Adam Hedengren
Last updated: 31 October, 2015

Electronic star Zahed Sultan on the politics of Arab music (VIDEO)

A conversation with one of the Gulf's leading multimedia artists on the future of music in the region.

Adam Hedengren: How did you get involved with electronic music in the first place? 

Zahed Sultan: It was sort of by default. At the time, I was heavily into underground house music. Once I made the decision to write (produce), given I wasn’t a trained instrumentalist, steering towards electronics was the natural choice. 

One can notice a change in your music these past few years, thinking especially between the album in 2011 and the new one from 2015. Are you becoming more political as an artist? 

I founded a social impact organization (en.v) eight years ago – which is still very active today. So, it’s only natural that the topics we expose ourselves to find their way into my creative endeavors and performance narratives. 

Is it important that music in the Arab world – considering ongoing political turmoil and the rise of a new generation eager for change – is political?

Music is a powerful form of expression and connection. This form comes from an intrinsic place and yearns to be explored. Rawness (or vulnerability) has an infectious quality to it, as is proving to be the case in our region as a rising generation of youth find solace in the voices and ‘expressions’ of their peers over their pseudo-elected leaders. 

What’s the music scene like in your home country, Kuwait?

It is extremely fractured and thus presents a myriad of challenges. Social mediums aside, the necessary infrastructure isn’t in place to support a rising pool of talent (who don’t fit into a commercial formula of ‘Gulf’ music). 

In partnership with entities like the Red Bull Music Academy, I hope to further my role as a facilitator for putting together the pieces (via creating sustainable platforms and learning opportunities to nurture the community to which I belong). 

Still, there’s a lot of exciting bands and artists emerging from the Middle East today. Could you share some thoughts on these new movements in Arab music, looking a couple of years ahead? 

I wholly believe there is going to be a sharp upward trajectory for artists and bands from the region in the coming years. The necessary inputs and outputs are starting to align (fast) for what I think is going to be an eruption in interest (as was the case with Arab art several years back). Most importantly though, for those of us who are engaged in this narrative, we have a collective vision to persistently create and persevere.

Watch this space.

Zahed S - Live @ Shubbak Festival - London (Barbican Art Gallery).jpgZahed Sultan performance, Shubbak Festival London
Photo: Shubbak London – Steve Howse