K-Pop star AleXa and Kuwaiti-Saudi artist Bader Al Shuaibi
K-Pop star AleXa and Kuwaiti-Saudi artist Bader Al Shuaibi Image Credit: Spotify

The Korean wave has again swept up to the shores of the Middle East, this time in an extra special way. Kuwaiti-Saudi artist Bader Al Shuaibi and K-Pop star AleXa have collaborated on a new track set to release on May 21.

‘Is It On’ releases under the Spotify’s RADAR programme and is the first time the streaming giant has facilitated such an effort.

RADAR MENA showcases rising artists from the region such as Al Shuaibi, whose music is streamed most in Saudi Arabia, UAE, the United States and Kuwait. AleXa was the first RADAR Korea artist to join the program after its official launch in August 2020. She was also the second most streamed RADAR KOREA artist globally in 2020.

“It’s 2021, we barely see any borders between cultures and people. This project is the child of globalisation and my personal love for Korean Pop culture. AleXa is an extremely talented artist and together I believe we created the coolest cross-cultural collaboration, ever,” said Al Shuaibi.

According to a statement, this unique mashup is a reflection of K-Pop’s soaring popularity in the Middle East and North Africa — there was a 140 per cent year on year increase in K-Pop consumption in the MENA region from January 2020-2021. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Morocco, Egypt and Qatar are currently the top five MENA countries streaming K-Pop music.

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“I’m so grateful for this collaboration. It’s a fresh, never-heard-before mix of cultures and sound. I really can’t wait for our fans to hear this track all over the world,” said AleXa.

“In our continued efforts to blur the boundaries of the global music landscape, we cooked up this next RADAR collaboration with a focus on K-Pop and Khaleeji Pop from the Gulf region. K-Pop is performing amazingly well across the world, but especially so in the Gulf, where we see K-Pop releases shoot to the peak position on charts,” said Wissam Khodur, Artist & Label Partnerships at Spotify MENA. “Equally as important is opening up the export market to artists both ways, growing their fan bases globally and paving the way for more opportunities in their career development.”

This collaboration has been a year in the making. While the track will be fully owned by both artists’ labels, Spotify oversaw the project starting with connecting the two artists to financial and marketing support — there’ll even be billboard placements in New York Times Square as well as social media support.