Listen to This: Show Me The Money

Post by Amin Fari


Let’s talk money. Well, that got awkward quick. But, in all honesty, while we’ve spent the last few weeks focusing on how we can support not only our favorite local musicians, but the Kuwait music scene at large, to help build it and be part of its growth, the one thing we have yet to touch on is how musicians in Kuwait make their money.

So, let’s jump right into it. There are a few ways musicians can make money; merchandise sales, album sales, and finally, royalties. That brings us to Radio. Royalties work like this; whenever a song is played on the radio, or used in a commercial, a percentage is paid out to the artist every single time it’s played. The more the song is played, the more the artist gets paid. There are many top grossing musicians out there, living quite comfortably on just royalties as their music gets played over and over again on different radio shows. But, it’s a little different when we’re talking about the Middle East, and of course, Kuwait. This will help explain why you oftentimes get “This video is not available in your region” on YouTube, or why we don’t get Spotify or Pandora. The reason is quite simple, there are no Collecting Agencies for music in the Middle East. Collecting Agencies quantify how much a song is being played and calculate the total payout to the artist based on the royalty percentage. Take a moment. Let that sink in. So, let’s say an artist makes a song, and that song becomes a hit, and gets played on all kinds of radio stations all over the Middle East, they don’t get paid for it. Not once.


So, how do we listen to all this music on the radio right now? This is how. Radio stations, like 99.7rkfm, through a special license, have access to a “preapproved” music library from which they can select music to be played for a fixed subscription-type fee. But, here comes the interesting part (I use the term “interesting” loosely here); local musicians like Fabrice, Omar Afuni, Coco or anybody else doing the ‘Pop’ music thing on 99.7rkfm does not get paid. No matter how many times their music is played, no matter how many requests are made by you, our fans. This begs the question; well, why aren’t local musicians on these music libraries? Because, in order for that to happen, they would have to Copyright their work in whatever country/region those music libraries originate, for example the U.S. or Europe, and register themselves as a U.S. or European entity, with a U.S. or European bank account where payment would be made, and then finally transferred to Kuwait. In essence, they would no longer be considered Kuwait musicians, which somewhat defies the whole purpose. So, we’re back where we started.

Well, then how do musicians in Kuwait survive? They survive through funding. Musicians are like service traders; the service they provide is the “experience”. That experience is what they sell. That experience is what is exchangeable for money. You might be asking, why do find ourselves in this predicament, Amin? According to some online sources, it’s because we don’t have advanced intellectual property rights in the region. And all you have to do is take a drive down one of Kuwait’s commercial streets to see the effects of that at play. One of Kuwait’s staple toy store, with branches all over the country is a blatant rip off of Disney intellectual property; 101 Dalmatians. You’ll find the same with restaurants, companies, products – ripping off logos, chopping them up, tweaking the font a little, adding a letter here, removing a letter there, and there you have it, their very own “brand new”, “totally authentic” business.

But, music existed in Kuwait before we came along. What happened with Arabic musicians back in the day? How did they make their money? Back then, they put their music out there for free, hoping that with enough air time, it would translate into sales. So they were really banking on listeners enjoying their music enough to eventually make their way to AlNazaer or Cleopatra Record Shop and buy their album. With issues of piracy on the rise, however, even that has become an obstacle, because more likely than not, when you go out to buy those albums, you’re buying pirated CD’s. Are you starting to see the picture? Artists are cornered. Not being able to collect money off of royalties, nor legitimate album sales at record shops, the only option they’re left with is; getting famous. The strategy then becomes; make your music heard everywhere, for free, so much so that you become famous, and then leverage that fame to charge a lot to play at events. Instead of Collecting Agencies they rely on YouTube views to quantify how many times their songs are being played, and use that information when negotiating with Event Organizers or Producers, basically telling them; “my music got this many views on YouTube, which translates into this many people attending your event, and therefore I will charge this much.”


In reality, though, we live in a society that doesn’t exactly promote many events or festivals, or provide very many opportunities for musicians to perform. Bottom line; the odds are stacked against us – No royalties, no authentic album sales, and no real events or festivals in which we can showcase our work – and it makes it very difficult for us to succeed. Until a change is made in one, or all of those three major aspects, this is our reality, and we need to find a way to work with it.

I know this has been pretty grim so far, and I wish I could tell you it gets better, and maybe one day it will, but it hasn’t just yet. What I’m trying to get you to understand here is this, when you (‘you’ being event organizers or producers) come up to a musician and ask him/her to do a free show, an unpaid show, what you’re really saying is that you don’t believe in their work. Because by not paying them, you’re not really helping them. So, when you’re presented with an opportunity to pay a musician, and pay them well, I ask that you take a second to think about it differently. Instead of trying to cut your costs, and negotiating to get more for less, think of it as trying to save an endangered bird species, (I just can’t seem to get away from this metaphor). With so much already stacked against us, it is you who has the means to incentivize us to keep going, it is also you who has the opportunity to support and be part of the writing of Kuwait’s music culture. Just think about it, and the next time you try to convince a musician that ‘exposure’ is your preferred currency, remember that in essence what you’re saying is; we don’t believe in music, we’re just trying to exploit music.

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 / Instagram: @xxmrfarixx

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Listen To This: #KuwaitMusicScene

Post by Amin Fari


So, last week we talked about the different venues around town where you’ll likely find music-centric events beginning to pop up as the season gets back into gear. The week before that we talked about birds a lot, but mostly only to highlight the local music releases which took place over the summer when said birds take time off from live performances to work on creating, producing and ultimately releasing new material. That’s also where I did the “it’s not ‘me’, it’s ‘you’” speech and asked you to go out and be part of the local music industry, and the fact that if a music industry were to not only exist in Kuwait, but thrive, it is only if the fans were to reciprocate. That brings us to this week.

This week I’d like to expand on that idea, to provide a more realistic approach to how you, the fans, can help start archiving this reality. Enter, #KuwaitMusicScene. What I would like to see happen with this hashtag is for people to start using it to tag any of their pictures/posts on social media that have to do with music in Kuwait, or musicians in Kuwait. That way, whether a fan or a musician new to the scene, all they’d have to do is look through the hashtag results and can get a pretty good idea of what our music scene has got going on. Although there have been other hashtags floating around in support of the local music scene, #SupportLocalMusic is a good example, #SupportLocalArtists is another, the problem these hashtags pose is that they’re too broad a spectrum. Yes, you’ll find artists from Kuwait, but you’ll also find artists from all over the world – everyone is ‘Local’ to someone. What using the word ‘Kuwait’ does is filter through all the ‘locals’ to bring you those local to Kuwait. It also means it increases our chances of, let’s say, someone looking up #KuwaitCars, to stumble upon #KuwaitMusicScene. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd, so this is our way of making sure we stick out. Now, lest we find ourselves with videos of exchange students documenting their homesickness and new-found love of Kuwaiti music, let’s lay some hashtag ground rules.

Rule no.1 – Only use #KuwaitMusicScene if an artist is performing in Kuwait; so not a musician from Kuwait, but rather in Kuwait. To put it simply, it is not your nationality that matters, but where your GPS locator says you are. This will help us create a musical archive of what’s going on here, in this time, in this space. Now, there’s actually a lot of space in this hashtag for inclusion. For starters, DJ’s – I do believe DJ’s should be included. I also believe local radio show hosts talking about music should be included because both of those still represent music action in Kuwait. The aim is to make this archive as big and as comprehensive as possible, and to show that there are big enough numbers to create a sustainable industry.

Rule no. 2 – #KuwaitMusicScene applies to more than just events open to the public. A lot goes on behind the scenes in the music industry; from rehearsals and jam sessions, to that one time the artist found the perfect spot in the hallway with killer acoustics and thought it necessary to document it on YouTube – hashtag it all. But, just like rule no. 1, let’s keep this within the borders of Kuwait. This is not a “You can’t sit with us” stance, but an attempt at keeping this archive consistent, and therefore relevant. So, I’m trusting you musicians with this responsibility.

So, if you’re an artist, take a moment and go back to your Instagram and Facebook posts and edit them to include the #KuwaitMusicScene hashtag. If you’re a fan, and maybe remember catching a live performance in the middle of the desert one time, look it up, hashtag it, and help us build this industry. Now here’s the part that’s even better, this doesn’t only go to serve “us”, the musicians and the fans, but event-organizers and event-promoters can benefit from this hashtag when it comes time to market shows which feature some aspect of local music. That way, by the time you get to your weekend, and are looking to see what music is out there, or which musicians are performing, all you’d have to do is look up #KuwaitMusicScene and that would hopefully generate a pretty good, up-to-date response for you to sift through.

Here is a good example of A Lebanese musician that performs and records his blues music in Kuwait.

Instagram: @Bluesman81

Now that I’ve laid out my hypothesis, it’s time to experiment. The end of this month, October 28th to be precise, brings us one of the coolest music events of the season – brought to us by Kuwait Rising, hosted by Zahed Sultan with the support of Red Bull, it will feature incredible artists for all over the Middle East. So, if you attend this event, which I absolutely think you should, please take the opportunity to use the #KuwaitMusicScene hashtag along with, what I’m sure is already an existing hashtag, #KuwaitRising.

Here is the link to the [Event]

And, finally, just in case you missed it, Dar Al-athar has already started their music season, and just last week hosted an Arabic-style Flaminco event. If you were there, and have some pictures or videos you plan to share, or have already shared, I ask that you take the time to hashtag them, as well.

Also they have an open call for musicians check their instagram @dai_kuwait and the following [Link]

If anyone out there has a better idea or a more constructive perspective on hashtags in the social media world, please comment below and share your thoughts.

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 / Instagram: @xxmrfarixx

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Listen to This: Music Venues in Kuwait

Post by Amin Fari


A Music Column by Amin FARI

Picking up where we left off last week, talking about music project releases of this summer, let us now talk about the venues where these artist are to perform. I feel like I still want to stick with last week’s bird metaphor, so If I am flying too high with this one, making you feel lost, read the past column to catch up.

As with any animal, many factors come into play when analyzing the environment necessary for their survival, but their growth and prosperity, as well. And, as any bird-watcher would, I like to pay attention to the factors that make said birds and their nests, happy, the lack of which would be equivalent to chopping down their trees. So let’s talk venue. The venue is key – where the artists perform, how they engage, how they perform – setting the tone for what I like to call, their “Live Expression”. It’s becoming more common to see musicians play in stores and in coffee shops, but there’s also the emergence of performances in places like Shaheed Park’s outdoor stage, and other venues that support community and culture. Today, I want to focus on venues that hosted music on a weekly, or even monthly basis.

That brings me to the “elephant in the room” (at this point, I’m committed to this animal metaphor system, but I digress). Last season, Bayt Lothan was a key venue, not only for musicians, but the local, creative community at large, and, as we all know, it closed down. This was, in a sense, a huge blow to the local music scene, leaving musicians feeling… lost, not knowing where they would now perform. The last few years of Bayt Lothan, organized by Mahmoud Kamel, a musician himself, supplied us with “Sidra Nights”, “Open Mic Jam”, and “A Night In”, thereby constantly helping the music to grow. After the shut-down, a few other entities tried to carry the torch as the music performance platform, one of which being Loyac. So, if you’re into music and youth theater programs, follow Loyac and watch to see if they’ll be organizing music events in their program for this season. []

Contemporary Art Platform
Now, there are other interesting venues to keep an eye on that cater to both Art and Music, one such venue – CAP, more precisely, their rooftop. And as the weather continues to get better, you’ll find that more events will begin to happen there. They, of course, host other kinds of events in their gallery space, the more obvious being art exhibitions, but, they do host music events, as well. []

Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah
Dar al Athar, Amricani Cultural Centre, and Yarmouk have always put on great cultural music shows, usually always on a Wednesday, and are considered more culturally authentic performances in the sense that their focus is either local traditional music, or traditional music from around the world. I, however, am hoping that this season, Dar al Athar and Yarmouk go a more… how can I say this; “current”, or maybe even “mainstream” music route. []

Art Space
I can’t talk venues without mentioning Art Space. The reason I talk about Art Space is because they started small, and as they expanded, they started creating space for performances, small micro-shows, to slowly start coming in. I personally think Art Space is one of the coolest, growing creativity and community hubs in Kuwait, and are a beautiful example of a dream manifesting and coming to fruition. And, already up on their program for this season, they just got done hosting Red Bull’s Urban Culture Week, the second of its kind in Kuwait, aimed at helping individuals in learning, growing and cultivating their talents and interests around music, dance, art and fashion. I believe today is the last day of workshops. []

As musicians start gearing up for the new season, and conversations about “where” and “how” start flowing, I’m noticing another interesting venue suggestion pop up; the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre. Now, we don’t know how it’s run, or where to even begin the ball rolling, but a lot of musicians have their eye on it because if they set the tone, it’ll create a ripple effect with all the other venues. If they go for a more traditional route, then Dar al Athar would have to compete, and if Dar al Athar has to compete, then maybe they would expand their program differently. As everyone seems to be looking at the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre to determine the trajectory of the upcoming music season, I recommend you keep an eye out for them because they carry the potential to open up new possibilities for performances.

Is there a birdie out there with knowledge of some of the Cultural Centre’s secrets that they can share?

That’s a wrap on venues, for now.

Love Music and Peace

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 / Instagram: @xxmrfarixx

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Listen to This – A Music Column

Post by Amin Fari


Yoo!! It’s Amin Fari, or MR.FARI, or just plain Fari. You might’ve caught a few of my shows here in Kuwait, (I’d be the one with a guitar, rocking a man-bun and a fedora), but, just in case you haven’t, I’ll do the one-liner quick intro. I’m a singer/songwriter who studied music in LA and moved to Kuwait in 2013 wanting nothing more than to see the Kuwait music industry grow. Mark has graciously allowed me to contribute to the blog to keep you posted on what’s going on in Kuwait, musically speaking, and to help get the word out. Let’s Jam!

As the temperatures in Kuwait begin to drop, and the weather starts to get better, a few things start to happen; people become friendlier, they become more outgoing, and more outdoor events start to pop up – and in those events, musicians come out to play. It’s as though musicians are birds that come out to serenade the people, making their experience of being outside all the more enjoyable.

And, like every bird-watcher, I observe, looking for new trends. I look for new musicians making their way onto the scene, possible venues where musicians can play, their social media presence, and how they’re promoting their work. This column is really about an observer of Music Culture, one who also happens to participate in the scene, giving you the inside scoop.

Now, in keeping with this bird metaphor, the summer season provides a time for birds to hideout, (I know, this is getting a little too deep with the bird metaphor, but stay with me). Given Kuwait’s scorching summer temperatures, it’s the perfect time for musicians to step back from the performing scene, work in the studio, and publish their music online. So, let’s talk about some of this summer’s latest additions to the scene.

First up, “EE LAA”, a song by Flipperachi and Daffy. Why am I talking about “EE LAA”? Because, you guys know Daffy from his other hit, “Samboosa”, and this summer he gave us “EE LAA”, which took over the Middle East. He put together a great campaign which revolved around people breakdancing to the song, got KIA and a whole bunch of others to sponsor, and it went viral. And thus, I cannot talk music in Kuwait without tipping my hat to them, and giving them props for their success. Here is the link to check out their music video “EE LAA”:

Another great upcoming musician that I highly recommend you check out is Mahmoud Kamel – you know, the guy who coordinated the music programs for Bayt Lothan. Since the closing down of Bayt Lothan, he seems to be concentrating more on his own music, and, because his role at Bayt Lothan was one of our main support systems as musicians in Kuwait, I think it’s only fair that we return the favor. Here is his cover of “ROXANNE” by The Police. Enjoy:

The next premiere I’d like to talk about is the album RUSH by Omar Afuni. I am really excited about this project because it is a great expression of Pop, and I know that he wrote himself, taking on, pretty much, all the work, with only 2 or 3 key people, putting out a really great body of music. You can check out his music video here, which is really cool because it pokes fun at all the generic ideas of what Pop is, and what makes a great video, and, you should just watch it, it really is worth it.

Next up, Adel Qattan’s Born Digital. I think it’s really interesting because he takes Omar Afuni, takes him out of Pop, and puts him in a whole different type of Rock world. Now, I’ve seen Adel work with Jazz, Reggae, Latin music, but Born Digital is really the expression that he loves the most. So, I’m excited for his project, and to see where it goes. Please check it out and let him know what you think.

Now, before I let you go, we need to talk. It’s about us. Yes, “us”. “You” the fans, and “us” the musicians. As I work in the music industry, I hear a lot of commentary from people and artists that there is no music scene in Kuwait. But, I believe, that in order to have a thriving music scene, there needs to be a loyal fan-base helping to build it. So it is important that you take the time to link up with these artists, because one cannot expect to have a strong music scene with fans only coming out to show their support at its prime. We are all used to being fans of a particular artist or venue, but what I am asking of you is a little bit different. I am asking you to be a fan of a scene. Go support all the musicians and the venues that you can, whether or not they hold a special place in your heart, that way, the whole music scene can feel that they are being heard and supported. Take the time to engage with these artists and comment on their social media, be friends with them. Follow their links and their performances because, even though without them there is no music, more importantly, without fans music doesn’t live, either. So, you guessed it, the scene needs you to survive. So go support local music.

Love, Music and Peace

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 / Instagram: @xxmrfarixx

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Kuwaitis in Chile

Post by Mark

The National Council of Culture, Art and Letters sent local musician Mr.Fari to Chile along with other musicians to sing as part of a program to showcase the diversity of talent in Kuwait. The video diary about is a short but entertaining film where Mr.Fari documents a day with a Kuwaiti folkloric group in Chile. [YouTube]


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Mr.Fari and Plastic Desert Roots

Post by Mark


Mr.Fari (A.K.A Amin Fareed Abdal) is one of my favorite local artists as well as a friend of mine. I’ve posted about him on the blog a number of times before and I think he’s super talented (actually his whole family is) which is why I’m excited to share his latest project titled “Plastic Desert Roots”.

Plastic Desert Roots is a collaboration between Mr.Fari and Fabrice. Fabrice Mareau (whom I’ve also posted about before) produced and musically directed the EP to create a whole different folk reggae pop sound while Mr.Fari wrote the songs and melodies to add to the twist. Both Mr.Fari and Fabrice were raised in the Caribbean yet perform in the Middle East all the time. It seems like it was a matter of time they collaborated.

Two songs from “Plastic Desert Roots” are available to stream online for free (music video for one above) while the rest require to be purchased. Mr.Fari will also be playing the whole album on 99.7FM today from 1PM to 3PM and also explain the backstory behind each.

If you want to hear “Plastic Desert Roots” online and also purchase his music, check out his BandCamp page [Here]

To follow Mr.Fari on his social networks, check out the links below. Some lucky fans have received vinyls and also album leaks.

Mr.Fari on Facebook
Mr.Fari on Instagram
Mr.Fari on Twitter
and “mrfari” on Snapchat

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REUSE (Night) Schedule

Post by Mark


I got my hands on the schedule for the musical performances taking place this coming weekend at REUSE. Check it out below and click the names of the artists if you want to find out more about them:

Friday 1st April
Altersal 5.15 pm (45 mins max)
Maotik 6.15 pm (40 mins max)
Nicholson 7.30 pm (45 mins max)
Nonotak 8.30 pm (40 mins max)
The ERA 9.15pm (45 mins max)

Saturday 2nd April
Fari B & Chris Weaver 5.15 pm (30 mins max)
Karim Sultan 6.15 pm (45 mins max)
Magic Island 7.30 pm (45 mins max)
Maotik 8.30 pm (40 mins max)

Just a reminder, this is for REUSE (Night) which requires a purchase of a ticket, REUSE (Day) is free to attend by everyone. For more details on the REUSE event click [Here]

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Giveaway: Win Two Tickets to the Kuwait Rising Music Festival Featuring HVOB

Post by Mark


Kuwait Rising is an alternative Arab music festival which is going to be held in Kuwait this coming weekend (March 11) and feature artists from around the world including HVOB, Perfect Timing, Bosaina and Etyen. The event is hosted by Zahed Sultan at DAI in Yarmouk with limited tickets costing KD15 each.


248AM has teamed up with Zahed Sultan and Red Bull to giveaway two festival tickets to one lucky winner. All you need to do to enter the draw is leave a comment below mentioning the brand of the energy drink in the flyer above.

I will stop accepting entries in the comments section by tomorrow (Tuesday March 8th) at 11PM and then randomly choose one winner and notify them via email.

Rules: Only one entry per person and please make sure you use a working email since the winner will be contacted by email. If winner doesn’t respond, another winner will be randomly chosen.

For more information on the event click [Here]

Update: I closed the post for comments and then using drew a number. The first number was 115 (Dheeraj) but that person had left two comments so they were disqualified. The second number I drew was 49 (Kapish), but that person didn’t have the correct answer so they were also disqualified. Finally the third number I drew was 86 (Amal) so thats the winer and I just sent them an email.


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HVOB Coming to Kuwait

Post by Mark


The Red Bull Music Academy finally released their list of musicians who will be performing at the Kuwait Rising music festival next month and one of the artists coming will be HVOB. I got to watch them perform live in Beirut around 2 years back and they put on a great show so it’s pretty cool that they’re coming to Kuwait. Actually, just an odd tidbit, remember last week in my Tumi bag review I posted about seeing a beat up and dented aluminium Rimowa at an airport once and falling in love with it? Well that suitcase actually belonged to one of the band members of HVOB who I ended up running into at the airport the day after their performance. So pretty weird coincidence considering I posted that last week and now this. Details on the event are still being fizzled out but for now you can check out the latest info [Here]

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New Track: Hala Yummah

Post by Mark

Hala Yummah is a new track by the duo Issa Hashemi and Ali Habib. It came out over the holidays and has been quickly gaining popularity with it’s fusion of electronic and Kuwaiti music. Check out the video on top. [YouTube]


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