When you enter the mystical world of River Sultan, opulent layers of delicate textures fill the sonic space with a tapestry of synthesizers, drum machines, guitars, bass, and piano blending together to softly cradle Sultan’s gentle vocals. Sultan creates music as a means to tell stories that intertwine the human experience at the center where east meets west. He releases his second single “Falling Out Of Time,” a song that he wrote, performed and self-produced. The song recently premiered on San Diego’s 91X “Loudspeaker” show.
Growing up in Jordan, San Diego, and Egypt, the dichotomy of straddling those worlds has allowed Sultan to create music that comes from a very distinct vantage point, derived from the influences of both cultures and combining his love of western artists such as Pink Floyd, David Gilmour (the reason he began playing guitar), Thom Yorke, Radiohead, Björk, Suicide, and David Bowie with eastern classical Arabic singers and musicians such as Lebanese singer Fairouz as well as artists from the golden era of Egypt including Um Kulthum, Farid El-Atrach, Abdel Halim Hafiz, and renowned composer Mohammad Abdel Wahhab. Living in those places has given Sultan a greater sense of love and appreciation for Arabic and English music. “While I was living in Egypt I performed with various Arabic musicians and bands and played many different styles of music.”
But for Sultan, music means so much more. It’s a safe space and a place of healing, after overcoming multiple traumas and personal struggles including taking care of his brother who is now recovering from psychosis. “There were many sleepless nights and upsetting events linked to his condition,” says Sultan. “So I put my l life on hold to take care of my family until my brother was more stable. He is now doing a lot better but it was the most difficult five years of my life. During that time, making music was the only thing that helped me cope.”
Sultan’s musical journey has only just begun. He released his very first single “Purple Shelter” during the beginning of the pandemic and the start of his healing process when he realized he could just let all of his anxiety go. On his latest single, “Falling Out Of Time,” Sultan laments about his fear that it may be too late for him live out his dream of making music his career after all he’s been through and that his absolute passion for creating music will never be fulfilled because of it. “I cried through every step of the process making this song. With every note and sound I added, I was in complete tears.”
Sultan makes music with an open heart and from a place of vulnerability which allows for something very honest to be produced. Born Fadi Masad, he chose to change his name to River Sultan to remind him that he is in control and the ruler of his own destiny. “The name ‘River’ always captivated me. It is my favorite western name. Very mystical, constantly flowing. I chose ‘Sultan’ to always remind myself of the power that I hold. A reminder that I can overcome any situation no matter how difficult. I don’t see myself regal or better than anyone else, but I am the sultan of my own inner kingdom that I’ve created.” And after all he has learned and been through he would love nothing more to make music to help people through difficult situations and to let them know that growth and even beauty can be pulled from even the darkest of places.