Friday, February 20, 2015

Meet Zahed Sultan, Kuwait’s one-man music industry

Exclusive short film and track premiere from the man who is ‘bootstrapping’ Kuwaiti creativity.

Zahed Sultan's EyeAmSound© Zahed Sultan

DATE19 February 2015
AUTHOR Ambika Muttoo

“EyeAmSound is a culmination of my experiences as an individual that are being expressed through dynamic means and diverse multimedia channels.”

That right there is the elevator pitch for what Kuwaiti multimedia artist and music producerZahed Sultan is aiming to achieve with his current project; his second album EyeAmSound.

The longer version reveals a deep relationship with visuals and sound that places Zahed not only as an artist to watch out for but also a figurehead for Kuwaiti creativity.

Zahed started DJing at the age of 14 at both segregated and mixed parties in Kuwait. Fast forward to university in Boston when he promoted nightclubs, then onto London to study audio engineering and eventually back home where he started to make his name with debut album, Hi Fear, Lo Love.

“I dislike using the phrase ‘hard work’ - I think it should be ‘smart work’, says Zahed of his commitment to his career. “Many people work hard but it doesn’t mean you're netting anything positive at the end of the day.”

Zahed Sultan© Zahed Sultan

Over the years, he’s narrowed down the three essential factors for a successful career. “The first is, have a strategy,” he says. “On an annual basis I know exactly what I want to pursue, how to pursue it, what my targets are… all of that. The second is to ‘To tell your story’, one that’s compelling, accessible and direct. The third, is to get the financing to achieve those targets.”

Which brings us to Zahed’s busy schedule. Currently, he’s off to New York, following a mastering stint at Red Bull Studios in Los Angeles, to have meetings with the MOMA and MET. He’s then going to Jamaica with a friend to film and create an Arab-dub-reggae project, where the idea is to take pre-oil music from Kuwait to the streets and studios of Kingston.

All this and a new album too. “The songs have a lot of texture and body to them,” says Zahed of EyeAmSound. “It’s definitely electronic with a lot of live instrumentation and improvisation. I’ve challenged myself vocally, too. I’ve never really sung before. I’m singing on most of the album in Arabic and English and one song in Spanish.”

Hakatha is a rework of a track he released in 2012. It comes from a past experience at home, where listening to Friday prayer and sermons broadcast from loudspeakers from neighbourhood mosques, he created a sort of dichotomy taking that imposing tone of voice and pairing it with hopeful words.

Somehow in his busy schedule, Zahed has found time to combine his love of music and art in improvised live 3D audio-visual shows, the first of which debuted in Kuwait last year and was captured in the short film #EyeAmSound.

© Zahed Sultan

“I come from a country that has no bars, venues, clubs or agencies - there is no music industry there,” says Zahed. “Everything I’m doing here I’m bootstrapping in a way. I forcefully held the reins on every single aspect of the live show because it was so important to me.”

For an artist with a passion for both the audio and the visual, EyeAmSound perfectly captures the essence of who he is. “The intention of the name is that most people see the world for what it is through the eyes. I interpret the world with how I hear it. Everything I look at, somehow, maps itself towards the audible realm.”

Zahed Sultan’s new album EyeAmSound is available to buy now.

Zahed Sultan is on Facebook.

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