*Channeling Kanye West Through Art, Wine and Food

Naushad Huda

Imagine an event where rapper and provacateur Kanye West’s music is interpreted through paintings and paired with a five course tasting menu of food and wine. That’s precisely the synergy that will unfold on April 12 in Laguna Beach, courtesy of local startup, I Like This Grape.(see related calendar event here: https://www.ocstartupsnow.com/community-calendar/sommx-channeling-kanye-west-through-art-wine-and-food/). There are only 100 tickets available to this event.

The experimental event is called SOMMX (https://www.sommxevents.com/), first in a series of themed wine experiences hosted by young, hip sommeliers and intended to evoke multiple senses through food, wine, performances, art, and special guests — all centered around culturally-relevant themes that won’t be repeated.

It’s the brainchild of Naushad Huda, co-founder of XTOPOLY, an agency that focuses on digital strategy, UX, and UI for national and global brands. XTOPOLY was acquired last year by a global, Finland-based software company, Vincit.

Huda created I Like This Grape, a digital platform aimed at millennials with the goal of making wine culture relatable to modern audiences. The SOMMX events are under the auspices of this startup, launched in early 2016.

The celebrity sommelier for the April 12 event will be Amelia Singer, an award-winning educator and wine expert on ITV’s the Wine Show and California Wine Institute’s UK Ambassador.

Why use Kanye West as inspiration?

“His music transcends time and is being used as a springboard to the art, food and wine,” Huda said. “The benefit of using an artist like Kanye West as an impetus is his vast catalog of music that spreads across many styles…Also he has certainly been an influence in culture from fashion to music to…stage production through his company Donda.”

West’s music will be paired with wines from Spain.

“Spain is an underrated region that has so much to offer,” Huda said. “It’s not as seemingly pretentious (like) France, nor is it as complicated as Italy, speaking strictly from a varietal perspective…”

But wait, there’s more to tantalize the senses.

Local, multi award-winng artist Kathy Lajvardi – who is Huda’s wife –  will unveil five original abstract art pieces -created specifically for this event and theme.


Each of the five courses will start with Lajvardi revealing a painting and explaining how it was inspired by a particular Kanye West song, and how that inspired the course, which then inspired the wine.

“This happens for five courses in an event space that looks like a gallery, with 20-foot high ceilings, white walls, concrete flooring and no tables and chairs,” Huda said.

It will be presented as a tasting menu, with servers passing trays around. The menu will be created and cooked on-site by Top Chef alum Brian Huskey.

Synergy at Work and Home

Huda met Lajvardi more than a decade ago at a creative event in Los Angeles. At that time, she was working in the movie industry, including doing motion graphics and art for feature film trailers, like “Iron Man,” as well as commercial work for the likes of Mazda and Apple.

Huda soon hired her at Xtopoly as art director. He credits his muse for Xtopoly winning more than 15 awards in eight years.

“She has a unique visionary sense when it comes to art,” he said.

As she chose each Kanye West song to be paired, she went through all his albums and listened to each song.

“Once I heard a particular song that moved me, I knew it had to be in the show,” she said. “I have always been inspired by Kanye’s music, the passion that you feel when listening to how layered the music is and (the fact) that his music influenced culture inspires me. I started my career in advertising so whenever there was a project that I knew had to be the best, I would put on Kanye’s music, rock out and my work ended up with so much passion that came through the music through me. … The pieces are passionate, sexual and full of vibrancy and you can feel the passion in them.”

Inaugural Event

April 12 will be the inagruaral SOMMX event. Naushad said the long-term goal is to solidify the process, cement the business model and scale SOMMX in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

His short-term goal for the event is for “guests to come and have a multi-sensory experience with wine and culture (and) walk away not exactly being able to define what they experienced, but knowing it was f***ing awesome.”

He emphasized that tickets to this event are limited. RSVP at SommXevents.com.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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