By Sahar Moussa

Two Kuwaiti artistes were brought together by their love and passion for music to launch a duet after being away from the music scene for a while. Rahaf is a singer, writer, composer, DJ and former member of the Guitara band. She is well-known for her famous song ‘Ya Ghali’ that was released in 2001 and sung in six different languages. Not to mention her participation in theatrical and dramatic works, in addition to her experience as a presenter of children’s radio programs where she participated in releasing educational songs for schools and commercial advertisements.

Faisal Marei aka Face is a singer, songwriter and a former band member of Army of One. The vocally-gifted musician is known for his R&B music. Kuwait Times interviewed Rahaf and Face to talk about the launch of their new music video ‘My World’, their collaboration and upcoming projects in Kuwait. Some excerpts.

Kuwait Times: Can you tell us more about your comeback with a new music video collaboration? How did you both meet? Why did you choose to work with each other?

Rahaf: I started my artistic career as a band member, and I was fond of singing collaborations such as a duet or trio. Faisal, also a former band member, made me excited about the project. We met on Instagram and the idea came from him. He offered to collaborate with me and I welcomed the idea as I admire his voice as well as his choices.

Faisal Marei aka Face: During the quarantine, I started working on my solo album/mixtape. I saw Rahaf doing a virtual interview with one of the channels, where she spoke highly of the old music days and Army of One as a band. I messaged and thanked her, adding I was a big fan and would love to work with her. Thankfully, she accepted and we started working on ‘My World’ by bouncing ideas online before we did the final song. When we finished recording, we decided that the song needed a video – a simple one on top of a building showcasing the city behind us. We contacted an old friend – Rashid Visuals – who supported us with making the video.

KT: You come from two different music genres – how were you able to find middle ground in your new song ‘My World’?
Rahaf: I am a fan of Western music in general. I find myself in heavy metal and I have previous experience with rap as well. We lack nontraditional R&B songs in our artistic arena in the GCC and the Arab world, so I did not find myself far from Faisal’s taste in music.
Face: Rahaf is a very talented artiste – you can give her any type of genre and she is able to adapt to it musically.

KT: Who wrote the lyrics?
Face: We both wrote our own lyrics. Rahaf wrote the Arabic part and performed a melodic sentence that matches the general atmosphere of the work.
KT: What were the main difficulties in producing this song during the pandemic?
Rahaf: We agreed to work by following the instructions of social distancing. We adhered to this as cast members were limited.

Face: Producing the song was the easy part with today’s technology and the Internet. It helped a lot in virtually making the song. As for the video, everything was planned ahead of time, so on the day of shooting, we knew exactly what we were doing – without forgetting to follow all safety measures.

KT: Is it difficult to reach the Kuwaiti audience since it is mainly an English song?
Rahaf: Kuwaiti people love almost all different artistic cultures with their different languages, as is the case with music genres. Therefore, I imagine we have accomplished a piece of work that has its audience.
Face: The fact that the song is a mixture of Arabic and English made it easier for the Kuwaiti audience to accept it. Besides, Kuwaitis accept all types of music.

KT: Face, do you plan to sing in Arabic?
Face: Yes, and I have two songs lined up in my album. The first one is in the Levantine dialect and the other in Kuwaiti, written and produced by DJ Crow & DJ Peter, who are now based in Lebanon.
KT: What do you think about the music industry in Kuwait? Is it getting adequate support? If not, why?

Rahaf: In my opinion, I do not find enough support. In our world today, music projects are a mix between songs and advertisements. The support is often from people who are looking for what they are going to gain from it. Therefore, artistes started to produce for themselves, but at the same time I can’t deny that I’m confused about what people like to hear. I wonder if the audience is influenced and confined to a certain atmosphere that we call ‘the market atmosphere’, or is it the many facilities that contributed to the appearance of many new artistes and the repetition of the same work and short songs with a limited period of success.

Face: In general, the music industry is becoming bigger and cluttered because of the ease of making music these days. From our side, we have seen a lot of support. Our mission is to continue what we are doing and give people good music to listen to, relate and enjoy.

KT: What are the topics you like to talk about through your music? What makes your song different?
Rahaf: I do not hesitate to tackle diverse ideas. I sang one day about an expatriate woman who left her children and family to work away from them – the song was titled ‘Oh Patience’. I also sang about addiction awareness. Likewise, during the corona pandemic, I sang ‘Stay at Home’ and other songs. I never hesitate to present music that has humanitarian, national and educational messages.
Face: I do not see any restrictions – whatever we feel and experience in life is what we talk about.

KT: What does it take to be a successful artist nowadays?
Rahaf: I think success today is linked and depends to some extent on being actively present on social media. Direct interaction with the audience is also needed, by appearing from time to time on live broadcasts to sing fans’ requests and diversify by presenting work that the audience demands from the artiste.
Face: A successful artiste is one who can deliver the message through their music creatively and keep upgrading themselves, with good marketing and creativity. Posting more videos too, as the public loves to hear and see the artiste.

Picture shows Kuwaiti artist Rahaf during the shoot of her new music video ‘My World’.

KT: You are well-known as Rahaf from the Guitara band, especially for your song ‘Ya Ghali’. You then kind of disappeared from the music scene or had few appearances. Do you think that if social media existed at the time you started your career, you would have reached a larger audience?
Rahaf: Yes. There is no doubt that if we were as a band when social media existed, our status would be different. But we reached around the world without it and our song was presented in more than six languages. Besides, I enjoyed that era a lot – we felt our success by reaching to the audience and lovers through cassette tapes. We were asked by fans for our autographs and received postal mail from Arabs around the world, which meant a lot to me. Today’s artistes cannot appreciate the value of these experiences.

KT: Which artistes locally and internationally inspire you and why?
Rahaf: I’m a lover of Western electronic music and influenced by Daft Punk, Enigma, Pink Floyd, rock, pop, rap and heavy metal singers. I have not been influenced by any Arab artistes except for the Bahraini Brotherhood band.
Face: There are many young and very talented artistes, not just in Kuwait but also in the region. I am a big fan of Drake and Ty Dolla $ign. I like R&B and hip hop and am interested in new schools to get inspired.

KT: Your success started with Army of One – is this a shift in your career, coming back with a duet? The members of Army of One are doing other things now – they have gone off and done solo projects. Are there any future prospects to come back together for a new song?
Face: Before we get involved with music, we are brothers. We all took a different path musically, but yes, we still talk, meet and share music and ideas. Hopefully we will collaborate again in the near future.

KT: What are your upcoming projects? When can we expect to hear another song from you?
Rahaf: I have four upcoming songs that I have finished recording, but I am waiting to release them due to the preparation of the appropriate video for each song and the right time to launch them.
Face: In the next few months, I will drop a few songs, and hopefully by the end of this year, I will drop my mixtape/album.

KT: Will we witness another collaboration between both of you?
Rahaf: Of course, I expect this without any doubt. Besides, I received beautiful feedback from the public. I found musical harmony between Face and myself that motivates me to repeat the same experience.
Face: Of course, this is just the beginning, and I would always love to work with Rahaf again.