x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Push for more local music on the scene

It's easy to assume the UAE lacks artists, let alone a music scene. But local acts would surely be the first to tell you this is not the case.

Music lovers in the UAE have been spoilt for choice lately. The past few weeks alone we have had visits from artists spanning generations: the 1960s King of Romance Engelbert Humperdinck; the 1980s pop legends Duran Duran; the 1990s group M-People and the current Irish rockers Snow Patrol. In addition, fans infatuated with the 1970s will receive their fix when The Eagles descend on Dubai next month.

These concerts – as well as a double performance from the Material Girl Madonna in June – further confirm the UAE as a major touring destination for international acts.

However, the people least benefiting from this are the ones who should be gaining the most: local musicians.

You would be forgiven if the above term elicits some head scratching. One would have more luck spotting a Sumatran tiger roaming the Corniche than finding a local band on a major stage.

In the 14 months spent covering the music scene for this newspaper – a time that saw me attend all sorts of gigs and festivals – I can honestly count the number of local bands on one hand. Other than the metal heads Nervecell, the rockers Juliana Down and the jazz man Hamdan Al Abri, it's easy to assume the UAE lacks artists, let alone a music scene.

But talented local acts would surely be the first to tell you this is not the case.

Their rise came on the back of a vibrant local scene major promoters have either failed to tap or cynically written off.

If they only cared to look. As well as the always dependable heavy affairs of Metal Asylum (where both Nervecell and Juliana Down cut their live teeth), enthusiastic local promoters are creating themed nights and showcases accommodating eclectic genres.

For the past few months, the Dubai-based music label The Fridge has been holding musical showcases by local singer-songwriters and jazz bands.

Last month, hip-hop fans had a chance to sample some of the region's best rappers in an event titled The Lyricists, held at the Music Room in Dubai. It was a great evening illustrating the diverse talent that can be found in such a multicultural country.

One hopes that major promoters also get involved. After all, they hold extra sway in influencing the cultural landscape. Whereas radio playlists are purely commercially driven, major promoters have more scope to incorporate local music into their events. They should look at it as an investment, as a local music scene can only grow organically. Here's to hoping they do their part.