Young Emirati singer details rise to fame on social media

Abdullah Al Shamsi, known popularly by his handle NotS0Human, tells City Times how life has changed for the better after one of his videos went viral on TikTok


Enid Grace Parker

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Published: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 4:21 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 3:22 PM

He’s a 21-year-old Emirati singer from Abu Dhabi, who first stepped into the limelight after posting a cover version of Bruno Mars’ power ballad Talking to the Moon on TikTok.

Today, Abdullah Al Shamsi - who will perform at the third edition of Living Room Live at W Abu Dhabi on February 14 - has racked up a huge following on the platform where he regularly shares personalized renditions of his favourite English songs under the handle NotS0Human.

TikTok, he told City Times in a recent interview, was “the anchor” of everything that has happened to him so far.

“The moment I posted that one video on TikTok and it blew up, I knew this was the kind of attention I needed, and from there, I felt like I needed to do more for this and everything just changed. For the better, obviously.”

He had sung Talking to the Moon in his room, he said, calling it “just a normal video at some random time with an old keyboard piano.” No doubt it was putting his own twist on the track - which is not an easy one to cover by any means - that played a huge part in expanding his fan base.

“It reached out to so many people that it eventually got me the opportunity to perform at Expo 2020 Dubai,” he shared, which is where he happened to meet his current talent agency Index Media. “It’s such a crazy connection that it brought. So this song, to me, is very special.”

Expo 2020 Dubai was also memorable for Abdullah because he received an arts award for peace, Artist of the Year, from EMMA for Peace at the Aqdar World Summit.

“I sang there for peace. It was a very special day and I think that was where most people found me and discovered who I was.”

Abdullah - who is no stranger to the stage - said performing at the iconic event was “awesome”, adding, “Anyone would feel, first of all, nervous but in reality, when I picked up that mic and just did what I had to do, I felt extremely proud to represent not just myself but the people around me locally and to showcase that there was so much different talent on that stage that day.”

We couldn’t help asking about his rather curious TikTok handle; why NotS0Human?

“When I was younger, it was perceived as someone different and out of place. But it grew through hard work, to become something that is special, different in a good way and unique! And out of this world, as most of my fans call me! So it is a story within itself that developed to a better life for sure.”

Abdullah began “consciously listening to music” when he was around 10 or 11, he revealed; it was when he actually began enjoying it and focusing on melody. But it was still just a hobby, as he had no background of music theory.

“It was only just for fun, like, ‘oh they added this little drum thing’, ‘they added this sound here and there.’ My description was very basic - as a child would do.”

It is testament to his inherent talent then, that Abdullah went on to not only teach himself the guitar but train himself vocally as well.

“When I had just started playing, I used to borrow a guitar. I was really into it; it was my first instrument and my love for it kind of grew. And my mom noticed, so I got a guitar as a gift.”

Self-taught for a long time, he has now started music classes through his current agency.

Abdullah - whose repertoire includes a beautiful version of Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved - feels it’s important to challenge himself to hone his skills as a performer. What kind of music appeals to him, and makes him want to attempt his own take on it?

“I would have two perspectives on this. I always see myself as sort of an entertainer, a performer. So usually, the songs I would like to sing are songs I imagine myself singing on stage, that have a lot of energy, and have a good message to give, even if they were sad songs. Secondly, I like to challenge myself. I always record myself, and some takes I don’t even post - just so I can look back at my progress. Because I feel like there’s no better competition than yourself. I feel there are a lot of people that hurt themselves when they want to compete with professionals that have sang for years, which is not right. I encourage everyone who are starting to sing at my age to compete with themselves because there is no one you would want to make proud than your older self.”

He tries, he said, to push himself to his limits and “see what I can do to really make the song super unique and more special or see if I can hit those notes or hit that new height that I want to reach.”

He loves artists that are performers and showmen with a huge stage presence, like Freddie Mercury and Bruno Mars. “People that really captivate the audience and capture a lot of attention! So any artist that kind of fills that role, is someone I’d look up to. Jon Bellion is a lyricist and a musical genius, to me. Elvis Presley is definitely up there too.”

Covers are not all you can expect from Abdullah, as he revealed there’s a single composed and written by him ready and waiting to be released. Calling it an “amazing project” and “a great kickstart” to his goals, he said there are definitely plans for more original music so “stay tuned!”

Abdullah is grateful to his country, UAE, for all the support given to artists. “I’m sure they are moving in this really great direction and obviously the wise leadership of the UAE make sure they guide and give all the UAE talent just lots of opportunities. I want to just say that I have first hand experience of this kind of initiative.”

He also had a chance to represent his country by travelling to India for an event held for UAE’s National Day. “It’s so funny - if you can imagine it, I’m walking there in my Kandura and they are expecting me to sing a Khaleeji song and then they suddenly see me sing in English and they’re like ‘what’; it’s the best way to showcase that we literally have talent from everywhere.”

Abdullah will perform at Living Room Live at W Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, on February 14. Show starts at 7pm.

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