As part of the activities surrounding the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Yasalam festivities are cranking up the capital's party vibe. The events began earlier in the month with driving-themed films screened at an open-air theatre, speaking sessions by professional racing drivers and displays of art installations made from vehicle bodies. Starting on Thursday are the much anticipated Yas Island concerts from Beyoncé, Jamiroquai, Kings of Leon and Aerosmith.
And if that's not enough, tonight the Corniche Beach will be transformed into an open-air stage for Beats on the Beach, a series of concerts from a diverse mix of eastern and western artists. Here's our guide to the performers. @Body-SubheadNew:Tonight Kamal Musallam's music is sometimes described as Arabic fusion, a term he sees as referring to his mixing of more traditional Arabic sounds and instruments with a heavy jazz influence.
Originally from Jordan, Musallam has been living in Dubai for the past seven years, during which time he has recorded two albums and accomplished something most musicians never do: invented a new instrument. "It's call the glissentar," he explains. "It's like a fretless guitar with oud strings. It has more flexibility in terms of sound and playability." For the Abu Dhabi show, he will bring with him two other artists with decidedly different backgrounds: Israel Varela, a Mexican drummer and Daniele Cappucci, a bassist from Italy.
"Our different styles make for interesting fusion," he says, adding that the trio will play songs from Musallam's last album as well as some of Cappucci's compositions. Myriam Fares, the Lebanese singer, has been called the "best young singer in the Arab world". Her experience in the performing arts goes back to when she was a young child, having participated in dance, art and singing events, competitions and television shows.
Signing her first record deal at the age of 21, she has since released three albums and performs both classical and more contemporary Arabic music. She has toured the world and along with growing recognition, her brand has expanded. Two perfumes have been launched, both of which coincided with popular singles that were out, the perfumes named after the songs. Her latest album Bet'oul Eh was released in April 2008.
Freshlyground, a seven-member group, have made waves in their native South Africa, not just for their unique sound - a combination of kwela, African folk, blues, jazz and indie rock - but also for their disregard of racial barriers. Since the release of their first album in 2003, the band have attracted audiences as diverse as its members. Last year, Freshlyground signed a deal with Sony BMG Africa. They have captivated American music lovers as well and earned praise for having a fashion sense as interesting as their sound.
They say Fares Karam produces anthems, not just singles. And regardless of whether or not you agree with that statement, Karam's success in gaining fans around the world is impressive, considering that he specialises in more traditional Lebanese songs than other Arabic artists trying to crack the international market. If Karam does nothing else for the Beats on the Beach, his performance is guaranteed to get the audience up and dancing.
@Body-SubheadNew:Wednesday October 28 Music Hall is a collaboration of artists including the Sicilian tenor Tino Favazza, the American jazz singer Bilal, the Palestinian duo The Chehade Brothers and the acrobat Achus Emeis, among others. @Body-SubheadNew:Thursday October 29 Neil Harrison is a 30-year-old advertising man by day and a rock star (or at least musician) by night. He and three of his friends formed a band in Dubai called Beat Antenna. Their humble beginnings playing at open-mic nights gradually morphed into something a little more significant as they developed a bit of a following, culminating in the release of their EP earlier this year entitled Half Now Half Later.
Starting off by adopting a "British rock and roll" sound, Harrison says that the band has now developed a style with a much wider appeal. "It's different here because Dubai is so cosmopolitan. They're not so big on indie music, they're more into dance," he explains. "What we do is more raw, passionate rock and roll. And our gigs are getting bigger. We've opened for the Charlatans and Keane." Currently in talks with record labels about putting out another album, Harrison says the band's priorities are shifting slightly away from their day jobs and more toward music.
They're being "realistic; we have to pay the bills", but they are far from dreading the day when they hang up their business suits permanently. "I love performing. It's the best thing in the world. To express yourself is one thing, but to do it as a band is pretty amazing." Soul II Soul began playing parties in Britain in the late 1980s and reached household-name status with their 1989 hits Keep on Movin' and Back to Life. At the peak of their fame they won Grammys and even launched a clothing line.
Their last album was released in 1997, but the group has continued to release singles. Hussein al Jasmi, the Emirati singer, has attracted attention recently for being the voice behind Siraa Ala Al Rimal, a popular Arab TV programme. Not surprisingly, fan forums talk about little other than the man's voice and the romanticism of his music. His career in music began at the age of 17. The trance act Above and Beyond made their name playing music festivals in the UK, including Creamfields - which is scheduled for Abu Dhabi in December - and Amnesia in the Spanish party town of Ibiza. They also have a weekly radio show Trance Around the World. The trio first performed together to enthusiastic crowds in Japan. Since their initial ascent in the international DJ scene, they have hosted one of the largest events in the world in Rio de Janeiro, performing to more than one million people.
@Body-SubheadNew:Friday October 30 Hamdan al Abri says he belongs on the stage. One of the four members of Dubai-based band Abri, the 28-year-old describes their sound as a mix of soul, jazz and reggae. Playing with one other Dubai native and two British nationals, Abri credits his family for their support of his foray into the music world."My dad is a musician as well," he says, listing a slew of instruments his father has mastered.
The band have released two albums to date and are currently working on a third. Last year they were nominated at the MTV European Music Awards and Abri says he'd love the band to do a world tour. "We have something for everyone; all nationalities and age groups. We hope everyone can get lost in the music," Abri says, adding that this will be the band's second time playing in the capital, the first being at the Middle East Music Festival at the Emirates Palace.
Ragheb Alama has been performing since he was eight years old and has released 15 albums, many of which have become bestsellers around the Middle East. At 47 years old, the Lebanese star is guaranteed to put on quite a show. He appeared on a Lebanese children's programme called Studio el Phan as a child, which earned him a platinum award. In addition to singing he plays the oud. Alama is no stranger to Formula One either. In 2006 he participated in a celebrity race in Bahrain, coming in third.
Timbaland, the American producer and performer almost needs no introduction. If this Virginia-born, Grammy award-winner is involved in a track's production it seems that hit status is almost guaranteed. When his music career began, Timbaland's role in production meant he was out of the public eye, occasionally recording a verse or two on certain tracks. More recently he has become a bigger part of the act, releasing two albums and featuring in music videos and in songs that he produces. Having collaborated with Missy Elliot, Aaliyah and Justin Timberlake, to name a few, Timbaland's set will no doubt include some tracks the audience can sing along to.
Danny Neville, also known as MTV Arabia's official DJ, has been spinning tracks since he was 17, when he became the youngest radio personality in the Middle East. His first on-air slot was the 2am to 6am shift, but an impressive knowledge of music meant he quickly gathered a following, made a name for himself and now hosts The Edge show on Radio 1, Saturdays from 7pm to 10pm. @Body-SubheadNew:Saturday October 31
Hailing from a small Bedouin village in Sinai, the acoustic trio Dahab have been described as "ethnic rock with a 1970s influence". The band are based in Dubai and have performed at events such as the Dubai International Jazz Festival and Peanut Butter Jam. They have also shared the stage with fellow Beats on the Beach performers The Wailers. Known most famously for playing with reggae legend Bob Marley, The Wailers still attract a crowd, having sold more than 250 million albums globally.
The Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki released his first album in 2003. Performing R&B and pop music, he broke onto the Arab world's music scene after the release of Al Helw Yehib el Heneya, a song released on a compilation album in 1996. He has since released five albums. Meanwhile, attention turns to the UAE for the final act of the weekend's line-up. The house DJ and fixture on the Dubai scene Charl Chaka will round off proceedings in his own inimitable style.
For more details see www.yasalam.ae