x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Backstage at Beats on the Beach was a surreal mix

From Akon to Tamer Hosny, Melanie Chisholm and a group of young children, everyone mixed together backstage at Beats on the Beach.

The weekend’s Beats on the Beach on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche once again confirmed it as one of the best music festivals in the -region.

Those saddened at Womad’s absence this year would have enjoyed the multicultural sounds on offer – Khaleeji, Arab pop, rock, hip-hop and soul.

While the artist line-up and performance times are organised with a curator’s eye, the backstage action is a surreal clash of cultures and showbiz.

It was an area where rockers lounged on bean bags beside DJs, children rehearsed and a Spice Girl could enjoy a nice cup of tea.

Backstage also offers a glimpse of how an artist runs his or her crew, each style giving an insight into the performer’s  personality.

Melanie Chisholm’s down-to-earth attitude is not just for show – she easily mixed with the crowd backstage and generally seemed to be enjoying her first Abu Dhabi experience.

The rapper Akon’s crew worked with military precision. Arriving not long before showtime, the entourage had everything set up for the white-clad rapper before he arrived.

Akon also had a car running backstage to whisk him away to his Skybar gig as soon as he stepped off the Corniche stage.

Cee Lo Green may be a barrel of energy on stage, but his upbeat performance was matched by his serious preparations behind the scenes.

Sipping a cup of tea with lemon, the singer had the concentration of a monk as he relaxed in his dressing room a few minutes before his name was called.

You had to admire the focus displayed by other artists on Thursday’s bill, because the dozen or so kids who were part of the Egyptian pop star Tamer Hosny’s performance crew were making a racket as they practised their own stage entry.

Their enthusiasm touched the road-weary crews.

For a lot of the children, the oldest of whom was in his early teens, this was their stage debut.

The only problem: Hosny was scheduled to play after 1am and for many, that was way past their bedtimes. The bean bags were swiftly occupied.

There is nothing worse than waking up a child mid-sleep, as some minders found out. Even the promise of a big, live thrill wasn’t enough to wipe away the murderous glare of the rudely awoken. However, these children were professionals. Their megawatt smiles as part of Hosny’s performance were a perfect last image of what was a long night.

“Time for bed,” a parent said at the festival’s end. She had a point: it was, after all, 2.30am.

Saeed Saeed is a reporter for The National’s Arts & Life