“My mind works at a million different frequencies,” Bassam “Buzz” Shuhaibar says as he leads me into his office at KISR. His office boasts an organized mess, with thoughts strewn across his desk and his guitar perched alongside his chair – an obvious merriment of two passions met halfway. “Well, science and music collide somewhere in between,” he laughs, as I point this out.
I’ve witnessed Bassam’s musical side more than once, from several public performances courtesy of venues like Qout Market, to jamming behind the scenes at The Juke. Such moments have acquainted me with the musical frequencies that operate half his mind, but discovering his profession and dedication to the environment was something that blew me away.
I never would’ve pegged the frontman of The Afterthought to be someone who could analyze, explain and interpret subject matters like how ocean currents could affect marine life, logistics of potential damages made by building waterfront properties directly on the coast, or as someone who has worked in KISR, Kuwait’s leading scientific research lab, for exactly 20 years to date.
“I started with KISR right out of University in 1998.” He tells me as he leads me into a room described as his ‘playground’ – a Wave Basin built in the ‘80s, modeling Kuwait’s coast, where Bassam spends his time figuring out wave patterns and logistics. “They gave me a scholarship back then to continue my education in George Washington University, Washington D.C., where I obtained a Masters and PhD in Environmental Engineering.”
Between 20 years split between KISR and the Afterthought, (coincidentally officially formed in 1997 with longtime friend and bandmate Zak Mousawi), Bassam’s commitment to both is something that stems from what was made up in his mind a long time ago.
“I would devour Tell Me Why books as a child, and have always been interested in the way things work, but at the same time, I was always equally interested in dramatic and musical arts and performing.” What brought the two passions together in Bassam’s mind is communications. “Figuring out a way to communicate the two was the key. I love performing, speaking and interacting, and so being able to spread the knowledge is what kept me engaged in my job.”
And so, he uses that talent to spread his knowledge by passing it onto people of different demographics and age groups: between the businessperson looking to build responsibly, to university students listening to a guest lecture, and even schoolchildren baffled by the possibility of combining arts and sciences.
“It isn’t like it was 20 years ago. Nowadays, people in Kuwait have been making time for their passions on top of their professions, and speaking as someone who has watched the music scene grow from nothing since 1997, I can tell you firsthand that you can, in fact have it all.”
But being both a scientist and a rock singer comes with its ups and downs. “There will be days when you’ll want to give up, because other things will get in the way. And we’ve lost many members of The Afterthought over the past 20 years because some have decided they couldn’t focus on both, a career and music.”
But its ups have a payoff! From a sold-out concert (2017’s Think Again tour) to the magical feeling of completing a song, and even just being present and witnessing something great within the community, that’s what makes it all worth it.
“Being a part of the change in the music industry is an honor in and of itself, but watching it grow from nothing is a completely different experience. I’m so proud of where it’s at now.” Talk about ushering in a whole new age of sustainability! Between music and the environment, paving the way for future generations to come – just like a Planeteer with a guitar! “I guess you could put it that way…” he laughs in response.
TRUTH OR DARE QUESTIONNAIRE
How would your mother describe you in one word?
How would you describe your mother in one word?
What is the most ridiculous question you’ve ever been asked?
I always like to say that the stupidest question that was ever asked was the one that wasn’t. I guess “most ridiculous” falls into that category as well.
What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
One morning during my undergrad days in London, I woke up with a melody and chorus in my head. I went straight to my computer and had the whole thing written out within 30 minutes. That song became known as “December Skies”.
What is your theme song?
On a good day: “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi
On a bad day: “Black” by Pearl Jam
What word in the English or Arabic language do you wish you had invented?
“Pusillanimous.” I mean, just look at it (insert heart-eyes emoji here).
Where would you like to live? What is your dream retirement location?
White sandy beach. Cloudless skies. Crystal clear water. Hammock. Wireless connection.
What is the first famous quote that comes to your mind?
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge” – Stephen Hawking (R.I.P.)
What animal best describes the kind of partner you’d be interested in?
A mongoose. Cute on the outside, cobra-killer on the inside.
What do you miss about your childhood?
Everything. Especially not having to worry about anything except homework, video games and sports matchups with your friends. Oh, and the Gazelle Club.
If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
Being a huge “Star Wars” buff, I wouldn’t mind “Luke” or “Anakin”.
How would you describe your handshake in one word?
What is the toughest part of your character?
Perseverance. I am also a perfectionist and my own worst critic: nothing is ever good enough.
Who is your favorite historical figure?
Albert Einstein. What I wouldn’t give to step out of a time machine at his place in Princeton and yell “TA-DAAA!”
What in the world do you least desire?
To age. I mean, don’t get me wrong, ageing comfortably and in good health is a luxury not many people get to experience. That being said, I still feel like there is so much I still want to do before crossing the chronological Rubicon.
What do you think is lacking in the world, which if there was more of would make the world a better place?
Dignity, or rather, its acknowledgement. If everyone just treated the person in front of them like a human being, irrespective of their social or ethnic background, I guarantee you the world would improve virtually overnight.
Why do you think most girls/guys like you?
I set them at ease right from the outset of getting to know them. I also make sure to treat others how I expect them to treat me.
Finish this sentence: “Happiness is a thing called…”
Follow Bassam on Instagram and Facebook as @bshuhaibar and on Snapchat as thebuzz07. For more information on upcoming shows, follow The Afterthought on Instagram @afterthoughtrox, and check out their website at www.theafterthought.rocks.