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Dubai-based teenager Sher Dayani is growing up fast as he releases his latest song, You Da One, featuring Sean Kingston

When Sher Dayani first started writing songs, his goal was to be as big as his hero and idol Sean Kingston.

Just two years later the 19-year-old is living proof if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen -- no matter where you live in the world.

You heard it here first -- exclusively -- Dubai teenager S1 has Sean Kingston on speed dial. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

He may not sell as many records or have half as many Twitter followers as his Jamaican-rooted counterpart, but the golden word for Dayani, or S1 as he's known in the business, is "yet".

Part German, part Afghan, Dayani has just finished recording a single and shooting a music video with the Fire Burning singer himself. His first single, Fake Love, featured Flo Rida and his second, Whoa, saw him team up with Lumidee. The boy has friends in high places.

"Sean is someone I've become very close to since we met last year," said a diamond-clad S1 against the muted tones of the lobby of the Address Dubai Marina.

"It's not about his celebrity status. It's about him as a person. When we hang out, we don't talk about the fact he's famous, or the famous people he knows, we talk about normal stuff like music, cars and video games."

Having just returned from Hollywood, and the video shoot of his and Kingston's collaboration -- You Da One -- S1 had many a celebrity story to tell.

Luckily for tabloid! he chose to tell us before he told the world.

Gracious welcoming

"We had a party at Sean's mansion in the Hills in Hollywood," said S1 dropping names including Soulja Boy, Lumidee, Eva Pickford, Paris Hilton and Ray J. like he was speaking about his school friends. "Mama Kingston made the most delicious food and we ate so much. It was fun. It's great to be around such creative people, but at the same time people who welcome you with open arms and who are willing to hear about who you are."

The after party moved to a popular Hollywood nightclub, where S1 found himself surrounded by LA stars.

"It's a funny world, but you have to keep your feet on the ground," he said.

But not everyone is as friendly as Kingston, S1 says. "Some people are exactly how you'd expect in Hollywood. They look at me like I'm nobody. They say, EoACAyI don't even know where Dubai is,' and try and make you feel small."

Luckily for S1, mature beyond his years, "haters" are something he came to terms with a long time ago, albeit he says he learnt the hard way. "When I first started to write music, some of my school friends made fun of me and it wasn't long before they weren't around any more. I think they were jealous, really."

With S1's latest connections and success, funnily enough, those same folk have one by one made their apologies and want back in.

"To be honest, I probably should forgive but I didn't," he said looking at his feet the whole time. "I feel they left me when I really needed support and now they see my dreams are coming true they realise they could have been a part of it. They're not the kind of people I want to surround myself with.

"My true friends have stuck with me and they mean just as much, if not more, than any of my friends in the US."

Working the camera comfortably in his first music video, Fake Love, featuring R&B master Flo Rida, the Dubai college student looks a lot more superstar than student.

Branded shades firmly in place, obligatory custom-made bling wrapped around wrists and fingers, Dayani is full of confidence.

EoACAyBelieve in myself'

Currently writing his second album, I asked Sher how much emphasis he puts on the celebrity support he has from the likes of Flo Rida and Kingston.

"Above and beyond everything else, music comes first for me," he said. "It's all about the music. I have been singing and making up songs for so long now. The fact I have people who are well-known willing to work with me is a massive bonus, but it's not everything. Sean asked me to work with him. That's a credit to me and I have to remain strong enough and believe in myself and my music enough to remember that I alone am making this happen. That's important."

In and out of professional recording studios since the age of 10, S1 finally got his break when he was signed to Music Master in the UAE and subsequently stumbled upon by Grammy-nominated Flo Rida in 2010.

"I haven't ever stopped pushing," he said. "We sent my music to A-class artists around the world and waited for the response. When Flo Rida came to town that year, he called and said he wanted to work with me. I couldn't believe it."

Juggling papers, dissertations and exams at The International School of Arts and Science in Dubai, S1 was soon on a plane to South Beach, Miami, to shoot the music video for the single.

"It was incredible. Flo Rida and I, at the beach, sitting down having fun," he recalled, looking almost as if he didn't believe it himself. "He's a really humble person, a cool guy. I really did learn a lot and I really appreciate his love and support."

Born in Germany, S1 considers Dubai his home, having lived in the UAE for almost 12 years.

"This is all for Dubai and the UAE," he said proudly. "I have set up my own entertainment booking agency called Young Millionaire Entertainment (YME) and I plan to champion Dubai as the place to come for the artists and celebrities I am in contact with."

This latest venture means S1 is juggling three full-time jobs. Founder of YME, pop star in the making and college graduate-to-be.

"It's not easy getting everything done," he admits before reminding me that was all before you factor in the flying hours from the US to LA. "My school work is very important to me still. Being a pop star may not last forever and I know I'll need something to fall back on. But while I'm riding this wave, it's also important I enjoy it."

So while S1 may struggle with media and communication studies homework during the week, at least he has his LA parties at the weekend to look forward to.

The most anticipated new artist to come out of the UAE for years, You Da One featuring Sean Kingston, comes out internationally on February 11.

"It's about finding a girl who you just know is EoACAythe one'," he said, his shy side showing for the first time since we sat down.

"You know she's out there and you find her and you don't want to let her go because it's that simple."

Being diplomatic

Hugely influenced by artists including Kingston and Flo Rida, S1 says his experience has helped him grow in many ways, particularly in the art of diplomacy.

"I've had to be grown up about lots of things," he said, humbly unaware of an already mature attitude to life.

"Flo came up with his lyrics to his verses and helped with my vibe, style, vocals and production, but I didn't like everything.

"In the same way, Sean said, EoACAylet's do a song' and I said EoACAyokay, but it will be my song featuring you' and he said EoACAyokay, sure'. It has been important for me to stamp my mark on these projects. Otherwise you really are just someone who knows famous people. That's not me. I'm much more than that and so is my music."

S1's music is a modern mix of R&B drawing influences from electro, pop and hip-hop,

"Producers told me to keep going -- not to stop. So did my father, who helped me get into recording studios from such a young age. I had the chance to practise and get comfortable with mics and music. It's given me a confidence I know I wouldn't have otherwise."

Confidence he may have, but there's not a sniff of arrogance in sight.

Five years ago he wrote a song called Superstar about working with someone like Flo Rida. Check. Two years ago his goal was to work with Sean Kingston. Check. This year I asked for the next prediction. "To work with Beyonce and Jay-Z," his response.

In two years' time if he's managed that, he should start buying lottery tickets because that's a collaboration nobody would see coming.

S1 and Lumidee at a concert.

S1 and German footballer Lukas Podolski.

S1 and Pitbull.

S1 and Flo Rida in the video for Fake Love.

S1 and Sean Kingston.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jan 25, 2012
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