Zahed Sultan

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Zahed Sultan
Zahed Sultan Performing Live at the Barbican.jpg
Sultan performing at The Barbican in 2015.
Background information
OriginKuwait, India
Occupation(s)Multimedia artist • entrepreneur
InstrumentsVocals • keyboards
Years active2011-present

Zahed Sultan is a London based multimedia artist and entrepreneur from Kuwait. He has performed and presented his work internationally. Sultan is particularly known for his live audio-visual-dance performances.[1]


Career beginnings[edit]

Sultan began his career at the age of 14 as a DJ for both mixed and segregated parties in Kuwait.[2] During his time in college, he worked as a promoter for nightclubs around Boston, MA (US).[3] Sultan wrote his first track at the age of 22, using a PC and an analog Roland sampler to program and sequence the song.[4] Several years later, he created a small body of work entitled illusive for a local exhibition in Kuwait.[5] At 25, Sultan won 3rd place in DJ Sasha's Involver remix competition with Global Underground and Ableton.[6] Sultan's remix was later signed by Sasha's label Xpander to the TV series Crime Scene Investigation (CSI).[7]


Sultan released his debut album Hi Fear, Lo Love on April 1, 2011.[4] Its first single, "I Saw Her, I Fell For Her" was licensed to the movie 11.6 directed by Philippe Godeau.[8] Its second single, "I Want Her But I Don't Want Her" was featured on Stephane Pompougnac's internationally acclaimed Hôtel Costes, Vol. 15 compilation and thus became the first modern track from the Persian Gulf area to be featured on a global music compilation.[7] MTV Iggy featured Sultan's third single "Walkin Away" and highlighted Sultan as an emerging artist from the Middle East.[9] On September 1, 2011, the album was followed up by the Hi Fear, Lo Love Remix EP, featuring remixes of Sultan's work by emerging artists.[10]

In 2012, Sultan released an EP titled Reuse Me in conjunction with an annual exhibition organized by his organization (The en.v Initiative) in Kuwait entitled REUSE.[11] The exhibition promotes eco-friendly living via creative mediums.[12] The EP featured the song "Like This (Ha-Ka-Tha)" and won favorable reviews by a number of online magazines and blogs such as The East / West Sound.[13] Later in 2013, Sultan was also featured on O2 Academy TV in London, UK.[14]

On September 16, 2014, "Ghazi", the first single of Sultan's sophomore album eyeamsound was released, providing a glimpse into the alternative electronic sound of the record.[15] The second single, "Democrazy", was released on May 5, 2015[16] and the album eyeamsound itself was released worldwide on June 2, 2015.[17] Musically, Sultan describes the songs on eyeamsound as having «a lot of texture and body to them». On the album, Sultan mostly sings in Arabic and English, with an additional song in broken Spanglish.[18] With titles like "Bedoon", the third single inspired by the life of stateless citizens, Sultan took a distinctively more socio-political route.[19] Music from the album has been featured on Hype Machine[20] and a short film released by Red Bull highlights his sound and live format.[3] «Strengthening Sultan’s rapidly increasing discography»,[21] in September 2016 he released the single "Cake & Butter". «Venturing into the alt-rock genre in his own unique way,» Sultan's vocals on the song «bear some resemblance to the Lizard King himself, The Doors’ Jim Morrison.»[22]

Continuing his exploration of traditional pearl diving music from the Persian Gulf region, Sultan released the Hiwar Sessions EP on May 5, 2017. This body of work was created in collaboration with producers from cities such as Kingston, Ramallah, Beirut, and Bombay to reimagine pearl diving music through Dub and Experimental music.[23] On September 14, 2018, Sultan released the soundtrack to his debut documentary effort Vibrations that was recorded at Bob Marley's Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica in collaboration with up and coming musicians from the Reggae and Dancehall scenes.[24] Mama Bamba was the first single to be released from the Vibrations soundtrack in June 2017, followed by Monkey Riddim in May 2018.[25]


Sultan puts a great focus on collaboration, in the studio and when performing live.[26] He has worked with artists from around the world, including Europe, Asia and North America on various projects.[27]

One such project is Hiwar, a two-week residency and final live performance in collaboration with The Heart of Sharjah association. «The intention for Hiwar was to explore the roots of pearl-diving music from the Persian Gulf region and discover musical bridges between traditions past and trends present.»[28]

Hiwar was then reproduced in Dubai on April 12, 2017, to kick off the inaugural RBMA Weekender in the Arab region, “re-contextualizing the application of ‘bahry’ culture within a present-day format.” Zahed premiered a short film related to the project, also entitled Hiwar, alongside an in-depth interview with RBMA discussing “the utilitarian purpose of pearl-diving music, the evolution of related forms in the Gulf and how to celebrate cultural diversity without being a purist.”[29] In late 2017, Hiwar was commissioned by a leading company in Muscat, Oman to re-imagine mountain, land and sea music from the country in collaboration with local talents through audio, visual and dance.[30] In the Summer of 2018, Boiler Room 4:3 released a short film about the project.[31] Hiwar continued to be developed and performed in 2018; presented at Abu Dhabi Festival in the Spring,[32] the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast using an immersive listening format,[33] and at the Beirut Electro Parade in Paris in October 2018 using a high tempo, club format.[34] In early 2019, Sultan did a live, multimedia performance of Hiwar in an IMAX theater in Kuwait.[35]

Music Style[edit]

In an interview with London Live in 2015, Sultan described his music as «alternative electronic», using live instrumentation as well as electronic music to «fuse those worlds in a live scenario [and blur] the lines between analog and digital».[36] Sultan's music and performance style continues to evolve using a cross-disciplinary approach.

Music Production[edit]

In addition to his own projects, Sultan has worked as a music producer for Saudi Arabian singer / songwriter tamtam, on her debut single / remixes EP Little Girl[37] in 2012 and her Games EP in 2014.[38]

In 2017, Sultan contributed to composer and conceptual-artist Fatima Al Qadiri's EP Shaneera as the vocals tracking engineer for the album at his recording studio in Kuwait, contributing to ″a safe space where they could be at ease″.[39]


In August 2016, Sultan was a panelist at the C/O Pop Festival in Cologne, Germany, discussing Cultural Entrepreneurship and how to learn from the creative music industry.[40] In November 2016, Sultan presented a performance talk at Nuqat entitled The Institute of the Future in collaboration with Kuwait-based experimental duo Bloom Tribe.[41] In April 2017, Sultan presented a talk at the inaugural STEP Music Conference, Dubai, where he shared his inspiration and ideas behind his ongoing project on traditional pearl diving music from the Persian Gulf, Hiwar.[42]


Having released a series of music videos and short films between 2011 and 2017, Sultan has completed his first documentary entitled Vibrations which he co-directed and executive produced. The film follows Sultan's journey as he re-imagines heritage music from Kuwait in the form of a cultural exchange with local youth in Kingston, Jamaica while emphasising the role social and political challenges played in forming a vibrant, creative community in the country today.[24] Vibrations was shown at a special screening in May 2018 at Rich Mix, London and in November 2018 at the AWAKEN festival in Kuwait. Both screenings included a short performance and Q&A.[43] The film has received a special mention award at the Scandinavian International Film Festival[44] and official selections by the Brighton Rocks Film Festival and Amsterdam International Filmmaker Festival.[45]


In September 2013, Sultan attended the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) – Bass Camp in Dubai[46] and has since collaborated with Red Bull frequently as a performing artist[3] and as a music curator.[47] Together with Red Bull - Kuwait, Sultan hosted the inaugural RBMA Session – Kuwait and launched an alternative Arab music festival titled «Kuwait Rising» in January 2015.[48]

In July 2015, Sultan was part of Doug Aitken's Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening at the Barbican Centre in London, UK for the Shubbak Festival.[1] During a short on-site residency at the Barbican Art Gallery, Sultan created an «interactive audio-visual immersive experience», drawing from a series of live performances in the past, including released and unreleased music in collaboration with a number of artists from different disciplines.[27] In October 2015, The Vinyl Factory released a short film on their website of Sultan's immersive performance at the Barbican Centre.[49]

In January 2016, Sultan hosted the RBMA Session – Kuwait which gathered 25 participants in a series of talks, educational workshops, and live jams.[50] The Session included a second edition of the «Kuwait Rising» music festival which featured acts from Egypt, Lebanon, India and a headlining performance by HVOB from Austria.[51] Sultan hosted a third edition of the festival in October 2016 featuring acts from the Middle Eastern and South Eastern regions.[52] The fourth edition of the festival took place in April 2018 and was headlined by Grammy-Award winning artist Joss Stone (UK) amongst others.

In April 2016, Sultan organised the REUSE multi-arts program in collaboration with TodaysArt in Kuwait City. REUSE attracted international artists like NONOTAK, The Era, and Norimichi Hirakawa to showcase their works in digital art, interactive media, music and performance.[53] In April 2017, Sultan was commissioned to curate an edition of REUSE in collaboration with the RISE Festival in Dubai. Celebrating the future of living, the REUSE x RISE program featured performances, installations, and collaborations by artists who work with new media[54] such as Chagall, Sandunes and Maurice Mikkers amongst others. In January 2019, Sultan was invited to curate a 3-month REUSE exhibition at The Scientific Center in Kuwait to raise awareness for Kuwait's environment, featuring local and international artists. The opening weekend was supported by live performances in the Center's IMAX theater by Zahed Sultan and Ash Koosha.[35]

In September 2017, Sultan was invited by UK music blog Stamp The Wax to create a City Guide to his favourite places in Kuwait along with a music mix of emerging talent from the country. ″Zahed is helping grow Kuwait's unique underground music scene and put the Arab city on the international alternative music scene's map.″[55]

Social Impact[edit]

In 2008, Sultan co-founded en.v, an organisation dedicated to fostering social development and civic engagement in The Middle East by empowering individuals and organisations. Its programs focus on building capacity and creating strategic networks among local civil society organisations (CSOs), youth initiatives, the private sector and governmental actors. Through collaborative efforts and educational outreach, en.v enables communities to identify and pursue innovative approaches to local and regional challenges.[56] In November 2018, Sultan and en.v launched AWAKEN, a community building festival to bring people together from different backgrounds to think creatively about social issues in Kuwait.[57]

Personal life[edit]

Sultan's father, Ghazi Sultan, is from Kuwait and studied at Harvard University under the Bauhaus-legend Walter Gropius and went on to co-found one of the largest architectural firms in the Middle East, KEO International Architects.[58] He also co-founded a leading gallery for modern Arab art, Sultan Gallery.[59] His mother, Aruna Sultan, is from India and is a landscape designer, «who championed the right of women to work onboard Air India at a time when the profession was considered disreputable».[58] Sultan has two brothers, Nader Sultan and Tahir Sultan, who is a New Delhi based fashion designer.[60] Sultan grew up in Kuwait except for a couple of years that he spent in India during the Gulf War.[4] Sultan studied Business Administration at Boston University, and, after graduating, returned to Kuwait and worked at Agility.[61] Soon after, he relocated to London to study Audio Engineering at the SAE Institute. He returned to Kuwait thereafter to work on music and his ventures.[61]


Title Year Type Label
Hi Fear, Lo Love 2011 Studio Album Self-released
eyeamsound 2015 Studio Album Self-released
Hi Fear, Lo Love Remix EP 2011 EP Self-released
Reuse Me 2012 EP Self-released
Hiwar Sessions 2017 EP Self-released
Vibrations 2018 EP Self-released
Ghazi 2014 Single Self-released
Democrazy 2015 Single Self-released
Cake & Butter 2016 Single Self-released
Mama Bamba 2017 Single Self-released
Monkey Riddim 2018 Single Self-released
Little Girl by tamtam 2012 As a producer Self-released
Games EP by tamtam 2014 As a producer Self-released


Title Year Role Genre
I Want Her But I Don't Want Her 2011 Producer, Director Music Video
Like This (ha-ka-tha) 2012 Producer, Director Music Video
eyeamsound 2014 Producer, co-Editor Short Film
Resonance 2015 Producer Short Film
Borders Unreleased Producer Short Film
Cake & Butter 2017 co-Editor Music Video
Hiwar 2017 Producer, co-Director Short Film
Vibrations 2018 Executive Producer, co-Director Documentary
Hiwar; Re-Imagining the Music of Oman 2018 Director Short Film


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External links[edit]