Dubai’s Analog Room celebrates two years of turning music into art
The room is a dark, cavernous underground space, with oppressive black concrete walls. Overhead, glaring strobes dazzle, and in front, scores of blissed-out bodies move to an invisible rhythm. From the speakers blares a beguiling mix of electronic glitches, beeps and beats. Welcome to Analog Room.
Celebrating two years in Dubai on Thursday, November 27, this alternative club night is the living, breathing antithesis to the stereotype of Dubai nightlife. Visit on a Thursday night and you won’t find a dress code, table reservation or sparkler in sight. You may not find hummable melodies, or even recognisable tunes – but you will find a whole lot of spirit, soul and art.
Hosted at Dubai’s Q Underground, the night attracts hundreds of clubbers every week, and was founded by a group of audio engineers who, naturally, are connoisseurs of exotic and eclectic sounds.
“Dubai is a place for people who are here to work. There’s not much focus on music, so what you get is very pop and commercial,” says the ringleader Mehdi Ansari. “When you study audio engineering, they teach you pop music is the music that’s been made to sell – what we’re into is art music.”
The night’s “art music” has underground DJs and producers dropping across-the-board electronic sounds, normally broadly house or techno, with excursions into bass and other genres.
It hosts up-and-coming electronic international names most weeks, often playing five-hour sets from 10pm to 3am, and has booked DJs such as Delano Smith and Vakula before they were as popular as they are now.
When I meet Ansari, 30, for morning coffee, he’s visibly tired. He was out until the early hours entertaining last week’s guest DJ, A Guy Called Gerald.
A self-confessed global “professional party person” Ansari, originally from Iran, was unhappy with the limited nightlife options on offer in his adopted home. After graduating from Dubai’s SAE Institute in 2012, he teamed up with brother Salar, a fellow audio engineering student, and friend Siamak Amidi, the night’s party director, and set out to start a club night that took its cue from the sounds and ethos he’d found in clubs in Europe and the US.
“Here the nightclub culture comes from the south of France – clubs with tables and bottles and rich people showing off – it’s not easy to find art music here,” he says. “I saw many good DJs in Dubai but they are always having their worst day – if you’re from the Berlin scene and you come here, and are paid thousands to play in this posh place to these posh people, you don’t know what to do – the DJs freak out.”
They were all set to begin in November 2012 but the team’s planned launch venue fell through at the last minute, when Ansari had five headline DJs booked, at a personal expense of Dh70,000. They hosted five weekly parties at Barsha’s tiny Catwalk club, making little of their investment back.
Early last year, Analog Room launched in the venue they’ve long been associated with, The Q Underground, a disused basement space below a sports bar in the Holiday Inn, Al Barsha.
“The space was nothing – a dark basement with no sound system, no lights, nothing – and we said we want to make this the best place in Dubai,” says Ansari, who also goes by the DJ name Shemroon.
Making money doesn’t seem to be on Ansari’s list of priorities, and nor do exposure or accolades – he typically avoids press promotion and returns awards.
“It’s not a business, it’s an art place,” adds Ansari. “We started Analog Room to educate young people about art music, to create culture and make history.
“We have zero ego, we have zero pride and we don’t think we’re something special – we just think we’re different. People didn’t have anything like Analog Room before.
“We did good, we changed things. The scene is not what is was before Analog Room – we made people care.”
• Analog Room, every Thursday from 10pm at The Q Underground, Holiday Inn Al Barsha, Dubai. The second anniversary will be celebrated on November 27 with a guest slot from Detroit’s Theo Parrish. Techno pioneer and fellow Detroit native Derrick May headlines on December 4. Entry is Dh75, free for women before midnight; www.analogroom.com
Updated: November 25, 2014 04:00 AM