Kuwaiti songwriter +Aziz has partners with Middle Eastern arts organization based in New York City, ArtEast, to shed light on musical trends outside of the Arab music industry. UNCOLLECTABLE is an initiative that explores modern Middle Eastern music and the role of soundscapes in Middle Eastern culture. The initiative will come to life during the two night performance as part of the month-long art exhibit hosted at Soho’s Hotel Particulier and is being co-curated by Murtaza Vali, an independent Art Critic, Historian and Curator. However, the UNCOLLECTABLE will only come to life with the help of donations from the public. Sketchbook caught up with the young Arab creative to learn more about the entire premise behind this project.
How long have you worked, or had an interest in music?
I started in classical piano music and moved to electric and acoustic guitar when I discovered 90’s alternative music (Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Nirvana, At-the-Drive-In). I wrote my first song Surreal when I was attending university in 2002. The song was inspired by shoes that a new friend of mine constantly wore.
What is the UNCOLLECTABLE project?
UNCOLLECTABLE is based on a trend I observed in contemporary Middle Eastern art. The project is multi-layered, but it stems in my interest in opening up musical composition and songwriting to the radical world of sound art.
Right now, I’m preparing for a performance that will take place in NYC. This performance will demonstrate how sound art and music come together to shape an unconventional experience for my audience. So rather than focusing on my Arab identity or relying on controversy, I have focused on developing an in-depth concept that garners interest within the art community.
How will you approach attempting to shift trends outside of the Arab entertainment industry?
My favorite quote is the one that goes “artists don’t sell out, companies buy in”
There’s a lot happening in the region. Arab musicians have done a great job entertaining people or conveying political insights, but I’m looking at cultural trends in retail, fashion, food, health, automotive…etc. and putting together unique, localized events that are inspired by these trends.
I don’t think the Arab entertainment industry will change, the success of indie musicians does not depend on it. But it is obvious that once indie musicians demonstrate their commitment to music and their fan metrics begin to mature, industry will follow.
Explain to our readers what is sound art?
Sound art is simply art with a sound component. It’s typically delivered in the form of an installation, video, performance, audio file…etc. Sound art falls under the umbrella of conceptual art and I like the way it challenges and toys with traditional practices of collecting and buying art.
How do you think people will react to this project?
The project is multi-layered and grew in an organic fashion. UNCOLLECTABLE is an event intentionally built for a niche audience but I think it will have a good spectrum of responses (globally) that span from confused to amused.
In future events I develop, I want to focus on trends that have wider appeal like food or fashion. So imagine a concert-meets-culinary-experience or a runway show that doubles as a rock show. The ideas are endless and for anyone to grab. I want people to look forward to my future collaborations regardless of what their response is to my artsy side.
Arabic music has it’s own flavor and distinctive style. Don’t you worry that your goal will be perceived as an attempt to westernise Arabic pop music?
Arabic music IS westernized, I’m referring specifically to the music with beats and electronic music on it. Even vintage Arabic music is rooted in the western orchestral tradition, but I think you are asking a valid question.
I’m interested in multiculturalism and stylistic diversity, not just ‘westernizing’ Arabic music. Singing in Arabic once in a while is sufficient for me to express my Arab identity.
What is the ultimate goal behind UNCOLLECTABLE?
This is an exploratory project and my goal now is to deliver a good show to a niche audience; on an intellectual level, I want to see what happens when music and sound art intersect.
What are your future plans?
I want to bring new shows to the GCC. I’m applying to TwoFour54 and I’m kicking ideas around with my Twitter friends.
Only 10 days remain for fundraising! Click here to make a pledge to the project and learn more about the UNCOLLECTABLE Pop-Up Sound Art Experience.
WORDS: BADRIYA AL-MAHMEED
Images courtesy of +Aziz.