Kuwaisiana’s Inspiring Debut

Posted by Greg on May 17, 2018 in Music |

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Given the never-ending barrage of Trump tweets, Stormy Daniels’ statements and Iran nuclear deal scuttlebutt, we’re in need of music more than ever. Enter the oddball New Orleans outfit Kuwaisiana. Fronted by Kuwaiti-born singer-songwriter +Aziz, Kuwaisiana plays traditional New Orleans big band klezmer with a decidedly Middle Eastern twist. The first five songs of their debut album are sung in Arabic and each of the five are decidedly whimsical, buoyant and utterly infectious.

It’s not an easy thing to marry sprite and lively horns with the profoundly staccato rhythms of the Arabic tongue, but Kuwaisiana does so in a way that’s novel, genuine and quite refreshing. Whether it’s the sultry “Murra” or the impassioned and murderous “Gashxi,” there’s something palpable, compelling and inviting about each of these five songs. The strongest of the bunch is the rousing “Gabba Barra” which features a propulsive chorus and a languid and effortless jazz outro that’s one of the most invigorating pieces of music we’ve heard all year. The album’s back half is sung in English and takes an an aggro-political tone.

“Virgin” is trippy, humid and haunting. One feels like the song is an exercise in soft drug usage before the brassy horn outro coasts the song to its fitting conclusion. “Men in Power” is an autumnal ballad that begins serene and majestic and moves into a frenzied and kinetic finish. There are moments all over the album wear the band seems to channel a bit of Gogol Bordello and “Men in Power” is the perfect example of that. Kuwaisiana’s love of the histrionic continues on the bizzare freak-out “The Journalist” and the odd and misplaced “Say Yea,” a distinct reggae cut that is warm, sun-drenched and best appreciated when throwing back a cocktail or a craft brew.

Given the current banal state of popular music, an album and a band like Kuwaisiana are just the tonic that is needed. There’s something to be said for an album this daring, this impassioned and this different. So here’s to Kuwaisiana for treading new ground and charting a new path. In a musical landscape that sometimes feels too cookie-cutter and too safe, Kuwaisiana are paving new ground, and hot damn, it is awe-inspiring.

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