x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai's Fatiniza follows in the footsteps of Shakira

Louder and grittier than her countrywoman, the singer Fatiniza is preparing for a string of public appearances in her native Colombia after releasing her record, Confusion.

Fatiniza's debut album was recorded in Dubai, and produced by local studio whizz Josh Williams. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Fatiniza's debut album was recorded in Dubai, and produced by local studio whizz Josh Williams. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

As a musician, few things are as irksome as being directly and (usually) unfavourably compared with another artist. Take the example of Bush, the 1990s grunge band, who for most of their career were continually likened to Kurt Cobain's Nirvana. And who could forget how many critics have claimed - with some reasonable justification - that the Britpop band Oasis spent the majority of their career simply plundering the Beatles' illustrious back catalogue for inspiration.

Mud, of course, has a habit of sticking. It's enough to frustrate even the most thick-skinned of rock stars, some of whom are known to walk out of interviews whenever a hapless reporter dares to make an ill-conceived comparison.

Not so Fatiniza, the Dubai-based Colombian-born singer.

Upon meeting this blonde songstress, with her fiery stage presence and unmistakable Latin American heritage, you can't help but think of another Colombian artist who, as you will no doubt recall, has recently performed on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island. No prizes for guessing who we're talking about here.

"Sure, I've gotten used to being compared to Shakira. We are both Colombians, and we have similar looks," Fatiniza explains, the mistress of understatement.

"There was a time when I avoided the comparison. I even tried to change my hairstyle. But then I realised my music is different, and that it [shouldn't] take much for people to see that."

Indeed it shouldn't. Fatiniza's debut album Confusion is evidence of her individuality. Recorded in Dubai, and produced by local studio whizz Josh Williams, the album is grittier and louder than anything Shakira has so far released. It is also loaded with attitude.

"I have a strong character," says Fatiniza. "My confidence shows in my music."

It's a sentiment that is all too evident in her lyrics, especially in the swaggering Babe Come On, which features the lines: "I know you like what you see ... No one gives you what I have."

Though Fatiniza's confident tone of voice serves as a signature on every track, the album covers more than one side of her personality. The One is a syrupy ballad that has Fatiniza declaring her desire to be "the one that makes everything right when you're falling apart" to her lover.

Hard To Be Your Woman, meanwhile, combines a mellow tempo with silky vocal harmonies. The track is a fan favourite and is one of the best moments on the album.

As with most independent releases in this country, writing, recording and releasing Confusion took a while to complete.

After moving to Dubai to take up a job as lead vocalist in a covers band, Fatiniza performed at various clubs around the city, before deciding she wanted to focus on writing and recording her own music.

That was more than a decade ago, at a time when the UAE's local music scene was populated by a small (some might say tiny) circle of performers with limited opportunities. A time when bands considered themselves lucky to be booked for even a handful of gigs in a year; when receiving radio airplay represented the very height of achievement, and when only the most ambitious dreamt of making a career out of their own material.

"The thing was, I knew that the country was growing quickly. In every way," Fatiniza says. "So I decided that I would like to grow with it. I took my chances."

It paid off. By decade's end, internationally renowned performers were regularly finding their way to Dubai and, latterly, to Abu Dhabi. Local musicians were invited to perform as supporting acts for headline attractions. Fatiniza was among that group. Indeed, she shared the stage with Corinne Bailey Rae at Yas Island last year. Since then, her fan base has blossomed still further.

"My fans are so supportive - they've been following the music from the very beginning. They come out to the gigs and request songs from the album. All of them have a favourite, but mainly it's either Hard To Be Your Woman, The One or Out of Control."

The latter is the album's carrier single, full of booming drums and loud guitars, a gritty ode to dysfunctional relationships.

The track spawned a music video codirected by Ricardo Ramos and the artist and filmed at The Fridge gallery in Dubai. Ramos and Fatiniza were supposed to meet before filming to discuss the project, but with delays to set construction and elaborate costume and make-up preparations, the two barely had time to agree on a shot sequence before recording began.

"The storyboard was in my head," she muses. "But aside from myself and [Ricardo], no one at the set knew what was going on.

"To [the crew], it looked like we just built a white room for the video, shot the sequences, then tore it down."

The video would later enjoy a healthy rotation on MTV Arabia and was widely viewed by fans on YouTube. More importantly, it secured Fatiniza some long overdue recognition in her home country.

"I got a call from the general manager of Millennium Records in Colombia. He told me they wanted to release the album there."

Millennium Records is a Grammy-winning label, and is home to many successful acts in South America.

"It was so exciting," enthuses Fatiniza. "That was when my management and I decided to finally take the band to South America."

She will be touring Colombia this summer to promote Confusion, starting with a string of shows in the capital, Bogota, before heading to Cali, Medelin and Bucaramanga.

With the album scheduled to be released in her home country on June 1, a series of media appearances and live shows have been mapped out, while Spanish versions of her two singles Out of Control and Confusion are currently being recorded in Dubai.

Now it seems, after 10 years as an independent artist, Fatiniza is reaping the rewards. And it may not be long before she might be able to step out of the shadow of that other Colombian artist. You know, the one we mentioned earlier.

Michael Fillon is a Dubai-based musician and the organiser of 2003's Turbulence, the UAE's first music festival exclusively for unsigned artists. He is also the vocalist and chief songwriter of groovecore rock band Sandwash.