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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

The top 20 best-selling albums by UAE artists since 2010

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20. Fatiniza - Nothing is Impossible (Daxar, 2013)

A fixture of the UAE live-music scene for more than a decade, Columbian musical chameleon Fatiniza built on the success of her 2010 debut, Confusion, with this assured, diverse set of pop and rock.

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19. Clarita de Quiroz - Speak. Delete. Repeat (Sony Music, 2015)

Released just three months ago, Scottish singer-songwriter de Quiroz’s debut has already picked up significant sales. Deservedly so – it’s a moreish feast mixing mature, soulful pop balladry with interesting instrumental interludes.

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18. Jay Wud - False Utopia (Independent, 2012)

Lebanese guitar hero Wud’s second LP is packed with relentless rock riffs, delivered with a spirited sense of angst. It has picked up strong sales despite an indie release.

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17. Rony Afif - Zourouf (Independent, 2014)

An incredibly high placing for a straight acoustic-jazz quartet record. Lebanese drumming stalwart Afif surpassed himself with this stunning set of inventive originals and peerless performances, captured in New York playing alongside session pros. Afif is preparing to launch a new LP as a member of the organ-led ARS Trio.

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16. Hollaphonic - Personal Space (Universal Music, 2015)

Among the most hyped of local releases, and off the back of huge regional radio hits Found You (Stay Alive), Dangerous, and I Don’t Want It to End, you might be surprised not to see the debut album from UAE dance-pop poster boys Hollaphonic higher up the charts. But considering it only dropped in March – and the enticing bonus tracks on the digital edition, sales of which are not available for this chart – this is a respectable showing from an enviable act who are going from strength to strength.

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15. Dd Foxx - Had to Be Me (Music Box International, 2012)

Lebanese-born, UAE-raised singer D D Foxx landed suddenly and fully formed, in a puff of post-Gaga theatre and mystique, to release this consistent set of radio-hugging dance-pop. We’re hoping to hear more soon.

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14. IIllmiyah - Stereotyped (Music Box International, 2012)

Best known as one half of influential hip-hop duo Desert Heat, Emirati rapper Illmiyah used his first solo release to expand his sonic and lyrical landscapes, with a pro set of assured beats and insightful raps aimed squarely at the stereotypes facing young Arab men.

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13. Kamal Musallam - Lulu: A Story from the Land of the Emirates (K& G Records, 2012)

The first of two entries from the prolific Jordanian jazz guitarist/oud player/fusion mastermind Musallam, Lulu was conceived as a tribute to the UAE, his adopted homeland, peerlessly fusing performances from Emirati folk group Sokoor Al Magabeel, now-defunct funk favourites Abri, and his own jazz group – to astounding effect.

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12. Tim Hassall - Gallatin (Music Box International, 2013)

Introspective roots-influenced singer-songwriter Hassall decamped to Nashville for his second LP. And it shows. Gallatin is a gorgeous, glimmering Americana triumph, tipping its hat to the great country, folk and blues traditions, yet telling fresh tales in Hassall’s own singular voice.

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11. Point of View – Revolutionise the Revolutionary (Music Box International, 2012)

Award-winning rockers Point of View’s debut was packed with tight riffs, smart structures, socially conscious messages – and smoking guitar playing. The band have undergone seismic changes of late, now sporting a fresh line-up with three new faces. We’re eagerly awaiting a follow-up.

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10. Bull Funk Zoo - Bull Funk Zoo (Groovemaster, 2013)

This “UAE supergroup” paired the talents of guitarist Assaad Lakkis and omnipresent vocal sensation Hamdan Al Abri. Their self-titled debut captured the band’s freewheeling, thick, funk grooves fresh from the floor. The Bull have been quiet of late, with Abri now fronting his Funk Radius outfit all over town, while Bull Funk Zoo’s Facebook page now lists only one member: Lakkis.

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9. Absolace – Fractals (Spellbind Records, 2012)

If there’s one genre the UAE can be proud of, it’s metal, and the upper-echelons of this chart are rightly represented by a number of best-selling metal releases. Absolace topped their well-received 2010 debut Resolve[d] with this best-selling second effort – knotty, gnarly, clever and compelling.

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8. The Gypsy Swing Project – Paris-Dubai (K& G Records, 2014)

So what if it’s 2015 – the spirit of Django Reinhardt is alive and well. This acoustic, instrumental quartet take classic French tunes by the likes of Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg, and rearrange them à la Django – in the kooky, upbeat “jazz manouche” style the two-fingered Belgium-Romani Gypsy popularised about 80 years ago. And they do it rather well.

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7. Malika - Sandstar (Daxar, 2011)

It’s a testament to Malika’s prodigious musical talents that she can outsell all of the above acts with her intimate, instrumental piano works. Accessible but intelligent, her second album, Sandstar, is a set of originals inspired by living in Dubai, performed in the South African talent’s distinctive “classical fusion” style.

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6. Kamal Musallam – Songs For Seung-eun (K& G Records, 2011)

Musallam reigned-in the restless, cross-cultural fusions of his earlier work with this considered, focused set, which pairs tasteful oud and guitar work with a Latin rhythmic section for a muted, meditative mood piece, dedicated to the artist’s eponymous lost lover. Musallam’s The Best of ... 1999-2011 – surely the first UAE artist to command a career-retrospective? – also clocked enough sales to earn a place on this chart (but as a compilation it is ineligible for inclusion).

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5. Svengali - Theory of Mind (Metal East Records, 2015)

Despite far poppier competition from major-label releases on Sony and Universal, the surprise UAE hit of 2015 (so far) is the debut album from Dubai metallers Svengali, who have won over listeners with their seismic riffs and dual-vocal approach, which flits between gloom and doom, and the majestically melodic. 


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4. Nervecell - Pyschogenocide (Spellbind Records, 2011)

No UAE act has enjoyed the same kind of global exposure as Nervecell who, since forming in Dubai more than a decade ago, have embarked on hectic international tour schedules and commanded cross-continent column inches. They are still touting their acclaimed second album, Pyschogenocide, which was released in Europe and the Middle East in 2011 and is enjoying a new burst of life after it was recently picked up by Unique Leader Records for worldwide distribution.

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3. Ash Hamman - Ash Hamman (Immaqul8 Entertainment, 2011)

Dubai-based, Nigerian-born talent Hamman caused an unprecedented stir with this debut album. Released off the back of support slots for a range of big names, including Kanye West and 50 Cent, this eponymous effort arrived amid a media storm, with Hamman arguably the first all-out solo star the UAE had seen. After a few quieter years, Hamman is back in the limelight with his new Afro-­infused single Wahala, which will soon boast what is thought to be the most expensive UAE-shot music video to date, costing a cool Dh850,000.

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2. SickAsSwans - These Words (Daxar, 2012)

Dance-pop duo SickAsSwans made history in 2012 when they became the first UAE act to top regional sales charts. A pairing of long-standing Australian DJ/producer/hunk Dion Mavath with the voice of the musician/model Clarita de Quiroz – yes, the very same – SickAsSwans captivated with their energetic, infectious, contemporary, hummable house-pop tunes. The duo are on hiatus while they pursue solo work.

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1. Juliana Down - Empires (Sony BMG, 2011)

Arguably the best-known of all UAE acts, long-standing rock behemoths Juliana Down set the template for regional success with a record deal and local airplay way back when. Empires, the band’s second album, remains their crowning achievement, packed with fist-pumping stadium-sized anthems such as Control and the title track – which have been employed to stadium-sized effect supporting the likes of Muse and Guns N’ Roses. But, cough cough, Empires was four years ago – how about a follow-up guys?