x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

The artist in the machine at Carbon 12

The Rakrakan festival of Pinoy music, the Norwegian painter To-Mangus Lundeby and OpenAir Cinema in this week's cultural calendar.

For some reason, the vigour of the Filipino music scene tends to go unrecognised beyond its national borders. Not even the remorseless efficiency of those hundreds of Pinoy hotel bands, fanning out in a diaspora across the Menasa region, manages to inspire much curiosity among the uninitiated. A pity: for a tiny country with some, to put the case mildly, horrifying political problems, it supports a diversity of musical scenes and subcultures that puts most of the eastern hemisphere to shame. Happily for Dubaians, the Rakrakan festival of Pinoy rock, now in its fourth year, provides a taster menu.

From the thrashy hard rock of Wolfgang to the mutant, disco-inflected reggae of Brownman Revival, the four-band bill covers a lot of ground. The young and handsome Callalily will distract those susceptible to big windswept choruses and feathery haircuts, but the most appealing outfit goes by the unprepossessing moniker Itchyworms. With a name like this, they ought to make the sort of sniggering, studiedly puerile lo-fi that Ween go in for. The fact that they number a Jazz Nicolas and a Jugs Jugueta among their ranks only heightens the suspicion that they're a put-on. But not so: they actually do the kind of polished, autumnal pop-rock that Crowded House used to excel at, full of whispering drums and elegant harmonic developments. For that reason alone, there's grounds to think that Filipino music has other facets beside the four on display here - see last year's Rakrakan bill for further proof. Still, if you want an idea of what you're missing, this certainly beats the hotel bar.

Carbon 12 is one of Dubai's most consistently interesting galleries. Despite a recent setback - it recently had to relocate to Al Quoz from a lonely exile in Marina View Towers - it's back with another spiky and engaging show, Pilot Plant Indicated, this time from the Norwegian painter Tor-Magnus Lundeby. He had a piece in Carbon 12's opening exhibition last year, which gives a fair introduction to his MO. Think insectile and mechanical forms picked out in fuzzy-felt colours against a wash of radioactive sludge. It sounds ghastly but in practice often achieves a tone of naivety and calm that can be rather inviting. Lundeby's canvases might be alien circuit diagrams, or space stations, or deep-sea creatures. Stare at one for a minute or two and you'll probably find yourself daydreaming happily about the coming of our robot overlords. Well, you might as well make peace with the idea somehow.

For the past few nights, the Swiss OpenAir Cinema at Dubai Media City has been offering outdoor screenings of Hollywood blockbusters. You've missed your chance to see New Moon on what is billed as the world's largest cinema screen. Still, zombies beat vampires any day of the week, and it so happens that on this particular day you can catch the horror comedy Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson and a certain comic elder statesman whose identity and role in the film will be a pleasant surprise for those without internet connections. Later in the week there's King Conqueror, a Spanish historical drama about the 13th-century scourge of the Balearics, James I of Aragon. It stars Tim Roth as King Pedro II of Aragon, which sounds like something out of Napoleon Dynamite but is presumably a serious role. And if you want something a little mellower, there's Everything's Fine, a remake of a celebrated 1990 Italian family drama. This new version stars Robert De Niro as a widower seeking to reconnect with his family, which happens to include Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale. De Niro is reportedly better than he's been in years, which is modestly encouraging.

Finally, this Wednesday is the 38th anniversary of the founding of the nation. If I know National Day, then you should be able to find a fabulous fireworks display somewhere, but however you choose to celebrate it, have a good one.