x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

2009 refuses to go quietly

Music is the coin of the realm this week as the new year is about to come in with a bang, a beat and some street rhyme.


Of the contenders for your company this New Year's Eve, Rihanna at the Emirates Palace is so clearly the most appealing option that further discussion is redundant. It will be the Barbadian star's first major performance since May, when her ex, the disgraced soul singer Chris Brown, got convicted for assaulting her. Over the past few months, she's reconfigured her image as that of a hyper-dominant, post-apocalyptic road warrior, a traditional move in the career of female pop singers at around their third or fourth album but an oddly courageous one coming from someone with Rihanna's recent personal history. What's more, her new look has seen her dabbling with some intriguingly aggressive sounds: buzzing eight-bit synth tones and seasick harmonies, martial tempos and bass lines that make the Millennium Falcon sound like a Dustbuster. What's not to love? She still has the cutest accent in pop, and if you catch her live there's a good chance you will get to hear the deeper cuts from her new album, Rated R. 2010 has the most futuristic ring to it of any year so far: the least you can do is see it in with someone in studded shoulder pads and an asymmetric haircut.


If you still aren't tempted, the 400 club at the Fairmont Dubai has lined up the hip-hop survivor Fat Joe. Also known as Fat Joe the Gangsta and, to the legal authorities with whom he has occasional dealings, Joseph Cartagena, the generously proportioned rapper has been on the scene for more than 15 years and has continued to turn out a respectable ratio of hits long into the present decade. His single Lean Back held the No 1 slot in the US charts across the end of summer 2004 and this year's album, Jealous Ones Still Envy 2, features star turns from such noted auto-tune enthusiasts as Lil Wayne, T-Pain and Akon. Along with his address book full of contemporary hip-hop's most conspicuous personalities, Fat Joe, who is of Puerto Rican descent, brings some unusual Latin elements to his music: look out for hints of reggaeton in his backing tracks. In another regard, however, he is absolutely typical of today's jobbing rapper, which is to say his business interests are involved and his IMDb page is bewildering. What was he doing, for instance, in 2006's breakthrough penguinsploitation drama, Happy Feet? Forming a sentimental bond with Miriam Margolyes, one hopes.


Perhaps these options strike you as being a bit too metropolitan for a festival as charged and animistic as New Year's Eve. Perhaps it should be a time for communing with nature, seeing the moon and getting in touch with your inner bongo fiend. If so, Dubai Drums has just what you need. It is celebrating the passage into the Onesies or whatever we'll end up calling them with one of its traditional desert camps out at Gulf Ventures. The package includes a barbecue, camel rides, sand-boarding, shisha, African dance performances and "community drumming through the night".

That last item is the one that really shows what you're made of. I'm quite well disposed to the sound of unaccompanied hand drums myself, but even I would struggle to retain equanimity by the time someone in a shamanic trance started beating out Shang-a-Lang on a djembe under my fly sheet at 4am. Having never taken part in one of Dubai Drums' full moon expeditions, I couldn't say whether such a thing is likely or even possible. The thought does give one pause, though, which isn't what you want when your drum needs whacking. But whatever you choose to do, have a very happy Gregorian new year.

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