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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Wasla music festival: Meet Bahraini rockers Majaz 

Bahrain’s Majaz, who open the music festival, rock a diversity directly linked to their homeland

Bahraini four-piece Majaz blend a variety of genres. Courtesy Wasla
Bahraini four-piece Majaz blend a variety of genres. Courtesy Wasla

Majaz pack more left turns in one track than most bands do in an album. And the Bahraini four-piece will showcase that wide palette of styles when they kick off the Wasla festival at Dubai’s D3 on Friday.

Translating to “Journey”, Rihla is an apt title for their EP. Released last year, the four songs offer a variety of moods and are packed with mini instrumental movements bound by a loose theme.

The opening title track, for instance, begins with a throbbing oriental groove that plateaus into an ethereal acoustic section, before concluding with wailing Eastern vocals.

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The next song, Paranormal, is more strident in its deft mix of flamenco and rock. As an introduction, the EP is an arresting calling card from a band resistant to labels.

“That’s basically what we were trying to achieve,” says percussionist Abdulla Faisal. “We didn’t want people to label us and put us in a certain box. We just wanted to show people what we can do. Majaz is basically us putting in as many different emotions that we can into song. The songs here begin at one place and end at another.”

The eclecticism within Majaz is as much down to their environments as the members themselves.

Formed five years ago, some of the members’ hail from other musical projects. In addition to Majaz, Faisal has his own solo career with Boffais, which sees his compositions sung in Arabic, English and Spanish. Guitarist Hameed Al Saeed is also active on the Bahraini scene as part of rock group Silverlake. Rounded off by bassist/ vocalist Salah Sharakhat and Jehad Al Halal on cello, the group’s diverse mix of talent can only be channelled through a loose songwriting approach, Faisal says.

“We don’t have a particular way of writing songs and I think that’s important for us. Sometimes one of us will come – like Salah would show us a cool riff he is working on – and we would build on that. Other times we would just sit together and just jam things out ‘til it all fits together.”

Faisal says that there is a communal spirit among Bahrain’s rock community, which is currently enjoying something of an upswing after years of neglect.

“Before, a lot of the hotels and bars didn’t really believe there were musicians here who could perform, so they would instead spend money on airfares, visas and accommodation for overseas acts,” he says.

“But now that’s changing. You are seeing more places open up, hotels and gastropubs, where you can see all kinds of bands, such as rock and metal [acts]. They are realising there is a lot of diverse talent here.”

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Faisal puts that growth down to more than just economics. He thinks that Bahrain’s varied landscapes has been sought after by creatives for the past half-century.

“You know, Bahrain is a weird country,” he says. “It is an island, but it has a desert at the same time. We had a lot of Latin musicians who visited us during the 70s, and we got into that kind of music, as well as reggae. Now you can see a lot of Bahrainis here playing that kind of music really well.”

Majaz’s Dubai appearance is the start of what will be a busy year for the group. In addition to the tracks from Rihla, Faisal says to expect to hear up to three songs from the band’s full-length debut album, which is due to be released later in the year. While they haven’t yet revealed the title, expect it to be a weighty affair.

“With the EP, we wanted people to know more about our style,” he says. “Now with the album, it is going to be a proper concept record with a clear storyline. The songs will have us trying different things off-course.”

Majaz perform at Wasla February 2 at 4pm, Dubai Design District. Tickets are now available from Virgin Megastores from Dh245 and from the door at Dh295. For details got to tickets.virginmegastore.me.