Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi talks to The Dialogue about his successes, performing on the 2022 FIFA World Cup song and how he's aiming to take Khaliji music mainstream
The Dialogue sits down with inspirational people from across the globe with links to the Middle East and North Africa. Guy Shone explores what drives these extraordinary individuals.
Sitting in an empty theatre is probably an unusual experience for Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi. Normally, the seats would be packed with fans waiting to hear his voice, described as a 'tender baritone.' But it's a closed set at Katara cultural village in Doha, as Fahad's chatting to The Dialogue about his life and career.
"My ambition is to deliver a Gulf song… to the world in a way that doesn't lose its spirit," he says. When asked if the Khaliji music genre he's most famous for can break through, he's positive it will. "Without a doubt," he affirms.
Khaliji music has roots believed to go back more than 1,000 years. Characterised by the heavy use of stringed instruments such as the rebab and oud, it's hugely popular across the Arab world. Fahad says it has close links to other musical genres which have become more popular.
"I think the Gulf song is very close to Indian music and very close to African culture," he says. Rhythms link them, explains Fahad.
"We have rhythms that are related to women. We have rhythms for men. We have rhythms that are played only on certain occasions," he explains. This type of format, Fahad adds, can make it complex to work with.
"Therefore, for songs from the Gulf, it's very difficult to create…a different format while linking it to music," he says. "So, we take a long time to make a song that is close to the original song or link it to…Western music."
Fahad performed the official FIFA World Cup 2022 song 'Dreamers' alongside BTS member Jung Kook. "For me, this was the most beautiful moment in my life, to attend and sing at the opening of the World Cup," he enthuses. "This dream was a big dream…singing in front of more than three billion viewers."
While he described the experience of singing in both Arabic and English as challenging, he was able to perform the record-breaking song effortlessly. "It requires mental presence. It needs focus," he outlines. "But it often has a very beautiful impact…because you win the audience from all communities, whether they listen to Arabic [music] or if they are non-Arabic speakers."
The experience for Fahad was life-changing, as it opened up new possibilities. "It really motivated me…[that] I must perform music in two languages," he says, beaming.
Fahad has already achieved a great deal in his career, including winning a prestigious Hollywood Music in Media Award in the Best in World Music category in 2020. In addition to singing, he has a variety of ambitions inside and outside the music industry he is eager to tackle.
"I needed to be a complete media system through which I could influence…the modern generation," he explains. "I'm very interested in production. I'm interested in having the studio and radio, and I am interested even in the future to have more than one different media outlet."
Those outlets allow Fahad to mentor younger singers trying to navigate an industry often seen as 'hard to crack.' As someone who discovered his own talent at a young age, Fahad has the experience to guide them.
During his career, Fahad has worked with some of the biggest names across the musical spectrum, including Titanic and Avatar composer James Horner. And he's keen to continue collaborating in a bid to reach the broadest possible audience.
"I would like to…work together with a group of international artists on a collection of songs," he says. "So, we can reach the whole world with music."
Fahad's goal is clear, "Music is my passion. I hope people can always see that and my voice continues reaching people," he declares. Given that FIFA's 'Dreamers' has taken the internet by storm, with over 130 million views on YouTube alone, he's already turned several dreams into a reality.