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Shifting sounds: Saudi musician EON talks reinvention

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BELGRADE: “I have this weird connection with eternity.” So says Jeddah-based songwriter and producer Sliman Dawood, discussing his ‘stage name’ of EON — an apt artistic epithet considering his proclivity for playing the long game.

Dawood is certainly not intimidated by wholesale reinvention. Only a couple of years ago, he was better known as Jinx, an up-and-coming rapper, when he had a change of heart.

“I was going through a transition, personally and musically,” he says, “so I felt that name didn’t suit me anymore. My horizons were expanding, I was experimenting with my sound to find something that actually works for me, and things just fell into place with ‘EON.’”

Only a couple of years ago, he was better known as Jinx, an up-and-coming rapper, when he had a change of heart. (Supplied)

One major aspect of Dawood’s evolution was his focus on broadening his range as a performer. “I really worked on my voice, which allowed me to be a lot more diverse in the way that I approach my music,” he explains. “From an emotional perspective, being able to sing hits all the right notes, so to speak.”

As EON, the composer has not yet played a single show and is currently working on his debut album. But the handful of singles he has released thus far have already caught the eye (and ear) of Saudi indie label Wall of Sound Records, who signed Dawood at the end of 2020.

“Everyone there is like family to me. The conventional wisdom is that you fear and distrust record labels, but with Wall of Sound, they not only help me as an artist, but on a personal level, too. It’s almost like having a therapist. That’s how great they are.”

One major aspect of Dawood’s evolution was his focus on broadening his range as a performer. (Supplied)

The self-assurance and comfort that he draws from the relationship with his label are evident in the way Dawood has crafted his Wall of Sound releases to date. The seamless fusion of ethereal synthwave, electro-R&B beats and delicate vocal passages that define 2020’s “Again” are a clinical showcase of a promising emerging talent coming into his own.

Last year’s “Precious Nightmare” saw Dawood take a turn into darker, more pensive territory with nocturnal instrumentation that only serves to further illustrate the musician’s depth and confidence in his newfound identity. Fans took notice, too; the track garnered more than 300,000 streams on Anghami during its first week on the platform.

“I have a clear vision for what I want. I feel it’s important to keep it diverse, but I’m also trying to lock in a specific sonic character. There will be songs that are more hip-hop/trap sounding, while others will have a more R&B flavor,” Dawood tells Arab News. “I usually tell stories about my own experiences, and now I feel a shift happening in my life, so the music is definitely going to reflect that.”

His passion for musical exploration is equally fueled by what he sees in the local and regional scene around him. (Supplied

0Dawood’s self-professed eclecticism is on display on “Gemini,” his most recent release. Elegantly atmospheric and irresistibly rhythmic at the same time, the track is, he says, “about love and how much change I can see around me. There’s a new world just around the corner… I wanted to convey the feeling of warping through two different lives.”

Dawood is an avid gamer and admits that “it can be a way to procrastinate, but I try to turn it into a strength, especially when it comes to story-based games with rich, relatable worlds and inspiring soundtracks.” He also cites a varied range of influences, from Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West to rock acts like Evanescence and Pierce The Veil.

His passion for musical exploration is, however, equally fueled by what he sees in the local and regional scene around him. “I’m excited by how much talent we have not only in Saudi but around the Middle East in general. People are constantly innovating by combining different styles of music and engaging in the kind of experimentation that we need to make our mark on a wider scale.”

As he continues to craft his debut album and looks ahead to first performances as EON, Dawood is keeping one eye on his sense of duty to the community. “The way I hope to represent all of that is to show that we can make music that stays true to our influences but also has a special flavor to it that makes it very unique,” he says. “The creativity is there, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”


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