“Growing up, I would hang posters of my favorite singers on my wall and practically cry myself to sleep because, as an Arab living in Kuwait, I thought I’d never be able to achieve my goal of being an international artist” Omar Afuni opens up as he sits comfortably on our plush, leather couch here at bazaar’s headquarters. “I wish I had a role model back in the day to show me that it could be done, that my goals weren’t far-fetched. I didn’t, so I decided to become just that for any kid who has any seemingly unreachable dreams.”
Born and raised in Kuwait, Omar Afuni discovered his musical inclinations at the young age of five, where he had essentially taught himself to play the keyboard. “I would play songs from the radio by ear on my toy Casio keyboard, and later graduated to a more professional Yamaha keyboard, gifted to me by my uncle.” Initially thinking he would go on to become a pianist, he instead discovered his voice, and taught himself to build on it, and to make sure it was to be heard. From singing and dreaming as a child, Omar found himself crafting his voice as the years passed. His natural talent just about scored him a spot in The Lion King’s musical choir as he was completing his Masters degree in London, but due to UK regulations (and the fact that he was a non-UK citizen), the opportunity was lost. “I was really upset about it, but that was also validation that I was good enough to really do what I wanted to do.”
THE NEW ALBUM ‘RUSH’
And he did move on to follow his dreams, by putting himself out there “I wanted people to get to know me and my voice, and I specifically sang songs from the genre and style that fit the music I wrote.” This genre and style is a mixture between pop, funk, hip-hop – just feel-good music that everyone relates to, which is exactly what his new album RUSH projects. “RUSH is a fun album,” Omar gushes. With 11 tracks that are guaranteed to make you laugh, smile, dance, cry and sing along, each song is written by Omar himself, both lyrically and melodically. He couldn’t have done it without the help and support of his friends who happen to be some of Kuwait’s most talented musicians. “One of my favorite parts about making this album, and making music in general, was spending so much time with my musician friends –because they all have a great sense of humor and we have a great time exchanging ideas.”
CONNECTING WITH AN AUDIENCE
RUSH embodies the relationship Omar has with music. “The song itself gives me a rush, and makes me feel as though I’m singing about music in general” he says of the fun title track. This statement also says why, in his music, Omar doesn’t specify gender when professing feelings about love. “I want all my music to be relatable and open to interpretation, depending on how YOU feel and what YOU feel passionate about, and in my case, it’s music.” His seventh track, “Perfect” is a song that he finds especially close to his heart. His hauntingly beautiful voice, mixed with a twinge of soulful fry, his lyrics declare that he might not be what his subject had in mind, but that he’s still perfect for them. “’Perfect’ is relatable because I don’t care how confident you appear to be, no matter who you are, we all get insecure sometimes and think that we aren’t good enough for someone or something we really love – but in their eyes, we will always be seen as perfect.” Again, the theme of music being his passion ties into the meaning behind “Perfect”, yet he leaves it open for interpretation to his listeners and fans.
THE MUSIC VIDEO
“Rush” also has its very own music video! A concept not to be forgotten, this video is the prime example of who Omar is as a musician, and what his musical ethos represents. Poking fun at the difficulties of making a music video, the visual interpretation of “Rush” is a refreshing change that reaps trying to find individuality in a world where everything is done in a traditional, unchanged sense. And what’s even more special about the “Rush” video is that it stars a cast consisting of all of Omar’s friends! “Making the video was tough, and a lot of plans fell through in the process. We had to make the best of the situation. We even learned the choreography the same day on set. When we all let go and had fun with it, it turned out amazing!” With simple choreography and text describing each cliché scene the video included, the result was a quirky feel-good video you’ll find yourself re-watching and dancing to over and over. Perhaps it’s the relatable element that makes it so addictive, coupled with the catchy tune of the song, but the overall outcome makes for a promising album, if “Rush” is any indication.
THE PROVERBIAL DOOR
What makes Omar’s music all the more special is his humility: how he never forgets anybody who had contributed anything to his entire journey – and that he still insists, even with his growing popularity, that he wants to help make a difference “This industry is small in the region, but there is a market for it. There are a lot of people who listen to English music, and a lot of talented artists around here. I don’t want to be one of the people just opening the door, I want to kick it down and soar through it, with all of these great people along with me.” But what about all of us who are inhibited, and can’t muster up the courage to follow Omar through the proverbial door? “Don’t be discouraged by failure; embrace it as another step on your path to success. The more times you fail, the closer you become to succeeding.”
RUSH is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, Spotify, Anghami and Apple Music. Follow Omar Afuni on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @omarafuni. Check out his website at www.omarafuni.com and stay tuned for the release of his album in Kuwait!