Listen to This: The fruit of the Desert

Post by Amin Fari

What do you get when you put the guys from Radiohead in a gahwa, in Salmiya, watching the old Star Wars movies, drinking guava nectar instead of tea? This could take a while, but for the sake of this post, I’ll give you the answer; Galaxy Juice. That’s exactly the feeling I get when I listen to their new release single “Allokation” off of their new album Timenesia which will be released Nov 1st .

Back to my opening question, can you see it? I mean, how does one make Galaxy Juice? Aren’t you just a little bit curious? I was. So I paid them a little visit.

timenesia

Before Timenasia, there was Crystal Dunes. The story of the making of Crystal Dunes is one that plays right into last week’s post, where I talked about the difficulties artists face in trying to “make it” in the music industry in Kuwait. When Crystal Dunes was made, naturally, these guys wanted to print copies – to sell, to give out, to use as coasters or whatever else – you get the idea. But when they approached record companies here, they were told they could only print a minimum of 1000 copies. At the time, the band didn’t feel like they had the kind of demand that would require that quantity and tried to negotiate them down to about half that, but even then, the prices they were getting were obnoxious. So, the next logical step; print it outside of Kuwait – to the U.S. they went. There, they found a printing company that kept their overheads nice and low, where they were able to print 100 copies. Perfect.

Back in Kuwait, when their order arrived, and as Mohammad Al Owaisi, (Drums & Synthesizers), tells it; he’d receive online notifications that his “package has arrived” but is being… you guessed it, “held at customs”. This “hold” starts feeling more like a “keep”, and so, he heads to the Customs Department at the airport. Now, before they could get into the details of “what’s the hold up?” they first had to locate this package. And so the search begins for this box, in a room full of other boxes, in a back office in the back of this office – they never find it. They hand him a note that basically states; because of the contents of the shipment, the package has been sent for inspection, please follow up with the Office of the Ministry of Information. Still on airport premises, he makes his way to the temporary “chinko” structure that is the Office of the Ministry of Information, far out into the horizon, off the path. As he stood in a room full of more boxes waiting to talk to someone, his eye catches his box. Finally! And, as though the universe and the stars were finally aligning, a man appeared from the back. They spend a couple of minutes talking about the box, the contents of the box, the quantity of the contents of the box, the motives behind the contents of the box, all the while Mohammad trying to explain that these CD’s are for distribution purposes only, and not intended for sale. Nevertheless, it’s a no go. With one copy of Crystal Dunes in hand, he’s redirected to the Ministry of Information HQ in Shuwaikh.

Day 2, Ministry of Information HQ. Like a sad song on replay, Mohammad goes through the saga of explaining; we’re a band, we make music, we wanted to share our music, we like CD’s, we wanted to give people CD’s. “So, is it just music, or do you sing?” the lady asks. “We sing”. “Yeah, we’re going to need to see those lyrics. Can you email them to me?” Mohammad goes home and emails her the lyrics.

Day 3, Ministry of Information HQ. He heads right back to the same lady, the only released copy of Crystal Dunes still in its plastic wrapper sits on her desk, unopened. The lyrics pass the censorship requirements. It’s a go! But, not until he is made to sign a memorandum of understanding, (ta3ahud), somewhere between an apology and a promise to never do that again ie. bring in products with the intent to sell or distribute. Approval letter signed and stamped, he heads back to the customs office at the airport, ready to finally take his babies home.

But, back to the ta3ahud for a minute. I’d understand if their only concern were that of a commercial nature, but they seem to also have a problem with just plain distribution. Why is that? Is it because they’re afraid that with enough of a following, a band has the potential to create propaganda? Or, maybe they don’t want to bring outside competition inside Kuwait’s market? I mean, let’s face it, Kuwait loves to play Monopoly. But, wait, this gets tragically better. Turns out, ALL members of Galaxy Juice are Kuwaiti citizens, all working government jobs and in essence, these Kuwaiti artists made a project in Kuwait, and tried to promote it, also in Kuwait, by giving it away, and couldn’t. In their own hometown, they couldn’t. I wondered if maybe their music had been more “Kuwaiti”, if that would’ve cut the number of hoops they would’ve had to jump through; that their music being difficult to categorize made it so it required all that extra screening. And so I investigated.

bandpic

Band Members
Salem Al Salem – Lead Vocals, Guitar (Job-Accountant)
Mohammad Al Owaisi – Drums, synthesizers (Job-Mechanical Engineer)
Abdula Asem: Bass (Job-Marine Biologist)
Bader Al Salem: Drum machines, Sampler

In listening to their work, I found many elements of Kuwaiti music – an alternative rock vibe that seamlessly goes into a rhythm, or a clap, or a scale which would immediately be recognized as Arabic, or even specifically Kuwaiti. In their live show from last spring of this year at Shaheed park, they stopped mid-song to go into a full on traditional Kuwaiti clapping session, Sharbeka. So, clearly, their work is a fusion, but what I’m more interested in is, are they innovating? Are they on the brink of innovation? That begs the question, when does one know when a band is doing Kuwaiti Rock? Or, Arab Rock? When or where are the lines? Do these lines exist? Or is it up to us to create them? Listen to it and tell me what you think. You could be thinking, well, Amin, Rock is Rock. My answer to that is, there was a time when there was American Rock n’ Roll, and British Rock n’ Roll, and although distinct in their sound, they were still considered Rock n’ Roll. It’s not like British Rock had distinct British hymns or maritime stories incorporated in it, it just had a different take on an American Rock n’ Roll. Over time, and with the gaining popularity of the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, British and American Rock n’ Roll meshed into one. But, there was a time when there was a division, and it was a division by geographical location. So, back to Kuwait and the possibility of music innovation, how would we recognize it? How would we recognize the emergence of Kuwaiti Rock? If it’s even possible. I know that in this coming season, many artists will be experimenting with Arabic, even Kuwaiti elements in their music, and the lines are going to start to get even more blurry. Do we call it “Kuwaiti Pop Music”? But it’s not. Do we call it “Kuwaiti Urban Music”? What are the rules? I’m sure an Ethnomusicologist could answer this quite simply, but I think we’re at a time where the lines are already blurry for artists trying to incorporate some of their roots into their work. Here is a specific part of Crystal Dunes where you can see a clear integration.

When I listen to Galaxy Juice it makes me think; are they making music for our time? There album is called Timenesia, and is somehow of the past, the future, of here and of other places. It’s like they’re this Rock group, experimenting with music of somewhere that is not of here, almost like they’re playing for outer space. With a name like Galaxy Juice, it all makes sense.

Follow them on Instagram: @galaxyjuiceband

Peace, Love and Music

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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Kuwait Moms Guide’s Favorite Parks & Playgrounds

Post by Mark

boulevard3

Since the weather is getting cooler, Kuwait Moms Guide have updated their list of favorite parks and playgrounds. In total they’ve selected 22 parks and playgrounds and they’ve given an explanation for each. To check out their list, click [Here]

Thanks LeScribbler


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What is Kuwait Good at?

Post by Mark

information

Surprisingly the answer is not food related. This map was on the front page of Reddit yesterday and although Kuwait is not on the map it is listed in the data. According to Information is Beautiful, Kuwait is good at tweeting with the most tweets per capita in the world.

Check out the full world map [Here]


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Richard’s Coffee Now Open

Post by Mark

richard

Richard’s Coffee new popup location officially opens today. Their new location is right next door to the new Elevation Burger branch on the Seef Strip and will be there for the next 90 days. Their opening hours is from 7AM to 9PM starting Tuesday, but 3PM to 9PM for today and tomorrow. Here is their location on [Google Maps]


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Kuwait Airways Reveal New Logo, Uniforms and Plane Livery

Post by Mark

kuwaitairwaysnewlogo

A few hours ago Kuwait Airways launched a new identity that included a face lifted logo, updated crew uniforms, a brand new aircraft livery, updated website and new flight routes.

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Kuwait Airways were at Boeing in Seattle to collect their first 777-300ER aircraft in which these changes are making their debut on. The event was broadcasted live on their twitter account and you could rewatch the event on Periscope by clicking [Here] The new plane is expected to have it’s first flight on November 7th, 2016.

I’m going to hold back my detailed opinion on the new identity until it is properly launched and I’ve seen all their material, but right now I’ll just say that the new identity feels dated already.

kuwaitairwaysuniforms

kuwaitairwayslivery2

kuwaitairwayslivery3

kuwaitairwayslivery4

kuwaitairwayswebsite


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MyFatoorah Payment System

Post by Mark

fatoorah0

The guys from MyFatoorah got in touch with me back in August, they were interested in advertising on the blog and they also wanted me to try out their product so I could review it. Like I tell all my advertisers, I can’t promise you I’ll write about your product, but if I try it and like it then I probably will. After trying their service not only do I like it, but its now become one of the primary ways my clients are paying me. Just to be clear, this isn’t a sponsored post. Not that I need to explain myself but it’s one of the rare occasions I’m writing about a product which is currently being advertised on my blog with a banner, so I just need to point this out for transparency reasons.

MyFatoorah is an online payment solution and I’ve been using them to collect payments from my blog advertisers and from my clients whom I do freelance branding work for. Previously, the methods of payments I had available were bank transfer, cash or cheque but now I also offer knet or credit card payments because of MyFatoorah.

fatoorah1

To begin using their service, the first thing I had to do was download the MyFatoorah app, sign up and add my bank information and that was it. No need to wait for approval, no need to send a copy of my civil id or anything of the sort, you can start invoicing people and collecting payments right away. Within the first 3 days I had invoiced and collected payments from 5 different people and the amounts got deposited straight into my bank account in less than 24 hours.

To invoice people its a fairly simple process, you open the app, click on “Quick Invoice” then you enter the name of the person you’re invoicing and the amount. You then click “Send Invoice” and you could either whatsapp or SMS the person the payment link. That’s it. All that person needs to do then is click the link you sent them and settle the invoice either by Knet or a credit card.

fatoorah2

The service isn’t free, MyFatoorah make their money by charging a transaction fee. Their standard charges are 2% for Knet payments and 3.5% for credit cards, this means if you bill a client KD100, MyFatoorah will take KD2 if the client pays using Knet. The charges are negotiable though, for example I’m getting a ridiculously good rate cuz wasta, but depending on how much business you’re expecting to perform, you could contact them and try to work out a better rate. The way I also have it set up is, if a client pays me with Knet, I accept the charges, but if the client wants to pay using a credit card, they’ll have to pay the 2.5% charge. I like being able to decide that from within the app.

Now another surprising way I’ve started using MyFatoorah is collecting money from friends or family. So for example I bought some event tickets a few weeks back and sent out knet links to my friends to pay me for their tickets. My brother needed to transfer me some money and instead of setting me up as a new beneficiary on his online banking account, I just sent him an invoice for the amount and I got the money that way. It kind of reminded me of the app Venmo. When I was in the States last summer, everyone was using Venmo to pay each other. If a person bought movie tickets for everyone, then the group would pay that person via Venmo and I’ve been using MyFatoorah like that as well.

One final way I’m going to start using MyFatoorah is with a donate button on the blog. I’ve always kinda wanted to do that ever since I started blogging since it was a fairly common thing in the early days of blogging. But since I lived in Kuwait, there wasn’t a way to do that previously. Now I finally can although I’m like a decade late. Basically MyFatoorah allows me to setup a generic payment link which anybody can click on and pay me whatever amount they’d like. So if you want to donate money for my lattes for life fund, here is the [Link]

payment

There are a couple of features I’d like to see in MyFatoorah that are currently missing. One feature is the ability to copy paste the payment link from within the app to an email. Right now the only two options I have to send an invoice is SMS or Whatsapp. To send a link to a client by email, I need to choose Whatsapp as an option, then when the link opens up in Whatsapp, I copy paste it back into an email. There will supposedly be an option to copy paste the link in the next app update, but as of now this is what I am doing. Another feature I’d like to see is the ability to setup an automated reminder email or message. Right now if someone doesn’t pay me, I need to awkwardly message them and be like “hey, how are you? Hope everything is well. I just wanted to remind you regarding the pending payment…”. I hate doing that so I’d like the app to send an automated reminder on my behalf say once every week to remind the person they have a pending payment. Like an annoying accountant.

So yeah I like the app as you can see. It’s great for freelancers and small businesses like me. The software has other features like the ability to integrate into your ecommerce store like Shopify or Magento, but I’ve personally been using it just to collect money from people. So if you’re interested in signing up, you can do so from their website or just download the app on your iPhone or Android device.


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The Secret Garden Was Destroyed

Post by Mark

secretgarden1

The urban community garden know as The Secret Garden was completely destroyed a few days ago (before picture above, after pictures below). I heard about the news yesterday and was pretty upset by it. The Secret Garden was a perfect example of how an abandoned unknown park could be turned into something so beautiful with the help of a dedicated and passionate community. During the cooler months of the year people were encouraged to come by the Secret Garden every Saturday to either plant, paint, build or just socialize. Lots of parents brought their children who planted seeds and then watched them grow over the winter months. Every now and then you also had the Saturday brunches which brought even more people to the garden. It was such a great project and I was really looking forward to it again this year, but now I am not sure if it will be ready for this season.

secretgarden1

You’re probably thinking the garden was vandalized by a bunch of hooligans which is what I had thought at first, but thats not that case. According to Mimi the mastermind behind the Secret Garden project, the garden was destroyed by the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs & Fish Resources (PAAFR). They’re the same organization who a few years ago were laying out poison all over the parks and free trade zone to poison stray dogs (while at the same time accidentally poisoning peoples pets).

secretgarden2

PAAFR reasoning behind the destruction was that the garden was dirty. Even though the Secret Garden wasn’t being used because it was the summer and there are municipality workers that are meant to clean the garden (the Secret Garden community clean the garden themselves during the cooler months), PAAFR decided it would be better to destroy the garden then try and reason with the community. The result? A catastrophic mess leaving the garden in shambles and disarray. They even had the garbage bins Secret Garden had placed removed and now the garden doesn’t even have trash bins for people to put their trash in. PAAFR also destroyed all the planting stations and just left them lying in the park with nails dangerously sticking out.

The Secret Garden community have been back at the park the past few days cleaning up the mess so they can start rebuilding the garden. I hope they’ll get it done in time for this winter season because it was one of the few activities I always looked forward to. If you want to stay posted on the progress then I would recommend you follow @mimikuwait


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Establish A New Company With One Visit

Post by Mark

kbc1

I’ve been wanting to post about the Kuwait Business Center ever since I got involved in the project back in April, but I couldn’t since the project was still under wraps and when it soft launched in May, there were still a few kinks that were being worked out. But, a couple of weeks ago the Ministry of Commerce and Industry officially launched the Kuwait Business Center which is why I decided now would be the best time to write about it.

kbc2

Anyone who has tried to start a business in Kuwait knows how much running around is needed. Literally. I have a friend who was opening a business and according to his iPhone, he covered the distance of 5KM just running around getting paperwork signed and stamped from one person to the next. KBC is solving all of this by shifting everything online and automating the process while also setting up a one stop shop located in Ishbilia. Now all you need to do is visit their website, apply for your company online and then once everything is approved, you head over to the KBC office in Ishbilia and get everything finalized there. Just 1 visit and just 4 days to issue a license compared to over a month and lots of running around with the old fashioned way.

There are a bunch of other benefits which I’m not sure if they’ve implemented yet or not since the information on the website is all in Arabic. But one new feature I was told about back in April was that small businesses no longer needed to rent an office space so they could get a license, instead they could now use a PO Box which would help keep their overheads low.

So if you’re planning on starting a new business, check out the Kuwait Business Center website [Here]


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Netflix US Working Again in Kuwait

Post by Mark

I stopped using Netflix awhile back since the US version stopped working with my DNS Proxy provider and the Kuwait version lacked all the real estate reality shows I enjoy watching (like Beachfront Bargain Hunt). But recently, my DNS provider Smart DNS Proxy fixed the issue and Netflix US has started working again in Kuwait. According to their support page dating September 30th:

We have restored Netflix for many of our users and are working on getting everyone back ASAP. If you see a “United States 01-10” region here, give it a try! Browsers should work without any other changes, devices may need static routes setup.

So there you have it, if you want to use the US version of Netflix in Kuwait you can now do so again. It’s $4.99 a month for the proxy account and you can get it [Link]

Update: There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding Netflix US vs Netflix Kuwait. If you aren’t using a proxy, then you’re accessing Netflix Kuwait. It doesn’t matter if you have a Netflix US account with a US credit card, if you’re in Kuwait you’ll automatically access Netflix Kuwait. Netflix Kuwait and Netflix US look exactly the same, but the Netflix Kuwait library is a lot smaller. Here is a simple test to tell which Netflix you have. Search for the show “Lakefront Bargain Hunt”. If you have Netflix US it will show up, if you have Netflix Kuwait it will tell you not found.


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Edfa3ly Update – I won’t Retract My Post

Post by Mark

package1

I’ve never retracted a review since I started blogging over a decade ago. The most I’ve done was go back to a review and add a little note at the bottom mentioning what has changed about the place and thats about it. But, the amount of backlash I’ve gotten over my review of the US forwarding mailbox service Edfa3ly has been like no other which has made me consider retracting my original review. But I won’t and here is why.

Back in August I posted about how Edfa3ly was the cheapest way to ship lightweight packages from the States to Kuwait. Some of the advantages were the fact that they charged per 100grams, that you wouldn’t pay any US sales tax and you wouldn’t pay any local customs clearance fee. I had ordered an item from Amazon and had just paid around 500fils to have it shipped to me and it took 10 days to arrive. Two days later I posted a coupon that my readers could use to waive the international shipping fee and thats when things started going downhill.

First sign of trouble was when a reader left a message saying that once the package arrived to Kuwait he had to pay KD2 to have it delivered to his door and that he also had to pay KD5 for custom clearance. Then two more readers left messages stating the same thing. That turned out to be a temporary fuck up on Edfa3ly part but they fixed the issue.

More signs of trouble kept coming in though. A lot of readers were complaining that they couldn’t get hold of customer support. Some spent days trying to get a hold of someone to no avail. It seems people had more luck getting a response back from Edfa3ly by leaving a comment on the blog then trying to reach support through the proper channels.

Another problem was also brought to my attention. I had originally stated that you wouldn’t have to pay any US sales tax but Edfa3ly changed their policy and started charging a US sales tax. I also posted packages would take around 10 days to be delivered since thats how long it had taken mine to arrive but people started complaining how shipping was taking over 3 weeks with many going missing.

I couldn’t retract or update the review without trying the service out again myself, so I placed an order for another cheap lightweight item, a USB charging cable for my Game Boy Advance. These were the charges:

Item Price: $4.99
Sales Tax Inside US: $0.35
Customs: $0.25
Clearance Fees: $3.32
Edfa3ly Kuwait Fees: $0.05
International Shipping Fees (1.33 dollar(s) per 100gm): $6.65 (0.5KG)

Total: $15.61
Free Shipping Discount Coupon: – $6.95

Final Amount: $8.66

25grams

Item order was placed on September 9, it arrived in my mailbox September 19, it then shipped out on September 23 and I finally got it October 6. So I ended up paying around KD1 to have the item delivered to me in Kuwait and it took 17 days to be delivered to me after shipping from the States. Thats not bad, it wasn’t an important item so I wasn’t in a rush and shipping was still much cheaper than the alternatives. If I had ordered using PostaPlus, the same item would have cost me at least KD3.5 to have it delivered to Kuwait while with Aramex it would have cost me KD4.25. Now true I had used a free shipping coupon with this order but it seems they constantly have a free shipping coupon listed on their website. One confusing aspect is why they marked my package as weighing 500grams when the item weighs just 25grams as you can see in the picture above. But since I had the coupon for free shipping I didn’t care or contact them to find out. If I was paying for shipping I would have definitely made an issue about this.

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Now one final comparison. In my original review I posted a breakdown of how much it cost me to ship a Nikon Rubber Eyecup for my camera from Amazon (pictured above). The breakdown was as follows:

Item Price: $10.7
Customs Fee: $0.54
Edfa3ly Fees: $0.54
International Shipping Fees: $1.33

Total Price: $13.11

If I was to place the exact same order today and not use a free shipping coupon, the breakdown would be as following:

Item Price $10.4 (it’s 30cents cheaper now on Amazon)
Sales Tax Inside US: $0.73
Customs Fee: $0.56
Edfa3ly Fees: $0.1
Clearance Fees: $3.32
International shipping fees: $1.33

Total Price: $16.43

So while previously it cost me $2.41 on top of the item to have it shipped to Kuwait, this time around it would have cost me $6.03 which clearly isn’t as cheap but still cheaper than PostaPlus or Aramex.

So will I continue to use Edfa3ly? Yes like I have been… for really cheap small and light items that wouldn’t be worth shipping with PostaPlus or Aramex. They’re also items I don’t need urgently. For everything else I’ll continue to use PostaPlus like I have been doing. Someone emailed me telling me they ordered a Kindle with Edfa3ly, I personally wouldn’t order a Kindle with Edfa3ly. It’s more reliable to order a Kindle to my PostaPlus account and PostaPlus would also most likely be cheaper. People tend to skim through my posts no matter how short or long they are. I only recommended Edfa3ly specificaly for “tiny cheap stuff”, packages that weigh under 1/2kg. Look at what I ordered as a perfect example, a rubber eye cup for my camera that costs $10 and a tiny custom USB cable for my Game Boy that cost $5. I didn’t order a MacBook or an Xbox.

I will be placing an update under my original review mentioning the fact they now charge a US sales tax and a clearance fee, but I will not be retracting my original post since I still stand with what I originally stated. Edfa3ly are the cheapest way to ship light packages from the US to Kuwait. They are just no longer as cheap as they originally were.

UPDATE: There have been major changes to the service since this post. Edfa3ly are no longer the cheapest option to ship, they no longer charge by the 100grams and they are now more expensive than PostaPlus so I have retracted my review.


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