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‘Smells like Kuwaiti spirit’ – Local youth embracing western popular music

Zakariya (Zak) Al-Mousawi, Hashim Al-Nasser & Khalid Al-Mansour
Zakariya (Zak) Al-Mousawi, Hashim Al-Nasser & Khalid Al-Mansour

KUWAIT: Similar to their global peers, Kuwaiti youth having been embracing western popular music, injecting it with a bit of a local flavor. Being aware of the youths’ love of Rock, Rap, Reggie, Jazz, Pop, and Hip Hop music is one thing; however, having an in-depth knowledge of how the local scene operates is another. Speaking to KUNA, a number of musicians and procedures poured their hearts out, explaining how they operate, what are the challenges they face and their hopes for the future.

As for Rock music, the period starting from the mid-1990s had seen the emergence of several local artists playing music that would for lack of better terms “rock your socks off!” Being representatives of almost two decades of Rock, Zakariya “Zak” Al-Mousawi and Hashim Al-Nasser both played a pivotal role with other musicians in shaping the Rock scene. Producing an album titled (And Finally) in 1997, Zak Al-Mousawi paved the way for countless others that followed. Remembering the process, Zak said that the audio engineer at a local studio was at first baffled with the project, but gradually was more involved after seeing all the live instruments assembled.

‘Do It Yourself’
Zak went on recording the album with fellow musicians and also embarked on a “Do It Yourself” promotion spree that had him go to almost every cassettes store in Kuwait to market the album. “They (the stores owners) were all willing to help,” Zak said about the process, adding “To me, the album did fantastic. I sold around 200-300 copies.” After studying abroad, Zak returned to Kuwait only to be surprised that the album still had people talking about it. “It’s not about the money,” said Zak, when discussing his album, stressing that he was happy that his input, which took hours of grueling effort, made people think that they too can do it.

When asked about whether Kuwait will have its distinct style of Rock, Zak said that “I think we (the musicians) should work on it,” stressing that finding a correlation between Rock and Kuwaiti music was a matter of time and effort. On his part, musician Hashim Al-Nasser, whose band credentials include Jellyshot, Afterthought, his solo project Jivan, and many others, said that the current generation of musicians benefited from the advent of current recording technologies, the emergence of social media networks, and the support of some private entities. “With the rise of the social media side of things, I could finally start hearing about all these bands putting music out,” said Al-Hashim, adding that nowadays anyone could promote his (or her) music through cyberspace.

Social media came with its ‘pro-and-cons’, said the musician, indicating that the process of importing diverse musical styles to Kuwait came along with a package of somewhat controversial imagery that led to some social rejection. “It’s enough hard to get music out of the community of musicians … Now thankfully we are getting more chances to perform,” said Al-Hashim. Al-Hashim said that to sustain music in Kuwait, musicians should make the time for their art, noting that dedication and mutual support amongst musicians will keep the scene moving forward. On other hand, despite that fact that Hip-Hop and Rap are spreading like wildfire among youth in Kuwait, the lack of social acceptance led some young artists to use pseudonyms to keep their identity a secret. “The ability to easily incorporate Arabic words and poetry is a huge part of the lure that attracts the youth to Rap,” asserted Ali, a young rapper who started his career in 2009.

Contrary to popular belief
Ali affirmed that “Contrary to popular belief, Rap music’s main focus was not on violence and other social misconducts, because such messages could be delivered through various other means.” He added that the youth are trying to deliver a social conscience message through Rap and as far as the instrumentation goes, the style made it very accessible for musicians to inject their own local flavor. “Hopefully the day will come that rappers in Kuwait will receive much needed social acceptance as well as moral and financial support,” he said. Recording music is often perceived as a process done at big studios with sophisticated analog machines; however, that image is far from the truth.

Nowadays with the advent of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), the average person could have a home studio with a reasonable budget. Awesome K studio and record Label owner, musician Khalid Al-Mansour had been making an impact on the scene, putting out albums of various genres. After playing the drums and guitar for a number of bands, Al-Mansour said that he dabbled with digital music software. “We’ve recorded one song for our project ‘Eyeresist’ with a local producer. For the second song, the producer asked us to practice the material beforehand due to time constraint,” said Al-Mansour, indicating that he thought he could do the process himself, kickstarting his own career.

“After receiving positive feedback from the studio’s initial releases, I decided to pursue more recording ventures,” Al-Mansour said. Through his studio, Al-Mansour documented his own original music and several of other local bands and artists such as Jellyshot, Reset String, and Hamad Artie to name a few. He stressed that recording and producing music is a never-ending process of knowing what each genre required and how to mix each style. “A shoestring budget for a home studio is about KD 100-150 which includes a PC and a DAW with its various plugins that helps in mixing and mastering music, ” Al-Mansour clarified, stressing that anyone, with enough willpower, could learn the art and continue to improve their craft as they continue. – KUNA

By Ahmad Al-Hamily

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