Review: Kuwaisiana’s debut album playfully bends the rules

A heady sense of irreverence hangs over the debut album from Kuwaisiana, a US-based indie outfit led by Kuwaiti singer-songwriter +Aziz. (Photo suppled)
Updated 31 May 2018
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Review: Kuwaisiana’s debut album playfully bends the rules

DENVER: A heady sense of irreverence hangs over the debut album from Kuwaisiana, a US-based indie outfit led by Kuwaiti singer-songwriter +Aziz. The record’s wanton style-hopping and language-swapping has the sense not of willfully breaking the rules, but playfully bending them with a swagger and a smile.
It may be no coincidence the band was born in New Orleans, a notorious cultural melting pot strafing the Mississippi River and sitting at the end of the mythical Highway 61. Drawing fitfully from their surrounds, the septet’s sonics are bolstered by bursts of brass and the lilt of (apparently synthesized) accordion, conjuring a rootsy, Cajun vibe around +Aziz’s raw, DIY-rock approach.
At the best moments, a barn-storming, street-party abandon overcomes these slightly flat, self-produced recordings: The stonking gipsy-punk bedlam of “Gabba Barra” feels oddly reminiscent of Gogol Bordello, while “Nada” is a straight-up ska-punk strut. An irresistible chest-thumping, stop-start chorus lifts the monotonous bass riffing of “Gashxi” from the Louisiana swamps.
But there is a potent spice found amid this audio stew. Split into two “sides” — the first in Arabic, the second English — the lyrics on “Chapter 1” carry subtle weight as a reflection on the modern Arab experience, and potentially have an ambassadorial role to the band’s primarily American market. “My bloody valentine/In love with Palestine,” yells +Aziz over the sleazy funk-rock riffing and Stax-style horn stabs of “The Journalist.” Mingling the personal and political with similar potency, the Caribbean nod of closer “Say Yea” dwells almost comically on the efforts young Muslims face to win the approval of their lovers’ friends and families.
Crossing Muscle Shoals-soul with the inebriated sway of a sea shanty, the slower “Men in Power” serves as a lament of both national pride and patriarchal power, before exploding into a wild, headbanging singalong, complete with a yearningly epic outro of Springsteen-style proportions. And this will prove +Aziz’s greatest gift — the ability to channel his concerns into big, hooky choruses which feel instantly familiar, presenting the modern Arab-American experience with the inclusive theatrics of Middle American stadium rock.

Kuwaisiana's "Chapter 1" is available here

 


Turkish photographer Ara Guler, the Eye of Istanbul, dead at 90

Updated 18 October 2018
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Turkish photographer Ara Guler, the Eye of Istanbul, dead at 90

  • Ara Guler died of heart and respiratory failure late Wednesday
  • Guler, from Turkey’s minority Armenian community, was born in Istanbul in 1928

ISTANBUL: Ara Guler, an acclaimed Turkish journalist and photographer known as “the Eye of Istanbul” for his iconic black-and-white pictures of the city and its residents, has died. He was 90.
The Florence Nightingale Hospital in Istanbul said that Guler died of heart and respiratory failure late Wednesday.
Guler, from Turkey’s minority Armenian community, was born in Istanbul in 1928. In a career that spanned several decades, he worked for Magnum Photos, Paris Match and Germany’s Stern among other organizations, interviewing and photographing politicians and artists, including Winston Churchill, Dali and Picasso.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Guler “one of the greatest names in the art of photography raised by Turkey.”
Erdogan said that “great artists continue to live through works they leave behind.”
His funeral was planned for Saturday.