Listen to This: Shout out to 99.7, for keeping it real

Post by Amin Fari

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Remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about the different ways musicians can earn a living making music? Well, while I was researching for that piece, I did a little digging on radio in Kuwait, trying to get a better understanding of how it works. Aside from the fact that very little information is actually out there, I did come to find some interesting facts, but I feel like if I just tell you the story about my own experience with 99.7, it’ll make for a better picture. But first, let me give you some background.

On April 20, 2016, I released my EP album, Plastic Desert Roots. Unlike my earlier works, the focus of this album was on the “heavier” social aspects of my world, something I had tried to stay away from in the past, but I’d been living and performing in Kuwait long enough to feel like it was time – I needed to voice some of the things I was going through. With that, it was only natural for me to want to tap into the reggae genre, where, under the mentorship of Fabrice Mareau, who produced the album, I had access to amazing knowledge from someone who’d been in the industry far longer than I.

“Peace in the Middle East”, “Stay for The Night” and “Pull Over”, three of the titles off of Plastic Desert Roots, all tackle issues that, for the most part, we all have had to deal with to some degree. In “Pull Over”, I basically talk about what it’s like to be me whenever I’m at a tafteesh, (Police checkpoint), or when randomly getting pulled over by cops – long-haired, fedora-wearing Amin, who’s Arabic is not perfect. So, you could say the song is a little… charged, and given the tightening of security measures around the country and the general crackdown on expats from the police department, I was lighting a flame way to close to this gas tank of an issue. But In the song, I don’t curse, and I made sure to give the song enough space so as not to offend anyone – mostly PG-13. So let’s start painting this picture.

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As I drove up to the 99.7FM studio on that 4.20 day, I thought; this does not look at all like what I had expected, I might be a little over my head. I was actually taken aback by all of it, because like many of you, I’m used to a more, let’s say, “Western” approach, where the radio station looks more like a 5 star hotel lobby than a military training facility. But, if you’ve ever actually, physically, visited the station, you’ll realize that you’re entering some sort of a military compound – barricades, machine guns and all. At the gate, I needed to present my Civil ID, some other paperwork that had been requested of me (and not copies of it on my phone, physical hard copies of my documents), my car had to undergo a security check, (kind of like the ones at the bigger hotel chains in Kuwait but way more intimidating), all to ensure that I was a “welcomed” visitor. Once deemed friendly, I was allowed passage.

I was now driving past the gate with but one thought in my head; “Pull Over” is one of the songs I was about to premier on 99.7FM. But, instead of being naïve and trying to compare outwards, I remembered that one of the things I’d dug up on radio was that the history of radio itself actually comes from a military background. During the times of WWI and WWII, the radio served as a medium to share mass information with the general public so it made sense why there was a need to keep it protected. In our not-so-distant history, when Iraqi forces first made their way into Kuwait, TV and radio were the first things they took over. It’s the modern day version of “Capture the flag”. Ok, I assure you this is the only historical reference I’ll be making in this post. So, back to my visit of the 99.7 studio, at that moment I realized that dealing with the radio of a country, a government or public entity, is not something to play with – it actually has the potential to be extremely dangerous, and I was starting to doubt “Pull Over” was going to make it on the air.

When I made it to the studio, I sat with the host, someone who knows my album, had really taken the time to listen to it, and had interesting questions to ask – we did a general talk-through of how the show would play out, went through the album, I told her a little bit about each song and was really looking forward to her presenting my work. We went on air and everything seemed to be going great; we were getting callers engaging with the show, my WhatsApp was firing up with messages from friends, and I had almost entirely forgotten that I was doing all that from inside a military facility in Kuwait.

After the radio break, up next was; “Pull Over”. Now, getting down to the lyrics of the song, I do make a statement with respect to cops, saying in not so many words, “cops take advantage of their position of power”, because, the way I see it, custodians of the law are honest, or should be honest, but that is too often not the case. With a line like, “some cops stop a car to ask a girl out”, I was in essence singing not-so-sweet songs about one government entity of Kuwait, to another government entity of Kuwait. I was feeling the sweat of the predicament. And, when it came time to play the song, the host, with experience on how to navigate these situations, found an angle from which to present the song, maintaining the integrity of its message, without being offensive, to the public or the government. And that is what good hosts do. I got on the air and simply introduced the song as; “‘Pull Over’, and some of the realities of living in Kuwait.” I did not use the words “cops”, I did not say this is “my” experience – I left it wide open. But, without her guidance, I’m sure I would’ve pissed someone off.

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So, you see, the image that 99.7 projects of themselves, through the music they play, the hosts they employ, and even some of the topics they discuss, can be quite confusing. And, if you’re thinking; they play all kinds of music from the States, a lot of which promotes, even celebrates, controversial, oftentimes taboo behavior in our culture, (and they don’t always catch censorship-worthy lyrics), you’d be right. But that’s the thing. That just let’s you know the obstacles they must continuously face to be able to bring you that from inside that institution. So when you think, why aren’t there more stations? Why is radio so restricted? Why can’t it be more liberal? Or sometimes, simply; why? This is why. And with that, I want to set some things straight, specifically about the hosts.

Many of the most common criticisms of radio hosts lie somewhere between; “these guys aren’t fit to host a radio show”, (and the list of reasons why varies), and “these guys are too restricted”. What I want to say is; with that type of establishment, and that kind of power, it makes complete sense that there is no tolerance for “malpractice”. The fact that the radio also announces prayer times, and not by simply announcing them either, but by broadcasting the athaan, and has regularly scheduled news broadcasts throughout the day that address issues of high-ranking government officials of Kuwait, is testament to the fact that being a host on a radio that shares these ideals, is a matter much more serious than simply entertaining their listeners. Because of that, I’ve actually grown to appreciate what the guys at 99.7RKFM do a lot differently than I did. Here’s another thing, when on the air, contrary to what some might’ve heard, there really isn’t much room for censorship, I’ve been on some of their shows, I know. There really isn’t some miracle technology to magically reset time. The only thing at their disposal is the 5-second delay in broadcasting (because they’re not actually live to the second), which, through this one “chopper” button on their counter, can be used to rewind, well, 5 seconds of time. But after 5 seconds, whatever goes out there, is pretty much out there. That’s a lot of pressure. And, if you think about it, quite a lot of power. And remember, this is a public entity, designed for mass communication, and, as a side “favor”, if you will, does us this luxury of playing cool hip music. But at its core, it’s only meant to ensure that the public receives correct information. So, as listeners, looking to ease our way through morning rush-hour with some good tunes, we take for granted how high the stakes are for these guys. Yes, they come across neutral, or “vanilla”, but when 5 seconds of what can be considered a controversial opinion has the potential to not only get you fired, but have you staring down a loaded legal situation with the government of a country, you’d probably opt for vanilla, too.

On that note, I’d like to show some overdue gratitude to those hosts, past or present, because, even though you might be listening to their show, not enjoying their vibe, those people are doing a job that is the equivalent to walking a tight rope, with a conditional safety net of the “5 Second Rule”, all while trying to entertain their audience. Do you know how many times I’ve said something, just a simple slip of the tongue, over dinner, that I wish I could take back? Something the repercussions of which were huge, and we’re talking a dinner of no more than 10 people. Now imagine that dinner table was the entire country of Kuwait, and that slip of the tongue was heard by every single person tuning in, all at the same time. It carries a different weight. Take a moment to think about that, and I hope that you come to see them differently, too.

Now, because there is actual information I’d like to share, here are some of the things I found while researching this topic. There are currently 9, maybe 10 radio stations in Kuwait; one of which is an independent US military station, another, 88.8FM, a private station, the former director of which, before the recent purchase, had his beginnings with the 99.7 team, and of course, 99.7 – so essentially, we’re talking about the same vibes. So, let’s see what opportunities this new purchase of 88.8 will present. In the meantime, be nice to our hosts, it’s a tough job.

Does anyone know any secrets of what went down with 88.8FM? We’re looking for more info for our upcoming posts.

Love, Music and Peace
Amin FARI

Post by Amin FARI
Are you a musician looking to perform? On the flipside, are you a host looking for musicians to book? Or maybe you’ve just got an awesome idea you’d like to share? Get in touch aminfarilive@gmail.com / Instagram: @xxmrfarixx


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6 comments, add your own...


  1. Casper says:

    😂😂😂 horrible song

  2. Kayran says:

    99.7 is one of the two radio stations that i exclusively listen to while driving in kuwait, since I can’t play my own music in the car. the car’s too old and doesn’t have a cd reader, and the casette reader’s broke so all I have is the radio or if I bring my own speakers, gonna fix that soon tho. one thing I did notice about 99.7 is that they actually broadcast a lot of different kinds of music, something I really liked. also the hosts (and hostesses) felt really friendly too, there was one hostess who I liked a lot but i dont think I ever caught her name on the radio. might be the one you’re talking about. seems to be knowledgeable in music and easy on the ears.

  3. HYR says:

    Great posts, just too long!

  4. mak says:

    we understand it you took a lot of effort to write it down, but come on this is a blog, make it shorter!

  5. mak says:

    ok disregard the above msg


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