“I Hope my Lyrics Change People’s Perspective of Life to the Better”: Exclusive Interview with Nesma El Shazly

Tuesday June 2, 2020                 – By: Dina Al Mahdy

Nesma El Shazly, the inspiring writer and entrepreneur literally took the world by storm, never taking into account anything but the passion for what she does. The mother of two is a songwriter, founder of Stardust PR Agency and managing partner and executive producer of music composer Hisham Kharma.

While in college, Nesma discovered her passion for writing. As an art and music enthusiast, an emotional writer and a believer of genuine content, she wrote for some prestigious print and online magazines in Egypt, before she evolved into a songwriter.

Her talent in songwriting gained recognition after her first release “Sahla W Bassita”, composed by Kharma. She also wrote many successful hits for Ahl Masr Foundation, Amr Khaled’s online program, UNAIDS, as well as the official song for UN Women’s short movie “Mariam wel Shams”, which raised awareness about the importance of education for young girls. She also wrote many songs for independent performers, the most popular of which was the song she wrote in 2019 in Arabic fosHa and performed by the rising star Mirelle Mokhtar. The holy month of Ramadan witnessed her latest release, “Ramadan Gedid”, a heartfelt reflection on celebrating Ramadan during the corona virus pandemic.

Nesma’s goal is to revive simple yet meaningful songwriting for causes and to help shed light on important topics that concern the society. She values her job as the executive producer and managing partner of Kharma’s Live performances, as it helps her grow musically, expands her multitasking skills, and sustains her involvement in the field she loves the most. 

WoE: Your songs speak out, there’s a story behind each word you write. What is your story? How did you get to where you are now? 

NS: It’s simple; songwriting is language that interprets my feelings and emotions. I feel very blessed to be given a talent to express myself by writing and be part of song’s process. I got to where I am now because I’m a passionate person about everything I love and I really love what I do. That was always my drive to move forward and improve. My story is simple, when God decides it’s finally your time, nothing can stop you. 

WoE: Stardust PR is your most recent accomplishments; tell us more about the beginning of your career until you established Stardust.

NS: I worked in so many fields since I graduated, brokerage, marketing, and in our family business bur never found myself. Until 4 years ago when I got the chance to work in the field I love and got a fair chance to prove myself and everything started to evolve from there, from writing to working in the music industry leading to PR and that was when I decided I want to have an added value in the PR field. I wanted to do something that really represents what I believe in, work ethic and values, wanted to be able to help others but in a professional way hence impactful way. That’s when the Dream of Stardust was born and later came to reality. 

WoE: When did you discover your passion for songwriting? How did you develop your talent to write professionally?

NS: I wrote write songs in English since I was a teenager because music was always my biggest passion, but never thought this hobby I document in my diary will evolve and one day become my truth. What developed my songwriting is the music I listen to mostly, not courses and reads. I’m a walking music library ever since I was a kid and memorized thousands of songs and lyrics which gave me the knowledge I needed on how to write a well-structured song, and to write expressive and well balanced lyrics. My raw talent developed when I got the right chances to put it into good use. I did some reading on the side of course to know more about the process, but that was not the main factor that improved my writings. My love for music improved my writings. 

WoE: Who encouraged you to become a songwriter? And who are the songwriters who inspire you the most?

NS: My partner the great music composer Hisham Kharma. He saw something in me long before anyone else did and he took a risk on me, asking me to write his first song release “Sahla we Bassita“. It was such a challenge and big responsibility and I really wanted to nail it. It turned out great and everything evolved from there. There’s a specific song writer who truly inspires me, his name is Ryan Tedder, who is also the lead singer of the famous band, One Republic. He wrote magnificent songs to renowned artists, one of my favorite songs for him is Beyonce’s hit song Halo.

WoE: Where do you find the inspiration to come up with such deep song ideas? 

NS: The inspiration always comes from a personal experience, something that touched my soul or moved me from the inside. This is always the trigger and inspiration behind any song I write. 

WoE: How do you balance between songwriting and managing Stardust PR Agency? And how did your job affect your songwriting career? 

NS: The balance is not easy at all, running an agency is a very fast paced stressful job, but it has its peaks and its lows, so I try to disconnect from it completely when I need to write. I mostly write at night after everyone is asleep, this is when I get inspired the most.  No way I can work on a new song during working hours at Stardust.

WoE: Some believe the age of thirty is a late start to realize dreams. From your experience, what message would you like to pass on to women of this age who have dreams but are afraid to pursue them because of fear of failure?

NS: I started to live my dream at 30, and it has been an amazing ride so far, I would like to tell women in their thirties, it is never too late to make your dreams come true and to start living them. You just have to have what I like to call the 3 Ps: Passion, Patience and Perseverance. Even if it comes true in your 40s or 50s, there’s no age to fulfill your dreams and to do what you love. 

WoE: As a writer who writes songs for humanitarian and societal causes, what are the challenges you face in this field? 

NS: The challenge is being up to the responsibility. Speaking on behalf of unfortunate people with unfortunate circumstances is challenging. I’m always keen to deliver the right message with the right words that serve the cause and create a big impact, this in itself is a big responsibility.

WoE: Tell us about the beginning of the fruitful cooperation between you and Egyptian composer Hisham Kharma? What are your future projects together?

NS: The beginning started with me interviewing him back in 2015 when I was a writer at Scoop Empire at the time. There was a lot of mutual understanding between us towards music and arts. 

WoE: Whose opinions about your works do you value the most? 

NS: My family. Their opinion matters the most to mem then comes my circle of close friends.

WoE: Writing is a form of expressive therapy that eases feelings of emotional trauma. After going through a painful experience, you wrote the song “Sahla wa Basita” which was your first experience as songwriter for humanitarian causes. Tell us more about this experience? Did writing help you work through your emotional pain?

NS: Sahla wa Bassita is a very positive and cheerful song. It was born out of gratitude and acceptance of me losing my youngest brother in a car accident in 2013. I never thought pain can generate such uplifting message and cheerful words. It was great therapy for me to express how I feel in a song’s context, and ever since songwriting became therapy for my soul. It helps me vent whatever feelings I have trapped inside of me, whether positive or negative feelings. It helps me breathe easier.

WoE: Your songs ideas are different. For example, “Shouf B Albak” was written for Ahl Masr’s campaign supporting burn victims and “No2ta Beida” for UNAIDS’ campaign for HIV/AIDS patients. Why did you choose to go against the ordinary and write songs for a cause, even though they do not bring in financial gains like commercial songs? 

NS: I always asked myself, what’s my calling in life, why am I here. Until I wrote “Shouf B Albak”, only then I knew this is the track I want to leave behind in the world. I want to have a positive impact on my surroundings, I want to help people suffering get heard and get the attention they deserve. Songwriting for me is a calling not a job. 

WoE: Tell us more about your newest project, Stardust PR, to support influencers for humanitarian and societal causes? 

NS: I founded my own PR consultancy almost 2 years ago to help shed light on real influential personas and cause driven businesses and entrepreneurs. Our agency’s main aim is to represent people with real added value, credible content and promoting truly successful individuals and businesses that are purpose driven and has a remarkable impact on the community.

WoE: “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” is your motto. Through your inspiring songs, what message and values do you seek to convey and cherish?

NS: I’m always keen to write truthful relatable songs, simple to understand and easy to connect with. I look at songwriting as the way of giving back to less fortunate people with less fortunate circumstances. I hope my lyrics change people’s perspectives towards life to the better.

WoE: You started to focus on women’s issues in your works, such as female genital mutilation, spinsterhood, and denying girls access to education. Why do you focus on women in most of your writing?

NS: I don’t focus only on women’s issues in my writing. I like to focus on any cause driven topics and I was fortunate enough to write about several women’s issues throughout my journey as a song writer, but it’s not my main focus in my writings, I like to write about all kinds of topics important for the community and society.  

WoE: Besides writing, what role do you play as an influencer to raise awareness of women’s issues and problems?

NS: I focus on women’s issues because I feel women are not well appreciated in our society and they are discriminated in so many ways, so I feel I’m responsible to participate in any action that serves them in any way and give them the right recognition and proper status they deserve

WoE: Being a successful woman, a wife, and most importantly a mother is not an easy job. How do you manage a challenging career while maintaining a work-life balance, as a mom and a wife? 

NS: Balancing and managing between being a mother and a wife and working 3 jobs is a day to day challenge, I live it one day at a time, I push through everyday trying my best to be the best version of a mother and wife I can be and the best version of a manager, writer and a producer I can be as well. It’s never easy, some days are very draining some are frustrating and I get the feeling that I’m collapsing, then I remember why I started this, and this is what makes me push through every day. It’s never perfect, but I try to make the best out of it by being committed to bring the best out of it.

WoE: How powerful are music and words in affecting people’s emotions? 

NS: Music is a language everyone understands. Adding the right words to it and you are directly talking to people’s hearts and souls. A great piece of music or a cheerful song can lift one’s spirit up. Music motivates us; it is the soundtrack of our lives. For me it runs in my veins and plays a very big role in my mental and emotional well-being.

WoE: What are your dreams and projects for the future on a personal and professional levels?

NS: My dreams are always the same, remain humble and true myself, do more good in the world and write more songs that can positively influence people’s lives. I also dream for Stardust to become a big platform for all the remarkable talents that are not in the spot light, and give them the chance to properly shine the way they should.

WoE: What’s your advice to girls and women in Egypt?

NS: It is NEVER too late to chase your dreams and make them true. I started living my dreams at the age of 30.  You are ENOUGH. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself or your capabilities. Humbleness is the key to success; don’t ever let ego and narcissism get to your heart as it will take away everything you reached. Lastly, if there’s a will, Allah will always pave the way for you to reach your destination. 

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