x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Jam-packed jamming

The Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp arrives in the UAE to throw a rope to musicians needing that extra pull.

Attendees at a previous Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp in Russia. Denis Klero / Red Bull
Attendees at a previous Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp in Russia. Denis Klero / Red Bull

Success in the music business is like reaching Everest Base Camp: it takes commitment, a lot of help from friends along the way and not everybody makes it.

The Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Bass Camp arrives for the first time in the UAE to throw a rope to musicians needing that extra pull.

A star-studded line-up of international DJs and producers, with more than 80 collective years in arguably the hardest industry to crack, arrives in Dubai on Saturday to celebrate, create and collaborate with 32 of the region’s most prominent musicians.

The DJ Gerd Janson, the American hip-hop producer Just Blaze, the electronic musician Derrick May, the world renowned UK producer Gareth Jones and the Grammy-nominated dance-music guru Kenny Dope are just a handful of the professionals who will swap songs for speeches and take the floor in Dubai as international lecturers.

The German DJ Janson has been part of the RBMA team since 2005 and will attend his first Bass Camp experience in Dubai.

Janson got involved to help bands find a break. “Local talent turns, if all goes well, into global talent and it’s important to support that,” he says. “It’s like passing the torch.”

Most famous for his classical house and dreamy disco, Janson holds residencies at two of the best clubs in Germany, Robert Johnson and Panorama Bar. When he’s not behind the decks, he’s reviewing the latest 12-inch singles for German music reads Spex and Groove as well as making some of today’s most daring dance music for his own Running Back label.

Attributing his success in the music business to a “complete lack of talent and skill in real life”, Janson says he never would have succeeded without support from DJs.

“I couldn’t do anything else,” he says. “DJs became friends and gave me a chance.”

Held in Beirut for the past two years, the RBMA is a world-­travelling series of music workshops and festivals. Launched in 1998, it has been traversing the globe for venues in Berlin, Cape Town, São Paulo, Barcelona, London, Toronto, New York and ­beyond.

This year, the three-day academy takes place at Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood, previously known as Al Bastakiya, featuring artists from Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Syria, India, Pakistan and of course, the UAE.

Probably the most eagerly anticipated of the pros is NYC’s Just Blaze, a friend of and collaborator with Jay Z. Blaze’s signature style of East Coast rap has remained a staple among soul-inflected and brass-heavy music. His distinct street edge has opened the door to working with some of the best in the business and, most recently, Blaze has been smashing electronic music, collaborating with Harlem Shake producer Baauer.

Lectures, workshops and studio time provide the bass line, while jam sessions provide the melody before the big crescendo as the musical masterpiece culminates in four club nights featuring performances from both pupil and pro.

The grand finale on Saturday will see all 17 participants on stage at The Majestic Hotel’s Music Room, the birth of a Middle East supergroup. From funk, rock, electronic and a touch of everything in between, this RBMA All-Star Jam Session will bring together musicians from all over the Middle East.

The UAE contingent includes Adriano Konialdis from Desmo Records, Bojan Preradovic from EYE, Dia Hassan from Juliana Down, DJ Sajo, James Locksmith, Jibberish, Henry Bennet, Megadon Betamax, Mr Gremlin, Mr Shef Codes and Rami Lakkis from Bull Funk Zoo.

“Music never truly changes,” says Janson. “Even at this academy we can expect more of the same. Or another circle fulfilled. There’s no revolution in sight but music is still, and will always be, making people happy.”