Saudi Arabian rapper new genre ambassador
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Quasi Kheder is a nominee for the MTV Europe Awards in the best Middle Eastern Act category. AFP photoMaking hip hop in Saudi Arabia is a bit of a tightrope act, says Qusai Kheder, self-styled ambassador for the genre who has built a niche following for his sex-and-violence free brand of rap music. “Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country, that is where we are from,” the 35-year-old told AFP before performing to a crowd of mostly Arab, largely female, young fans at the Arab World Institute in Paris this month.
“This is our culture, our heritage, and we have reasons to respect it,” said the Riyadh-born young man in leather jacket, grey snood and clipped goatee, whose stage name is simply “Qusai”.
“But at the same time, we don’t have freedom of expression, freedom of speech, so we set up limitations in whatever we do, some people for the fear and some people for the respect.
In 1996 he left to study in the United States, making a name as a DJ and radio personality. Ten years on he returned to a changed Saudi Arabia, he says, where he now runs his own studio in Jeddah though with music still viewed as a sin by the country’s Islamic leaders, it is a “miracle” to be able to perform in public. And when it comes to content, Qusai must tread a fine line.
“In Arabic the majority if not all the songs are talking about love, habibi this, habibi that,” he said.
Peace is the theme of his new album, titled “The Inevitable Change” is an explicit nod to the Arab Spring and its aftermath across the region.
Qusai shot to televised fame as co-host of the network’s “Arabs Got Talent,” the hugely successful Middle East spin-off of the global franchise. He was nominated for this week’s MTV Europe awards in the best Middle Eastern Act category.