As a country, Kuwait has witnessed its artistic landscape drastically shift in the last couple of years. With a number of contemporary cultural hubs rolling out, the scene has seen progressive, daring artists such as the likes of Fatima AlQadiry who aren't afraid to go against the grain, disrupting and challenging the status quo.
One of the change-makers is multidisciplinary artist Zahed Sultan whose influence extends way beyond jarring, captivating audio-visual performances. Zahed is a creator of dialogues - with his work on projects like Hiwar which aims to explore the gulf's cultural and historical heritage with experimental performances, Zahed has also founded CommUN, an organizational entity dedicated to creating festivals. We got to speak to the man single-handedly orchestrating projects, performances, albums and festivals in light of CommUN's upcoming music festival Kuwait Rising 2019 that is set to take place in Dai Yarmouk.
"CommUn is basically a new festivals company which I announced in early September. With an overarching theme of community-building, CommUN has four festivals in total and each festival focuses on a certain medium to try and achieve this objective." Zahed told us, further elaborating on each festival. "We've dedicated Haramacy for arts, AWAKEN for story telling, re_use for science and Kuwait Rising for Music. " He explained.
"Since Kuwait Rising was initiated in 2015, our direction has been a simple one – to highlight emerging talent from the Arab World and beyond - almost always including a South Asia component – and building a community around people interested in live music." He continued told us. Bringing acts such as Bosaina, Al Nather, El Rass and Muqata'a to take its stage in its previous editions, Kuwait Rising has been on the forefront, representing experimental, progressive live music in Kuwait.
"For this upcoming edition, we are going back to our roots; music discovery. So far, we have announced three out of four acts: Hannah Epperson (NY), KAVYA (IN) and Desertfish (SA)." The Kuwait Rising founder told us, further adding that as of the festival's recent editions, they've seen a handful of people flying regionally to Kuwait for the sole purpose of experiencing the festival.
"Aside from Kuwait Rising, all of CommUN’s festivals use multi-arts or multimedia to engage with people. Using a variety of mediums gives us the flexibility to challenge people’s preconceived notions of what to expect. It also lets us draw people into an experience or set of experiences – touching upon more than one sense at a time."
"In general, we have no interest in ‘entertaining’ people, we aim to create deep and meaningful experiences that awaken or unravel something in people because those are the types of experiences that sit with you." Zahed told us on a final note, re-affirming his role as creator of dialogue within Kuwait's vibrant, rising cultural scene.