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Ikram Goldman’s Musical Debut

The fashion legend speaks about her start with Pink Martini and a new FLOTUS

Ikram Goldman may be known for her work in fashion, but as she gears up for a few stops on a touring schedule with Pink Martini’s “little orchestra,” the industry maven has successfully proven the scope of her talents. For Pink Martini’s recently released studio album, Je dis oui!, Goldman lends her voice to the seventh track, Al Bint Al Shalabiya, for a sultry rendition of the song originally by Lebanese singer Fairuz. Goldman, being Lebanese herself, introduced Pink Martini bandleader Thomas Lauderdale to the song, and it was eventually her ability to correctly pronounce the lyrics, and a killer singing voice which had been previously undiscovered that landed her the lead on the song’s vocals.

And if you ask her, it’s as amazing as it sounds.

“I think none of this hit me until I got up on stage with them at the Royal Albert Hall and sang with them…” Goldman said, “When I got up and I saw that house full. It was a packed house, not that the others weren’t packed houses, they were all packed houses, but this one in particular hit me and I thought, ‘Oh god, most people dream of this moment in their life.’”

Goldman speaks fondly of her friendship with Lauderdale, one that began through a mutual friend, Editor in Chief of Paper Magazine Kim Hastreiter. And when Lauderdale called her in for consultation on the song which was originally meant to be sung by Pink Martini lead singer China Forbes, she didn’t hesitate. She also didn’t hesitate to advise a new direction for the track, should the pronunciation not be a “slam dunk,” as she put it. So with the help of Lauderdale’s good ear, and Goldman’s natural talent for song, they realized something even better could happen: Ikram Goldman would sing the song, but of course, not without Ikram’s own level of perfection. “I asked Thomas if I could have a couple of months to really work with a voice coach,” she explained, “and I did. I worked diligently every day for probably three or four months, two to five days a week [on] breathing, and where to hit a note and where to take it. Stuff that I’ve never done before.” 

Previously Goldman hadn’t received any classical training. The most practice that she got was either in the shower or with her family. Specifically, with her children, every day. “We create their music and their movies, we create everything, yes, absolutely, I love it. And they sing with me and we have a really good time, absolutely!” Even before Pink Martini she was surrounded by music, “[My children] play the piano, the violin and then the drums. Funny because it’s like a little orchestra when I get home.” After all, it was Lauderdale’s advice to Goldman that she “sing it as if you’re singing with your children,” that resulted in the beautiful sound which Goldman achieved.

And on asking Goldman how she felt about sharing her voice – something so previously intimate – with the world, she digressed. “I feel insanely grateful and lucky to be a part of the Pink Martini band,” she continued, “which at a time like this, especially highlighting what’s happening now in politics and in the world that we live in, to have the universe of Pink Martini with Thomas Lauderdale and the inclusive community that this mind has put together is beyond. It’s so needed. It’s like the gift of all gifts.”

Image by: Timothy Nishimoto

In her nature Goldman speaks her truths, unhinged by the potential sensitivity of constructive criticism. It’s why she advised Thomas Lauderdale that Pink Martini would be better off keeping the Arabic song off of the new album for authenticity’s sake. It’s also what led Lauderdale to tap into Goldman’s previously unknown talents by inviting her to become the lead vocalist. This quality has propelled Goldman’s career and esteemed reputation, and not just within the industry itself but also in the role that fashion plays in U.S. politics. Goldman has been credited for Michelle Obama’s active interest and participation in the fashion industry while serving as America’s First Lady. Like she recently detailed for Vogue earlier this month, Goldman was the woman behind the First Lady’s Jason Wu inauguration gown in 2009, and subsequently many iconic moments thereafter.

For the past eight years, fashion and really most cultural mediums have experienced a beloved relationship with Michelle Obama, who graciously adopted the culture and the people who consume it. What is so different about today isn’t just a transition in administration, but a transition in our culture moving forward, as a whole. Many are wondering, how will those fashion-political players culturally engage with a new FLOTUS? Specifically, how will they engage with Melania Trump? It could be argued that Trump’s modeling background inherently pulled the industry into the bipartisan ring. More recently, protests against dressing the First Lady-elect by fashion designers like Tom Ford and Sophie Thalet have effectively mirrored a popular sentiment amongst the fashion crowd. Although so does Tommy Hilfiger’s equally popular disapproval at the thought of excluding the soon-to-be First Lady. Polarization at its finest.

So, what now? 

After taking a moment, the same strength poured through in her response. “I think when you ask people to be inclusive, you cannot pick and choose who you can be inclusive about.” She continued, “While I greatly appreciate the message that many people have put out there in terms of their beliefs, I also hope the message of openness and open-heartedness is what trumps all. That is the message that I believe whole-heartedly.”

And as she again mentioned her family and their impact on the projects she takes on and the values she holds, the lens through which Ikram Goldman lives her life becomes clear. “I think that’s what my mother would tell me, I think that’s what I would tell my children, and I think that’s what I want the universe to put back into this moment. We tell our children all day how to be good and how to be kind and loving, all the things that are really important. It doesn’t matter if somebody comes in the way, whoever they are. It doesn’t change my values and what I stand for.”

Pink Martini’s Je dis oui! is now available for purchase on pinkmartini.com.

Image above by: Josh Goldman