MANAMA: Amid the recent rise of independent music in Saudi Arabia, one record label is doing its part to develop a homegrown platform for local artists.
Wall of Sound is a label and recording studio founded at a difficult-but-promising time, as industries across the board continue to struggle to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic while a momentous cultural shift continues in the Kingdom.
The project was conceived by Ahmed Shawly, a seasoned music-industry professional who has spent much of the last two decades learning firsthand how the industry functions through his work with the likes of Rotana and Music Master. Wall of Sound was born from his desire to create something designed by musicians for musicians. Shawly spent time managing record stores, working in music distribution and sales, and eventually overseeing label releases and signing artists.
“That helped me to know what people what really want and what’s trending or not,” Shawly told Arab News. “At the end of 2019, I felt it was time to do my own thing. I’ve been in music for the past 14 years so I wanted to use my experience, especially now that the country is opening up. You can sense a whole scene coming alive. We wanted to create a place that musicians would love. A place they want to record in, a place they can release their music through.” So he joined forces with three other partners to develop Wall of Sound.
“There are people here who understand the music business and can do justice to the local artists” he added.
Shawly dismisses the perception that record labels or recording studios are obsolete these days, with so many tools and platforms are available to artists online. He believes that the guidance, support and — most importantly — knowledge that a good record label can provide is crucial in pushing artists forward.
“You still need a label to help you, to perfect your PR and to perfect your sound, and give you experience of how to execute the whole project. The whole principle of Wall of Sound is to support local artists that we believe have potential and an original sound that can be taken to the next level. We want to support the local scene.”
To do that, Shawly and his partners realized the importance of building a place that is not only professional and welcoming, but also has the best possible technical setup, from sound systems to interior design.
Wall of Sound brought in experts from Germany to ensure that the acoustics and sound treatment of the studio were the very best. Once they nailed that, the team began further developing the brand, how the label would operate, and their approach to talent hunting and development.
“At the moment, we have eleven artists signed,” Shawly said. “It’s been three months since we opened and so far we’ve piloted three bands”
Those bands include Saudi alternative-rock band Skeleton Crowd, who have been active on the scene for the past four years or so. The band have already released their debut single under Wall of Sound, “Unus Mundus,” along with a music video, and will release their debut album later this year.
Other artists include EON – a 20-year-old solo artist — and the Jeddah-based alt-pop duo Fulana.
“We want to push the agenda of focusing on original artists,” Shawly said. “This is a long-term project. Success won’t be immediate. We want to work on consistency, to build a fanbase for the artists.
“I always love to work with an artist who is really committed, especially here,” he continued. “We don’t have a major scene. It’s always been about the artists sitting home, recording and releasing whenever.”
The folks at Wall of Sound want to shift that mentality by focusing on building artists’ sound and identity over a sustained period of time.
Creativity and teamwork are other qualities they look for in any artist they sign.
“Taking risks and being experimental is important for us as well,” said Shawly. “We don’t want to go the commercial route; we want to create music we love and our artists love — something authentic and artistic.”