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  1. Written by: Ashley Alleluya
Photography by: Fay Al Homoud
It was one of those freakishly artsy nights in Kuwait. For a country that is often bemused at the lack of cultural choices on the weekend, we had a Saturday night that proved otherwise. Two events celebrating music, several artists bringing their A-game and a difficult choice for anyone who wants to attend. We chose A Night of Music at the Center of the Arts in Shuwaikh, and in retrospect, it is a choice I’m glad we made.
It was definitely more crowded than I anticipated, with everyone packed into a spacious ballet studio. I was secretly glad for the gigantic pillows scattered on the studio floor. It made for an intimate setting, was a perfect shared seating solution, promoted cuddles on an exceptionally cold evening – and frankly, I love huge pillows. After a brief hello from Omar Afuni, we jumped right into the musical acts.
Strumming my pain with her fingers/
Ghaneema was the first one to take the stage. She had Omar Salem on the electric guitar and Abdulrahman Essa on the drums while she took over vocals and acoustic guitar. It was the perfect airy start to the show. Ghaneema has a voice that interestingly sits between frothy and husky, the kind of voice that makes a lazy weekend morning perfect. And she knows her musicality well. ‘Fairytales’ by Cayetano seems to be tailor-made for her voice, and I found myself falling in love with the song all over again with her covering it.
Ghaneema may not play at events around Kuwait as overtly as Omar Afuni and Carol Souki, but she’s a smart performer. Between such eclectic choices as Beth Hart and Amy Winehouse, she also threw in a Justin Timberlake cover that had me love-stoned and then transported me back to high-school with some Kylie Minogue – always a crowd pleaser. She’s also a quirky character, unrehearsed and raw, a quality that translated into brief breaks of hilarity when she interacted with the crowd.
And when she got Carol up on stage to end her set with Elle King’s ‘Xs and Os,’ Ghaneema pretty much confirmed that she can work an audience and keep them wanting more. Together with Omar and Abdulrahman, Ghaneema’s opening set was the pitch-perfect start to the evening, light and heady. 
Singing my life with his words/
We barely had a few minutes between sets so we had to choose between rushing to the restrooms, catching a quick smoke-break or making a dash outside the venue around the corner for something hot to eat or drink (my only gripe with the event), before we transitioned into Omar Afuni’s set. He had Lester Rodrigues on the keyboard and Adel Al Qattan on the guitar for company, and for the next forty minutes, I relived the many stages of a bitter relationship with his songs. Omar used his time with the audience to showcase some tracks from his recent album ‘RUSH’, to dedicate a track from Adel Al Qattan’s latest album ‘Qattana‘ with a different sound and to also pay homage to one of his music idols.
He began with the intense ‘Resurrect me’ and segued into even deeper emotional territory with such songs as ‘This Can’t Be Love,’ a snippet from the La La Land soundtrack and ‘Spinning Top,’ another of his originals. Apart from the catchy music composition, it is the lyrics in Omar’s songs that lend his music its character. They hit close to home – he doesn’t hold back when it comes to exorcising personal demons through his words, and you find yourself drifting into a similar heartspace. 
If Ghaneema provided an airy beginning, Omar’s is the set that has a richness to it that’s a lot like fresh wet soil. His voice is earthy and rich, with a theatrical quality that hits the high notes and the bass with equal ease. He is also a showman, mixing up his songs with glimpses into the inspiration behind his lyrics, dedicating a Qattana track to his bandmate Adel as a belated birthday gift and teaching the audience the hook of his very catchy original, Rush.
Tying the set together with a couple of George Michael’s timeless classics, ‘Faith’ and ‘Careless Whisper,’ and the current wedding anthem, John Legend’s ‘All of Me,’ Omar Afuni gave the rest of us a perfect musical catharsis. A little heartache, a lot of healing, some foot-tapping, much reminiscing and an earworm; I’m currently singing Rush-ra-ra-ra-ra-rush in an effort to finish this write-up faster days after the event! 
Killing me softly with her song/
Carol Souki
was the final act and it was a clever move, saving her for last. If Ghaneema’s voice is breezy and Omar’s is silken and earthy, then Carol’s is fire. A roaring blaze one minute and a gentle warmth the next. She’s pure crackling energy. Carol is a masterclass in live performance – she’s talented, expressive, engaging, interactive and grabs your attention from the very moment she takes the stage. 
With Adel Al-Qattan returning on the guitar and Bader Nana keeping him company on the Cajón, Carol started strong. She doesn’t ease you into her set – from the get-go, LP’s ‘Lost On You’ is vibrant with meaning, blending seamlessly into Sia’s ‘Chandelier.’ Carol also introduced us to some of her originals from her upcoming album: ‘Life,’ ‘I Want You’ and ‘Ain’t My Level’ are tracks that fuse together her strong vocals, witty lyrics and the promise of making it to my love-life playlists.
Other highlights of Carol’s set were her covers of ‘Stronger Than Me’ and ‘Liberian Girl.’ It is here that the melody did the richness of Carol’s voice justice – seductive and coy, yet honest. Her playful side emerged in full force when she wound up her performance with the audience on their feet. She had the room dancing, clapping and singing along as she sang ‘Uptown Funk,’ reminding everyone that she, much like Bruno Mars, knows how to get a party going.
You know that feeling of elation mixed with irrational anxiety when you find a perfect piece of art, a kickass show on Netflix or a book that blows your mind and you cannot start a new one because you’re afraid it won’t match this level of genius? That’s the feeling that still lingers in my mind long after the night is done.
Maybe I’m just a boring person who needs to find more events like these to attend. Maybe I just got swept away by the atmosphere of a night executed to perfection. Or maybe Ghaneema, Omar and Carol (along with Omar Salem, Bader Nana, Abdulrahman Essa, Adel Al-Qattan and Lester Rodrigues) really are that good and this is just the first of many musical journeys I will take with them.
1 Comment
  • Carol Souki

    Thank u so much for this beautiful and raw article!!! I love u Kingdome Team!!

    February 9, 2017 at 2:05 pm Reply

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