my message to women is widespread and that only comes with a major record deal. I truly believe that mainstream music needs an artist like me to show a balance for young women because they need to know there are other women like you. You do not have to be pigeon-holed, you can maintain a balance level of sexiness while keeping a positive message, and that is what I plan to do.
Find out more about ESMA on her website, esmarhythm.com.
–Rodric J. Bradford