Reflections on Traditional Music in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Yusuf Al-Jaddah, a sowt singer I encountered during a performance in a private suite at the Jumeirah five-star hotel in Kuwait City in May 2014, pointed out the huge changes that have occurred in the background, even as the tradition of communal performance has persisted:

“Years back I used to sing exactly at this spot with musicians from Bahrain. We were sitting in the sand and this hotel was not even built.”

Kuwait was musically quite a revelation to me. Despite rapid modernizations across the Gulf, which sees traditional performances occurring nowadays in hotels as well as diwānīyahs, traditional music is still performed, at least in private gatherings, on a weekly basis. Although at first the apparent absence of any older buildings in the city centre would imply complete modernisation of the culture, it is clear that musical culture is still very vibrant.

A friend sent me a link to an article from the Qatar Digital Library on traditional music in Kuwait. Honestly, only reason I’m sharing it is because I loved the first song on the playlist called “كاسين ويسكي” or two glasses of whisky in English. The song was written before the alcohol ban in Kuwait and was composed and sang by Kuwaiti musician Abdullah Al-Fadala in Bahrain in the 1950s. You can check out the article [Here] and listen to the whisky song as well as other songs they’ve selected below.

By the way, the Qatar Digital Archive is kinda similar to something I was proposing back in January that we need in Kuwait like urgently. I mean Qatar have digitized and archived Kuwaiti history while we haven’t even done that for ourselves yet alone for our neighboring countries.

Thanks Hamad


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Music Video: #ArabGang by Element

Post by Mark

Kuwaiti rapper Element released a new album on the Liberation Day of Kuwait thats composed of 11 tracks and a music video. The track above is #ArabGang and if you like it you should check out the rest of his album which is available on [iTunes] [Apple Music] [Spotify] and [Google Play]

Also make sure you check out his instagram @aboveallelements


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Music Video: Cake & Butter by Zahed Sultan

Post by Mark

An immersive audio-visual performance of Cake & Butter, performed by Kuwaiti artist Zahed Sultan, in an undisclosed location and country.


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National Day Music

Post by Mark

Below are some old National Day songs you can download as MP3s as well as a few music videos that are available on YouTube:

Downloadable MP3’s (Right click and save as)
Beladona Il Kuwait
Shadi Al Khaleej – Kaseeroh Dalah
Sana Al Kharaz – I7na IlKha6awi AlAkeeda
Sana Al Kharaz – 6ig Ya Mu6ar 6ig
Sana Al Kharaz – Al Azrag
Sana Al Kharaz – Salam Ya Wa6ani
7naina Il Ayadi
Il Wa7id Allah (Om A7med – Wainich Yal Ibra)
Imbarak 3alaik il3id
Abdul Kareem Abdul Qader – Wa6an Al Nahar
Abdullah Al-Ruwaishid – 3ashat Lina Il Kuwait (Original)
Hussien Al Jasmi – La Telomoni (Hala February)
Nabeel Sh3ail – Ya Dar (Hala February)
Rashid Al-Majid – 6ayir Men El Far7a
BBS Kids – Wa6ani 7abeebi
Kuwaiti TV Band – Ya Wardity Ya Nidiya
Kuwaiti TV Band – Al Ziman Dawar

oldsongs

Music Videos
حفل المعاهد الخاصة سنة 86 – كلما زادت المحن – شادي الخليج
امبارك عليك العيد يا بلادي – حفلة العيد الوطني 1977
شادي الخليج 1986- كاسروه دله اربع انات مله
شادي الخليج – كويت و العرب من اوبريت شراع الوفاء


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Fathering the Grey by Tareq Almulaifi

Post by Mark

Fathering the Grey is a new E.P. by Kuwaiti singer/songwriter Tareq Almulaifi. I was recently put in touch with him and kinda liked his stuff so wanted to feature his work on the blog.

Tareq got involved with music when he was really young. Since he moved a lot throughout his childhood (his father was a diplomat), he turned to music since it was his only constant wherever he went. He played percussion in each school he moved to as well as joining the school choirs. Once he picked up a guitar and started singing and writing his own music, he’s been doing it ever since. He currently lives in New York and does music full time either playing his own stuff or collaborating with different artists as a singer-songwriter (like the KID SINGAPORE video above) while also working as a drummer for hire. He plays drums for an average of 3 bands at a time, some of which are Lilly Wolf, Da Nomads and Wild Blue Yonder.

You can check out his E.P. Fathering the Grey on [SoundCloud] or embedded below.

You can also keep up with what he’s doing by checking out his website tareqalmulaifi.com or by following him on instagram @tareqalmulaifi


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On My Way – Sons of Yusuf

Post by Mark

Sons of Yusuf released the music video above a few days ago but what caught my attention was the background where the video was shot. I knew the video was shot in Kuwait but the location looked like one of those old gas stations you might find outside an old U.S. town. After a bit of digging around it looks like a guy in Kuwait built this backdrop on his property to park his vintage American muscle car outside it. Check it out in the picture below and again in the music video above.

Picture from @kingdome.co and video by @miniaturemalekpour_


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Listen to This: Fabrice on Finding Home

Post by Amin Fari

The new album of Fabrice is called Back to Roots, and it’s centering and sober, bold and passionate. I met Fabrice a few years back and knew him from his various projects, but his recent work hit a note as if he had made a new home for himself. This home was not necessarily an actual location, but like it could be found in his art creation. He went full circle, and his work shows it. In Back to Roots Fabrice features cool guests and plays with his take on a form of modern Reggae. His work has hints of Jazz with RnB, plus production stylistics of Hip Hop. In some of his songs he brings in the Middle East influence through the oud and nay, tributing to being in Kuwait. If you like Stephen Marley’s music, you will love his. It is a great body of work which you should download and buy.

Now for those that have read my past blog posts and criticized it being too long: this sentence right here is the point where you can stop reading. If you want to know what makes strong art, keep on reading, as I am about to tell you the story people go through that in return makes powerful work.

Listen to the album here:

This is a story about an expat rebuilding his life all over again. Some expats come to Kuwait for money, others come for the adventure. In Fabrice’s case, he journeyed here to heal.

A little before Fabrice moved to Kuwait he was a full-time musician in France performing as much as he could as an artist and as a bass man for other artists. Fabrice was making what any driven artist could financially make at that time to sustain himself. It was then that his life took a turn with a series of painful events that he could never foresee. His girlfriend was diagnosed with a brain disease and passed away in almost no time. His job was to perform, so he had to keep on playing music in this time of grief. It was hard, but he was committed and he also had to pay his rent. Shortly after that, a close friend was assaulted in a bizarre crime, making Fabrice question his own security and surroundings. Lastly, he was a victim of hate crime, and that was the final drop that put him over the edge. I knew a bit about that situation because he wrote a song about it called ‘Sorry’ which has had heavy radio play on 99.7fm this year. It was part of his previous album. If anyone knows Fabrice they know that he is quite a tall man at over 1.85 and is not someone you would want to attack without thinking twice. But in his song ‘Sorry’ he apologizes to the guys that stabbed him from breaking their noses. I know, crazy! Back to the story, after the hate crime Fabrice had had enough. He went online, looked for work options outside of France, and found a position in Kuwait. In a matter of 2 weeks he sold, gave away and donated all his possessions. He moved to Kuwait with a laptop, his clothes, and a guitar.

Four years later today, Fabrice teaches French to lawyers, doctors, diplomats and many other people in Kuwait. He met his wife here, had a baby boy and created a beautiful family. As I get to listen to his album while in his studio, I look around at all the things that he also built here. He has come a long way from the events in France; I can hear it on this new album.

Sitting in his studio, I listen to his bold lyrics and as he writes about how he supports love and life. Becoming a father made him prioritize concepts of value, and being grateful for the good and straightforward things like in the song Fruits Bread and Tea. His concept of fame and music changed too. His idea of what is popular and what is important was thrown out the window making a song of 6 minutes long just because he felt like it. I find it very smart, very fresh, and yet very mature. Take your time to enjoy it like I did. [iTunes Link]

After all the painful things that happened to him in France, Fabrice felt that he could not be happy or could not grief in Paris. That he was living in a place that had become foreign. When he moved to Kuwait, he explained this to me and until today I will never forget what he said, “I landed in Kuwait, and I looked around at the people and the desert, and felt how music and art are pained here. I knew inside of me that Kuwait and I had been grieving our past. I felt like here, in Kuwait, I could try to heal and be myself in grief, and so I know that right now, in this time and place, Amin, this is my home.”

Home is where your heart can heal.

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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Listen to This: Vote for FARI

Post by Amin Fari

comic1

With all the media hype over the elections on the streets of Kuwait and all the rage over president-elect Trump, I thought I’d take a crack at being a devious politician, too. With each one of the candidates making promising ideas and creating alliances for votes, I thought about sharing with you what I would promise if I were to run for office (in terms of music). I’ve been working in the Music industry since 2002, and feel like I’m at the very least, credible enough to have an opinion. So, if I were to run for the head of Culture & Arts to get my shot at the oval office, my campaign slogan would be: “We are going to bring back music and we are going to build a wall around it”. Even though it sounds outlandish and vague, unlike my other candidates, I am going to show you my plan.

First thing I would do in Office is to locate or create, a credible Art Fund that was financially generous when it came to experimenting with new ideas, like having musicians play at airports on arrival? Sure, why not. This Art Fund, think of it like a Bank, would see itself as the stimulus towards creating a music culture. Art Funds are not a new concept, there are plenty all over the world, but unlike them I would outsource media and events creation to third party companies. Because this is where Art Funds go bad. “But, why Amin?” you might ask, “Why not just keep it all in-house?” Because Art Funds often underestimate the amount of work and field experience that goes into properly executing Public Relations and Event Production. For example, the head secretary should not work as the ticket seller and host on the mic, too. Not outsourcing is usually what determines where an event falls on the fine line between what I like to call “small firework shows” (successful, fun events that bring in crowds, but don’t really go anywhere past that point) and symbolic strategic shows that are impactful or open to stimulate the economic growth of an industry. So, yes, outsource PR and Event Production to third party companies, and throw in a Talent Agency to collaborate with the PR and Event Production companies, and let the Art Fund focus on curating and investing in the Arts.

Read the rest of this entry »


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

Post by Amin Fari

mocbuilding

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.

superstation

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.

or

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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Elevation Seif, Saturday Mornings Live

Post by Mark

elevationseif

This past Saturday, Elevation Burger launched a new breakfast menu at their recently opened Seif strip location. It was my first time at their new location and I loved it. The weather was great, they had live music playing outside and lots of outdoor seating. They were also serving Jumo Coffee but right next door is also Richards Coffee, so you could pick and choose who to get coffee from.

According to Elevation, they’ll be having a similar setup with live music once every couple of weeks so if that happens, the location should end up being a popular Saturday morning chill spot. So keep a look out for it during the weekend events list.

Here is the location on [Google Maps]


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