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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Futaim Al Falasi is forging ahead with her online Arabic radio series – Taim Show

The young Emirati RJ Futaim Al Falasi is one of the first Emirati to produce an online radio show – 40,000 people all over the Middle East tune in every week.
Futaim Al Falasi, left, and Yazen Bakjaji, an audio engineer, record a podcast of Taim Show in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
Futaim Al Falasi, left, and Yazen Bakjaji, an audio engineer, record a podcast of Taim Show in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
Futaim Al Falasi leads a double life. During the week, she has a job on the front desk of a bank in her hometown of Dubai. But on Saturdays, the 22-year-old drives to Abu Dhabi to produce her own online Arabic radio programme, Taim Show, which about 40,000 people tune into from all over the Middle East.

Al Falasi, a member of twofour54's Creative Lab community and a visual communications graduate, has the distinction of being one of the first Emirati women to establish an internet radio show – rated on www.spreaker.com as the most-played programme in the Arab region. These days, Al Falasi uses twofour54's high-tech Creative Lab to record her shows, which she then uploads on spreaker.com. It's a far cry from when she first started out: almost two years ago, as a visual communications student at Zayed University, when she made the show from her bedroom with only a microphone and a laptop.

Al Falasi comes from a family where media is often the topic of conversation around the dinner table. Her father started the Al Wasl Football Club (which once had Diego Maradona as its manager), so was often in the news himself, and her mother used to work for a newspaper in an administrative role.

“My mum adores media and always wanted to be a journalist, but it never happened,” says Al Falasi. “She spent a long time convincing my father about me, but at first he completely rejected the idea of me being in the media. Once there was an advertisement in the newspaper for kids to be TV presenters. I showed it to my dad, and he threw the newspaper in my face. But as I grew older and he started seeing me in the media, he became proud of me.”

Al Falasi first dabbled in the media as a student, when she published an English magazine titled Yolo (You Only Live Once), which she describes as “sharing Dubai with the Emiratis”. She made four YouTube episodes of the magazine, featuring interviews with celebrities. An episode on Shamma Hamdan, the first female Emirati to make it to the finals of Arabs Got Talent, got more than a million views.

By the time she was 21, Al Falasi had experimented with visual and print media, but was yet to begin working with audio.

“I found www.spreaker.com, where you can make an online radio show that's free for the first 30 minutes. In my first episode, I talked about my experience with those four celebrities who featured in Yolo magazine. I wanted it to sound like I was chatting to a friend. When you listen to Arabic radio stations, they are usually serious and formal. But my show was more accessible.”

Al Falasi was inspired by English-language shows that she listened to, such as On Air with Ryan Seacrest. But her own show is in Arabic – with a dash of English – and the songs she plays are Khaliji style.

But she found it tricky to juggle all the aspects of the radio show on her own. “It was a struggle doing the show in my bedroom. I recorded the show live, so I had to put on songs while I was reading the script,” she recollects. So she approached twofour54, where she was given access to its Creative Lab.

For the past nine episodes, Al Falasi has been producing her shows at the Creative Lab and in that time her online listeners have doubled.

Half of Al Falasi's listeners are Emirati, 40 per cent are Saudi and the rest come from as far away as Somalia and Syria. Most of her fans are female, though she does have a substantial male following. “I think the men are listening in to figure out how females think,” she says.

The main part of Al Falasi's show involves sharing what she's heard from her listeners: every Thursday, she posts questions on Instagram, the reads out the replies on her show. She also discusses the latest apps and tech products. She also posts movie reviews and shares celebrity gossip.

“I might compare Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's wedding to weddings here,” says Al Falasi. “Sometimes, I get celebrities to phone in. And I talk about weird news that I find online, like the men who sent a burger up into space. I told listeners: ‘If you're on a plane, and you suddenly see a burger flying through the air, don't be shocked.'”

During the last segment, she talks about life, hope, friendship and other topics that touch the hearts of her listeners, “so the show always ends on a positive note”.

Her next step is getting sponsors and advertising revenues, so she can start earning money from her media work and give up her bank job. Al Falasi hopes to become a prominent television entertainment-news presenter.

In the meantime, she plans to film the season finale of Taim Show in front of a live audience at twofour54 and put it on YouTube, with hopes of having it broadcast on mainstream television, too.

“In the UAE, you don't find females presenting entertainment news on television – just news, health, style ... that kind of thing. It's hard for people to accept hearing a woman talking about music and stars. I hope I can be an inspiration to young Emirati girls.

“I was asked before if I would like to present a politics show and I said I would do it to appear on TV. But if you give me an entertainment-news show, I would give my all to it. I would be myself, because it's what I love doing.”

• Follow Futaim Al Falasi's Taim Show on www.spreaker.com

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