The identity of the Kuwaiti-American indie rock band matters, but identity isn't its sole selling point.
Kuwaisiana makes its purpose plain with its name. The group merges Kuwaiti and Louisianan cultures in music based in indie rock. It comes with a strong sense of purpose that frequently makes me wary because I prefer that my rock ’n’ roll not come with a mission statement. Based on Chapter 1, though, I’m with Kuwaisiana.
It helps that the band’s blend organically honors its roots. There’s no sense that vocalist and songwriter +Aziz is watering anything Arabic down as he sings eastern and western melodies in both both languages as horns and an accordion give tracks a local flavor. The songs themselves are hybrids with the exception of “Nada,” which is pretty straight third wave ska. It’s good ska, the song is less interesting because it fits so neatly in a box. The others bounce between worlds and genres with horns and accordions to give the songs a sense of place.
+Aziz’s vocals make everything sound urgent, in part because he’s a serious young man. Even the lighter songs have moments that reflect his passion, and existential anxiety creeps into many of his songs. Few tracks are overtly political, but the weight of his world is present in all of them. He doesn’t write Islamophobia into his songs because many have a theatrical component as he sings from personas other than his own. Still, an ambient sense of struggle and conflict hovers over his performances and lurks in his songs.
Part of the fun of Chapter 1 is seeing someone take on a bold project. During a presidency that treats every brown-skinned foreign national as inherently suspicious, it’s exciting to hear one of Trump’s others literalize the American ideal. +Aziz has found a way to be himself in America without giving up who he is/was in Kuwait. It helps that the driving force in the music is a desire to make good songs and not to manifest of a concept. Kuwaisiana’s challenge will be to grow more even more distinctive, so that the hook isn’t the hybrid spelled out in its name.
Kuwaisiana will play with Vox and the Hound and Heather Gillis at Three Keys on Friday night.
We got +Aziz’s story in 2015.