Game Changers The Hope Issue

Humood Al Khudher: The Kuwaiti artist uplifting us through music

"My ultimate big goal is to create a platform and help produce songs for other artists who would sing meaningful, positive songs."

.للقراءة بالعربية انقروا هنا

By Manar Al Hinai

Born in 1989, Humood Al Khudher is a Kuwaiti music producer and singer. His songs have topped charts around the world with over 800 million views on YouTube. In a region where most singers sing about love, passion, and longing Humood stands out from the crowd. He is known for his integration of Arabic music and international pop styles with uplifting, positive lyrics on versatile topics.

Humood’s musical career started at the tender age of 10, when he acted as a backing vocalist for his uncle who performed at local events. From then on, Humood was sought out by various local artists to join them as backing talent. For the next ten years, Humood continued to record and release singles while still pursuing his studies. After receiving his college degree, he decided to pursue music full-time.

The 31-year-old gained global popularity in 2015 when his song “Kun Anta” which translates to  “Be Yourself” in Arabic,  after it went viral and earned him several international awards. With its upbeat and universal lyrics that call for self-love, it became the third most viewed Arabic song on YouTube that year, and charted number 1 on iTunes Malaysia and Indonesia.

Humood released his latest album Matha Ba’d?, which translates to “What Next?”,  just last February. Image: Courtesy.

Performing in over 40 cities worldwide, Humood is often sought out to sing in commercials by regional and international brands such as Lipton and Kuwait Finance House. His most anticipated one is the official Holy month of Ramadan theme song by regional broadcaster MBC television.

Humood released his 2 singles from his latest album Matha Ba’d?, which translates to “What Next?”,  just last February. I speak with the artist and discuss the reason he decided to focus on uplifting songs, whether the COVID-19 crisis has inspired new releases, and how his new album is different from his previous ones. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Manar Al Hinai: Your songs consistently have uplifting and positive messages. Why did you choose that to be your focus?

Humood Al Khudher:  It almost happened by coincidence. When I was in university, I was asked by schools to produce custom songs for their graduation ceremonies, and usually graduation songs have positive vibes, and positive attitudes. I was surprised that these songs, which were created for specific schools and specific events, were popular amongst listeners [more widely]. This is where I thought  it could be something that I could focus on especially since I love this kind of music. I love listening to it. And I love the effect it has on people. And as I’m doing it more and more, I’m seeing the positive feedback from listeners, who encourage me to do more of it.

Manar Al Hinai: What inspires your songs? What’s your process like?

Humood Al Khudher: A lot of things inspire me. It could be a conversation with a friend, or a movie that I watched that sparks an idea for a song. Usually the process starts with me writing down the ideas in my notes on my phone, or sometimes recording an audio note ( especially if it’s an idea for a melody), and I would record it as soon as possible so I don’t forget it. Then, I would communicate those ideas to a song-writer, who would either write the lyrics only and I would work on the melodies, or sometimes I would with song-writers who would work on both the lyrics and the melody, such as the talented Emirati song-writer Saif Fadhel. He writes and composes most of my songs. Sometimes the idea comes from him and sometimes from me, and we’d build it together.

“I’m blessed to reach places I never thought or even tried to reach such as Southeast Asia.” Image: Courtesy.

Manar Al Hinai: You mainly sing in Classical Arabic, or Fusha Arabic. Is there a reason behind that?

Humood Al Khudher: I guess there are two main reasons: One, simply that I love the Arabic language. It’s very beautiful, very musical and very melodic when you sing it. Even when I was a student in school, the Arabic language class was one of my favourite classes. I used to enjoy it. So, I want to show people how beautiful our language is, make them proud of it and make it cool! Every country has their own dialect, and there is nothing wrong with that. But it’s important that Classical Arabic remains alive within us, and we know how to communicate with it and read it since it is our official language.I feel so happy when I find out that some institutions outside the Arab world that teach Arabic to non-Arabic speakers use my songs to encourage  their students to learn Arabic. I couldn’t be prouder of that.

The second reason is that I have listeners who are from all over the Arab world, including Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Sudan. So, if I sing in a Khaleeji dialect it may be hard for them to understand our Khaleeji vocabulary. So, singing in Classical Arabic encompasses audiences from all over Arab world, and helps make the song easily widespread and understood by all.

Manar Al Hinai: Tell us about your new album. How is it different from the ones before?

Humood Al Khudher:  It falls within the same umbrella of positive, meaningful, inspirational and motivational songs. It is produced differently, however, because as I am growing older with my fans and listeners, and so the songs have become more mature and more realistic, and that is evident in the first song of the album “Dandin Ma’i” (Hum With Me). It is also evident in the upcoming songs of the album that aren’t released yet. Also, I’m experimenting with new styles and new melodies, which will also be evident in the upcoming songs that have not yet been released.

Manar Al Hinai: You’re extremely popular in Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. Would you say that your audience is bigger inside the Gulf or outside it?

Humood Al Khudher: I’m really blessed and I think it’s a dream for any artist to reach, with their music, as much and as wide of an audience as possible. I’m blessed to reach places I never thought or even tried to reach such as Southeast Asia, and I’m grateful for that. Comparing my audience in the GCC with my audience in SouthEast Asia, my GCC audience is bigger, but comparing my audience in the GCC to those in all the other countries, the total number of my audience outside the GCC region is much bigger.

Manar Al Hinai: From your experience, what kind of messages resonate with the youth the most?

Humood Al Khudher: A lot of different messages, but what’s important is how we present them, in order for them to resonate with the youth. No matter how important the message is, if it isn’t packaged well, it won’t resonate well. In my field, no matter how important the topic or the message of the song is, if the melody isn’t great, if the music production or the lyrics, don’t serve the idea in a good way, then it won’t resonate with the audience. I can’t rely on an important message or an important value and just expect it to resonate with the audience because it’s a good value. No, you have to try hard, as an artist, or as anyone who wants to send messages that would resonate with people. You have to think of how to present them, and the fact that people need to feel that they are sincere and honest. Otherwise, it won’t resonate with them.

Manar Al Hinai: Has the COVID-19 crisis inspired new songs on your end?

Humood Al Khudher: Honestly, no. I haven’t written any song during this period mainly because I’m stuck outside Kuwait and I don’t have any access to my studio, or my music writing elements. However, the current situation with everyone in quarantine, emphasizes the importance of positive music. I have noticed an increase in the number of audiences consuming my music, and my songs that are about uplifting your spirit, especially one of my latest song “Dandin Ma’i” from my latest album. Though the song wasn’t written in the current crisis, if you hear it now, it’s like it was written for this crisis.  It’s about someone talking himself out of a difficult situation, and trying to heal himself, by saying that whatever you’re passing through, whatever you’re going through, it’s going to pass. I’ve seen a lot of people connecting with this song in the current situation, and that encourages me and puts responsibility on me to produce more songs like that, because even if we weren’t going through a global pandemic, even in normal day-to-day life, a lot of people are going through obstacles, and music, especially positive music, is a way for them to heal.

“Dandin Ma’i”, a song from Humood Al Khuder’s latest album.

Manar Al Hinai: Who are your favorite singers from the Gulf?

Humood Al Khudher:. I have a lot of favorite singers from the GCC, but at the top of my mind are Hussein Al Jasmi, Rashid Al Majid, Salah Al Zadjali and Balqees Fathi. I love her songs and I love her voice.

Manar Al Hinai: Favorite song by you to date..

Humood Al Khudher: It changes depending on the time and circumstances. Currently it’s “Dandin Ma’i ” from my latest album, Matha Ba’d? .

Manar Al Hinai: What’s your ultimate goal?

Humood Al Khudher: I’d like to start with my current goal, or career mission, which is producing positive music that inspires people to be the best version of themselves. To be clear, I do recognize that they can’t achieve that only by listening to my music. It’s a combination of a lot of things and mainly hard work from their side. But I do believe that music is a very powerful tool and it has a great effect on people and can help them, inspire them and motivate them to be better versions of themselves. So far, I’m doing that personally, as an artist; I’m creating that kind of music as a single artist.

My ultimate big goal is to create a platform and help produce songs for other artists who would sing meaningful, positive songs. Ultimately, I would like to see positive music become a genre that would include the names of tens or hundreds of artists from the region.

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Manar Al Hinai is the Storyteller-in-Chief of Sekka.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.