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SOULFUL singer Khalid Al Khajah is striking a memorable note in one of the coolest cultural hotspots in the world with his sizzling Bahraini style.
The musician, vocalist and self-taught recording artiste, is wowing audiences in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, regarded as a mecca for culture lovers for being home to numerous events such as the annual Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world.
The 26-year-old has just unleashed a home-recorded track called Body Talk, which clocked up more than a thousand views just days after being released.
“It’s a song about romantic reunions and uncertainty,” he explained. “I wanted to make a simple soul song that would be fun to perform live, so I reached out to my friend Daniel Abrahams who is a fantastic guitarist. I showed him the chords on the piano and we developed the structure together.
“There’s definitely a slight Prince vibe on it, which is cool because he was one of my favourite artists ever.”
Khalid had earlier released a six-track, self-produced EP entitled Open which also received rave reviews and says he was musically-inspired during his teenage years by an American rock band’s song and a tune played on Radio Bahrain 96.5FM.
“I have always loved music, but in terms of specific musical memories I remember listening to Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory on tape and Donell Jones’ U Know What’s Up on Radio Bahrain.
“I started learning how to play the piano when I was 16 but didn’t sing until around five years ago. Now, writing music has become something incredibly personal to me and a lovely alternative to keeping a written journal … and performing on stage gives me an incomparable buzz.
“I perform soul and R&B, probably because when I was growing up everyone in my school picked either R&B/hip-hop or metal to listen to, and I preferred the former. Nowadays, I listen to all sorts of stuff like The Smiths, LCD Soundsystem and Grimes but my love for R&B and soul remains.
“I write my own material inspired by real-life experiences. I usually make a rough instrumental first, then think about structure, then think about the lyrical theme. The lyrics themselves typically come last.”
Khalid attended St Christopher’s School all the way from nursery to Year 13 before moving to Edinburgh to study at the city’s prestigious and historic university as an undergraduate in law and economics before taking a Masters in International Law and Chinese.
“I moved in 2009 for university and have been here ever since, except for a six-month-long exchange programme in Shanghai, China in 2014,” he added.
“I have been a vocalist in the Edinburgh University Jazz Orchestra for five years. That was my introduction to performing, as I had never sung on stage or in a band before that.”
He combines music with a career in banking and finance and recording original material was a natural step to take.” I just decided to do it myself, so I taught myself how to do it and have been on it ever since,” he said. “It’s pretty much just me! I have a few friends who I call up for production advice and occasionally get friends in Edinburgh who play instruments I’m not familiar with to come over and record instrumental tracks. But, besides that, I write and produce everything myself. My entire EP was recorded in my living room.”
Khalid returned to the kingdom for a short trip in late April to visit family and friends. He was born in Awali, grew up near Budaiya, and his parents Waleed and Lamya are now both retired - dad worked in finance and mum was a university lecturer. Their younger student son, Bashar, is currently studying law in London.
Khalid couldn’t resist stepping out on stage in the kingdom for the first time at Calexico Mexican restaurant in Adliya. “It was a lot of fun,” he said. “The only gig in Bahrain I have ever done is the one ‘open mic’ night at Calexico.
“I was amazed with the quality of music and poetry on display, particularly the progressive and forward-thinking themes of the spoken-word performances. It made me very proud to be home that week.”
After his recent recording successes he has a few collaborations and songs on the cards which he promises to share in the near future.
“I look forward to completing and releasing another project soon, to follow my EP Open which I put out in January this year,” he added. “I also look forward to playing more and more gigs, which would be loads of fun and a great way to build a bigger fan-base. I would just like to say ‘thank you’ for the support and kind messages over the last few months from everyone.”
Check out his soulful balled Body Talk and his mention of Bahrain in the message afterwards by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh04SgiUIHs
His debut six-track self-produced EP Open is available now online and on all music streaming platforms such as www.soundcloud.com/kalkhaja, and available to download for free at https://kalkhaja.bandcamp.com/releases.