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

 


Saudi artists draw inspiration from Islam

Wafa Alqunibit says her work has its place in the Kingdom. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Saudi artists draw inspiration from Islam

  • Wafa Alqunibit: “The difficulties that I faced were getting the names on point, because a lot of them are very similar to each other

JEDDAH: The work of Saudi sculptor Wafa Alqunibit is on display in a Jeddah art gallery. A small glass box holds objects that have the appearance, shape and texture of dates. Only they are wrought from metal and glint silver and gold.
Alqunibit concedes that art can sometimes be a taboo subject in Saudi society, but says her work has its place.
“I do this to promote and represent our culture and religion as I belong to a very religious family. We have our freedom and we have open minds and I just wanted to portray this image to the world,” she told Arab News.
Her Instagram feed shows other examples of her art, including sculptures featuring the distinctive ringed and slightly curled horns of the Arabian oryx, and videos of her carving, sanding and sawing using machinery that can be seen in any carpentry or masonry workshop.
But her journey toward the arts — specifically sculpture — has not been straightforward.
“I went to Portland (in the US) to complete my doctorate in human resources. But I ended up changing my major to arts and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and they accepted me as a painter.”
But her professors thought she had different strengths — with one telling her she was born to be a tough person.
“At first I thought he was referring to me as an aggressive person, but later when I started sculpting I found out what he meant.”
She uses her work to communicate with people, especially those who misunderstand Islam, and recalled living in the US at a difficult time for Muslims.
“I took support from the arts, to tell people what we really are and now my artwork is displayed in so many galleries and I have been given the title of religious artist.”
Another artist taking inspiration from culture and religion is 26-year-old author Allaa Awad, who has taken the 99 names of Allah and turned them into poetry.
Her debut work, “Ninety-Nine: The Higher Power,” includes poems about purity, mercy, blessings and peace.
“I have encountered many people in life. They have a negative concept about life and God and I just wanted to turn that around and put my own perceptions of what I think God is, who He really is and how we should perceive Him,” she told Arab News.
She also experienced a struggle in her artistic journey, like Alqunibit did, but in a different way.
“The difficulties that I faced were getting the names on point, because a lot of them are very similar to each other. The best part was how people reacted to it on a spiritual level and how they were able to relate to what I had to say, rather than what online research had to say.”