Wissam Khodur, a.k.a Eslam Jawaad, joins PopArabia as VP of A&R and Acquisitions

Photo courtesy of PopArabia
Wissam Khodur, a.k.a. Eslam Jawaad.

PopArabia, the MENA-based music publisher and music rights consultancy is hiring Wissam Khodur, a.k.a. Eslam Jawaad as its Vice President, A&R and Acquisitions, the company announced Wednesday (July 5).

The exec and rapper will be based out of the United Arab Emirates and will report to PopArabia’s Founder and CEO, Hussain Yoosuf, a.k.a. Spek.

Most recently, Khodur was Spotify’s Head of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s Artist and Label Partnerships.

His CV also includes a stint as Executive Director at Quincy Jones’ G3 and Director of Special Projects at Ringz & Partners Entertainment, the company behind Wu Tang Clan’s single-copy album and NFT Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

Khodur was credited as Co-Executive Producer on that album, which holds Guinness records for most valuable album as well as most valuable NFT.

Khodur’s 2009 debut rap album, The Mammoth Tusk, is notable for its collaborations with Damon Albarn and De La Soul, along with Wu Tang Clan members RZA, GZA and Cilvaringz, among others. He has also lectured at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School.

PopArabia founder Yoosuf has had an illustrious career as the rapper Spek, a member of the 1990s Canadian rap group Dream Warriors, known for their hit song My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style. He has toured with jazz-rap group Us3, and collaborated with Jamiroquai and Nitin Sawhney.

“This is more than a role to me, I am joining a family,” Khodur said in a statement. “I’ve been watching Spek make moves from day one, and there has always been a mutual respect there. I am thoroughly excited to bring my passion and energy to further the PopArabia mission.”

“Wissam is a seasoned music industry executive with over 20 years of experience, established relationships and credibility in this region,” Yoosuf added. “His keen ear will help us bring in new talent, and his industry expertise will create exciting opportunities for our roster. I’m thrilled to welcome him as we write the next chapter in the PopArabia story.”

Yoosuf launched PopArabia in the UAE in 2011 with the help of twofour54, an initiative of the Abu Dhabi government that, among other things, provides a media duty free zone that counts CNN and Sky News Arabia among the many companies in its jurisdiction.

PopArabia  describes itself as “the leading music publisher and an independent music company in MENA.”

The company represents the catalogs of Sony Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management, Concord Music, Peermusic, Downtown Music Publishing, and Kobalt Music Publishing, among others.

“This is more than a role to me, I am joining a family. I’ve been watching Spek make moves from day one, and there has always been a mutual respect there.”

Wissam Khodur, PopArabia

Its music rights division is responsible for the launch of ESMAA, the first rights management entity for music in the Persian Gulf countries, and represents the rights of regional music and global performing, mechanical and neighboring rights organizations.

The company highlights its position “at the forefront of advocacy for music rights in the region,” and earlier this year, it sued Abu Dhabi-headquartered music streaming service Anghami for allegedly streaming unlicensed songs.

In 2020, PopArabia struck up a partnership with New York-headquartered music rights company Reservoir Media, with the goal of signing and promoting Arab artists. Under the joint venture, Yoosuf took on the role of leading Reservoir’s international and emerging markets strategy, which has proven to be a core part of Reservoir’s mission.

On a recent earnings call, Reservoir Founder and CEO Gholnar Khosrowshahi said the company is working “to become the largest holder of Arabic music copyrights.”

So far, the joint venture has signed Egyptian superstar Mohammed Ramadan, Moroccan rap pioneer 7liwa and electronic group Bedouin Burger, among others.

The partnership has also made a number of acquisitions, including Egyptian record label 100COPIES and Lebanese label and music publisher Voice of Beirut.Music Business Worldwide

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