x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Dubai nightclub The Basement is ready to shuffle things up underground

How the opening of new underground nightclub The Basement is energising Dubai's alternative nightlife scene.
Marko Ben-Aicha at The Basement. Pawan Singh / The National
Marko Ben-Aicha at The Basement. Pawan Singh / The National

“I have just one rule: no commercial music,” says Marko Ben-Aicha sternly, when asked about the booking policy at The Basement, the refreshing new Dubai nightclub he runs.

Better known by his DJ alias Smokingroove, Sandance’s former resident decksmith is a man who knows a good night out.

Booked to spin at all 17 of the Atlantis festivals to date – two scheduled sets were cancelled when the headliners overran – Ben-Aicha helped to start (or finish) some of the biggest parties in town, playing to thousands and taking over the decks from some of the world’s biggest DJs, including David Guetta and Fatboy Slim.

But with that festival’s future still in doubt, Ben-Aicha is taking things underground with his latest venture as the entertainment director of The Basement, an alternative clubbing hot spot.

A dark, underground, minimally decorated spot in Tecom, the 600-capacity space couldn’t be further removed from the alfresco vibes of The Palm’s “five-star music festival”.

But it is The Basement’s booking policy that is its most refreshing aspect, with an open-door approach that offers a platform for many of the emirate’s best alternative club nights, including Dust and GlobalFunk.

The idea came about a year ago when the club space opened, under different management as Ego Urban Lounge, with a 100 per cent hip-hop music policy. Ben-Aicha was sold on the space, but couldn’t stand the music.

“I was in love with the club from the moment I saw it,” he says. “It reminded me of the old-school essence of clubbing: a real underground space, dark walls, low ceilings – everything that every other club in Dubai is not.”

When the venue was relaunched last month as The Basement and Ben-Aicha was hired to move in and define the new club’s ethos, he grabbed the chance to realise his vision.

This included launching the already-popular Thursday night Shibuya, an underground house concept, alongside the Audio Tonic team.

However, it’s the club’s revolving Friday-night slot that could shake the foundations of the city’s alternative scene, offering a regular home to nine new and existing nights – and counting.

Among them is the top disco/hip-hop/house concept Dust, promoters who have been nightlife nomads for too long, and Infusion’s signature drum’n’bass stalwart GlobalFunk, which is now in its 12th year and regularly welcomes genre-defining guests such as Andy C and Roni Size.

Also in the Friday rotation are the underground techno night Stereotype; Trip, a new left-field concept from the Groove on the Grass team; the fresh underground house nights Cassland and House Arrest; the minimal techno event Glitch; the tech house-focused Warped; and the successful retro-flavoured History of House. These are all distinct nights lacking a permanent home, run by independent promoters with their own music policies.

“I pick promoters the way promoters pick DJs – who is cool, current and has their own sound,” says the 36-year-old British expat.

“There are a lot of promoters who are doing amazing things, playing amazing music, but losing half the essence because it’s in the wrong venue. I had the idea of getting all these people under one roof in one club.”

The Basement also hosts a weekly Secret Circle night on Mondays, while Catch is a Wednesday-night event with Miss PM at the helm as resident DJ, showcasing three up-and-coming Dubai DJs every week.

“In the Dubai scene, you always see the same DJs going around all the events, myself included,” says Ben-Aicha. “I wanted a night to give something back to the scene and give some of the younger guys a chance to shine.”

• Visit www.facebook.com/thebasementb7 for the latest listings

rgarratt@thenational.ae