UAE-based recording artists are still "lagging in sales and struggling to secure concerts across the market", according to the Dubai-based music label and talent management Co-Sign Kilma.
This, despite a rising level of talent, which has managed to attract the attention of award-winning international artists and a hit television show beyond the Emirates' borders.
Adeniyi Adetokunboh, the manager of Co-Sign Kilma, said tomorrow's "Shouting to Be Heard" forum, in collaboration with Grace & Garbo PR, will be the first time that artists, record labels and event organisers will sit and discuss reasons why UAE-based artists are not getting enough recognition. "This is not about pointing fingers or a protest, it is talking to record labels and event organisers about doing more for local artists and about the artists themselves knowing how to better their craft," said Adetokunboh. "If the labels sit directly in front of artists they are supposedly 'scouting', there needs to be an open dialogue about all issues involved. Like The Doha Debates."
Some 10 artists and DJs will join representatives from record labels such as Sony and EMI and event organisers including Flash Entertainment, Don Events and Fame, tomorrow at MAKE Business hub in Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Residence. "The UAE has a heavy music and events scene and there is always someone performing. It's a huge part of the society, yet, in terms of our own music receiving that same recognition, there is nothing. We are just trying to raise awareness," he said.
"Look at artists like the US rapper Jay-Z. He started off in Brooklyn, people in the South [of the US] did not know about him for example, but because Brooklyn supported him and because New York supported him, he is known internationally. There is no reason why UAE artists can't be supported in that same way."
Adetokunboh highlighted the fact that the level of UAE-based talent is so high that one of the artists they represent, the Lebanese female rapper Malikah, is in talks with the American hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg about collaborating on a song, after Snoop announced he would like to work with her.
"She is so good she is on the same level MC Lyte was and Snoop's producer is the one producing Malikah's album. Look at Hamdan Al Abri, his song was featured on the US show CSI and that's a big deal," he said. "We also have a 21-year-old Emirati rapper called Sain who is so good that the French rapper Abdul Malik, the winner of the French equivalent of the Grammy Awards, wants to work with him."
Sain will be filming his next music video, 1990, at the end of April, which focuses on how Dubai was at that time.
"I look for artists who have an edge, a story to tell," said Adetokunboh, who introduced the For'Tlom Concert Series in October 2011 as a platform for UAE-based artists. The next event will be held on April 19 at The Music Room, Majestic Hotel in Dubai, and will be open to music lovers and invited guests from the industry.
Despite the talent, Adetokunboh said the artists still cannot afford to leave their day jobs and therefore work tirelessly on music every free minute.
"One day, God willing, we will all be able to do this full time," he said. "We also need more support from the local media and venues because at the moment most venues are about calculating the profit. I call it 'the numbers game'."
The main objectives are for event organisers and music labels to get to know local artists and support them, provide workshops, open mic nights and to "listen to them", he added.
The Shouting to Be Heard campaign will launch tomorrow, at 1.30pm in the MAKE Business Hub in Dubai's JBR. For more information visit www.cosignworld.com