x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Local music scene thrives at Abu Dhabi open mic event

An attempt to provide area performers with a platform has become a monthly open mic night that is proving increasingly popular.

The funk band Session Zone plays at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi's Open Mic Night. Courtesy Sheraton Abu Dhabi
The funk band Session Zone plays at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi's Open Mic Night. Courtesy Sheraton Abu Dhabi

A range of acts will perform during Saturday's Open Mic Night at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort. We talk to the organisers and performers.

Cross genre and generation

What started in May as an attempt to provide local musicians and vocalists with a platform has become a monthly open mic night, and is proving increasingly popular with both audiences and artists.

"The event is growing and we're very happy we found this niche in the Abu Dhabi community event scene," says Martine Venus, the director of public relations at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort and the co-organiser of the event. "We have many local talents on a waiting list, since the interest is overwhelming. We're trying to mix up new and old performers every time and are open for new talent in November."

The event will feature six musical acts including Ill Advise, a rock-pop band; The Gardeners, an original acoustic father-and-son duo; Session Zone, a funk band; Larry Langs, playing acoustic guitar; The International Playboys, who give an original twist to well-known songs, and George Christiansen, playing surfer music on acoustic guitar.

"Unlike karaoke nights, which are very popular in the city, Open Mic Night was created to give local talents a chance to perform with their instruments, whatever it is - any musical talent, as long as it's not karaoke," says Venus.

The setting promises to be comfortable, with beanbags, sofa lounge seats and cushions for the audience to recline on.

"Apart from this, Open Mic Night provides a platform for the musicians to meet each other and find new ways to play and sing together," says Venus.

Collaborate and listen

Past events took the form of spontaneous jam sessions where performers collaborated on the spot.

Larry Langs hopes the event will encourage musicians to bond and partner with each other. The American entrepreneur will play acoustic guitar and sing original songs, including a piece inspired by the poet Robert Fulghum.

"My style is eclectic. I take a little jazz, reggae, rock and ballads and blend the sounds," says Langs, who has entertainment industry experience including a position as the senior vice president of business development for MP3.com. He credits living in 49 different countries with providing unique influences on his musical style.

"I always experiment and pick up elements from places I travel to and have fun with my life," he says. "Events such as Open Mic Night are critical and I was happy to have heard about it. I hope to also support the development of the local music scene in any way I can."

An original cover-up

Staying well away from cliche cover bands are The International Playboys, who have prepared a special set for Saturday night.

The band will also take famous songs by artists such as Rihanna and Flo Rida, and give them an acoustic touch that promises to be original, according to the bass player and vocalist Charles Cutforth, who is originally from the UK.

"This event is very important because it gives entertainers a chance to be seen. It's also very healthy as the event keeps getting better," says Cutforth.

The band also plays Monday to Friday at the capital's Heroes bar in the Crowne Plaza on Hamdan Street.

"We have an across-the-board selection of songs. We always try to stay away from the cover-band label and do not have a backing track. We work a different format into the songs," he says.

melshoush@thenational.ae

The event starts at on Saturday 6.30pm at the B-Lounge, Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort. Entrance is free