Kuwaiti Artists are Thriving Because of Zahed Sultan

Meet the artist giving back to his nation


Kuwait’s creative scene is booming, and Zahed Sultan, one of the tiny Gulf nation’s leading artists, is the man single-handedly pushing it forward. 

When it comes to music in Kuwait, going to Kuwait Rising is a no-brainer. The festival has been putting a spotlight on emerging artists since 2015. Artists who are now making major waves in the region were scouted by Sultan early on, take  Omar Offendum, Al Nather, Muqata’a, and Tamtam as example.

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2019 has been a challenging year for our music festival, Kuwait Rising. From unintentially sparking a debate online about gender and identity in early February to having our first ever cancellation by a headline act 4 weeks before our rescheduled date, we truly did not know what to expect. Having said that, the way this past weekend unfolded took us completely by surprise. In what was meant to be our most intimate edition to date, it has somehow became one of our most meaningful. We say this because of the outpouring of gratitude received and the long form posts by our performing artists as well as conversations we had in person after the fact. It almost seems serendipitous that this past Friday night featured meditative micro performances on a hang drum, an unexpected group dance tutorial and our community reading anonymous stories on stage to announce our upcoming festival, AWAKEN – all playing a subtle yet pivotal role in making this edition stand out. . Thank you to everyone who brought this festival to life, you know who you are because we have exchanged words and extended hugs. . If somehow the above was not grounding enough, this was the first time Kuwait Rising has been able to stand on its own two feet purely through patronage of you, our community, who bought tickets. Now, that’s something. . Photos @przemekziolek

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But Kuwait Rising does more than just put Arab artists on, one of the festival’s goals is to also bring international talent to the region. Up-and-coming Indian singer Kayva and emerging American Canadian singer and violinist Hannah Epperson performed this year, as well as experimental Saudi techno DJ and producer Desert Fish.

The music festival falls under one umbrella, Comm.UN, an organisation run by Sultan with the aim of nurturing Kuwait’s creative scene. Alongside Kuwait Rising, Sultan is behind re_use, a travelling multi-arts program with the goal of promoting eco-friendly living through art.

Awaken is another one of Sultan’s projects. The goal of the festival is to bring together people from varying backgrounds, with diversity in focus. It’s made to “celebrate [the] diverse community in Kuwait,” as reiterated on a recent Instagram post.

For his next venture, Sultan is taking Kuwait’s creative scene international. The artist is heading to London’s Mosaic Rooms for Haramacy as part of a residency program to present a new project called Soundbath, which will explore the ways in which electronic music can be calming and healing. 

Haramacy Soundbath, November 28, The Mosaic Rooms, London

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