Interview: Grand Hyatt Doha's singer at Dunes

We speak to Dunes’ resident singer at the Grand Hyatt, South African born Doha expatriate Thomene Dilley

Interview: Grand Hyatt Doha's singer at Dunes
Interview: Grand Hyatt Doha's singer at Dunes Image #2

Thomene Dilley performs five nights a week at Dunes bar, singing an eclectic mix of music as people sit back and relax. We caught up with her and found out more.

Has music always been inspiring to you?
My father use to serenade us on his guitar around the bonfire at night on Derde Steen (Meaning ‘Third Stone’) beach back home in South Africa. It was always such a treat, as a child, falling asleep next to the fire. How can music not be ingrained in one’s soul when these are your childhood memories? Now, my day always has a soundtrack, each day new and exciting. How bland the world would be without music!

How often do you perform?
At the moment I have the honour of performing as the resident singer at Dunes in the Grand Hyatt five nights a week, Thursday to Monday nights between 9pm and midnight. I am always accompanied by the wonderfully talented resident pianist and singer Juan Pestana from Madeira. His vibrant personality and incredible vocal range is something to experience too.

How do you feel when you are performing?
I always have a few rogue butterflies flapping around my tummy and it adds to the excitement of performing. It is a feeling I hope will always be there. When I see someone really enjoying my voice it makes me feel absolutely grand! Most songs I perform have a memory attached to it.

What did you listen to growing up?
I have the fondest memories of sitting on a thick rug with my father in our lounge in Cape Town on lazy Sunday mornings, listening to his record collection. I listened to an eclectic mix of genres. Jazz, blues, folk, punk, rock – he helped cultivate my love for music. It is a part of my make-up, a part of my being. I grew up listening to B.B King, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Talking Heads, Marianne Faithful, early stuff from UB40, The Clash, Tom Waits, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Iggy and the Stooges and so many more.

What is your music style?
I enjoy singing blues with a country edge. While doing covers at Dunes, I enjoy taking songs and making them my own. It is tricky to determine my music style. I enjoy singing – I love it – that is my style, loving what I do.

And how are you different from any other singer?
We are all unique as musicians and artists. I am unique in the sense that I am me, I have a unique voice as with any other singer. I am slightly batty, as well. Does that count as unique?

What’s your favourite song of all time?
Wow, that is a tough one. I’ll have to choose three, but even that is a challenge! I am going to have to go with a song from my early childhood, my twenties and finally my thirties. When I was a little sprog I loved “Tyler” by UB40 (the band’s early stuff is great, their music kind of stopped appealing when they brought out ‘Red Red [vino]’). My mum use to throw the wildest parties and that was always my song. In my twenties while travelling I fell in love with Paul Weller and the song that still calms my inner storm is “Wild Wood.” It reminds me of time spent meeting fantastic people, the beach, hammocks, tapas, the most hardcore black coffee and playing backgammon for hours. I can smell the ocean when I hear that song. In my thirties I must say my current favourite song is “Beyond Love” by Matt Johnson from The The. He is a lyrical master.

You’ve taken time out to look after a little one. Were you champing at the bit to get back into the swing of things?
Ha ha, no, I must say spending time with my son has by far been the most incredible experience. The love for your child is so deep it is inexplicable and the most beautiful feeling I have ever felt. I have worked in the last three years but he is a fiercely independent little guy, so being back in the world of earning a living is great. As a mother I feel it is important to have other challenges to ensure there is a good balance. I am very fortunate because I get to spend time with him in the day and I sing in the evenings when he is asleep (supposed to be)! But we have a whole posse of great friends here happy to be entertained by Faolan when my husband and I are both working as we are both musicians. So, in all honesty, I would have to say yes, I am absolutely thrilled to be back in the swing of things!

How do you ensure your performance is the best it can be?
Rest is vital and good hydration. I also do a selection of vocal warm ups through the day and hot ginger and honey tea (never enough ginger) and of course a good sense of humour goes a long way. Juan and I have loads of fun on stage and that includes many belly-laughs! Great chemistry with fellow musicians is always a plus and ensures a great performance. The audience will experience that chemistry and that elevates any show.

What does the future hold for you?
Singing, more singing and then even more singing! I love performing at Dunes and that is thanks to Nicholas Chrisostomou from Coco Latté for pulling me out of that age old rut and booking my first performance there on Valentine’s Day. As they say, the rest is history. Getting paid to do what you love is just the bonus. From where I am sitting, my singing future looks pretty rosy.
Thomene Dilley will be performing at Dunes bar at the Grand Hyatt Thu-Mon, 9pm-midnight, before and after Ramdan.

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