x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

There is no arguing with Timbaland

Timbaland on the Corniche and other cultural events for the coming week


The influential music website Pitchfork stole a march on its rivals this year by printing its end-of-decade best-of lists back in August. The site built its reputation on lofty contrarianism, so inevitably there were one or two points to splutter at. Bombs over Baghdad was declared the greatest track of the decade despite not even being the best Outkast release of the same period. Kid A, the ponce's choice in the Radiohead catalogue, was elevated over every other album this millennium when any fool knows that spot belonged to Kanye West (I kid).

Yet there was one recurring feature of the round-ups that would be hard to quibble at: Timbaland. The hip-hop producer scored half a dozen entries apiece in the site's round-ups of the top 100 tracks and albums. At the beginning of the noughties he was looking like a spent force. By their end he was pop's eminence grise, the magician behind Jay-Z, Missy Elliot and Justin Timberlake. For better or worse, no one has had as much impact on the modern chart landscape as Timothy Mosely. And, let's face it, it was for better. The voluptuous cyber-futurism that has been this decade's signature is all his, and it beats the pants off the graceless beat collages and cornball sample culture that came before.

How nice, then, that he should be joining Abu Dhabi's Yasalam Formula One celebrations to play a free DJ set at the Corniche. While Beyoncé, Jamiroquai, Kings of Leon and Aerosmith perform on Yas Island, there are other big acts in town, too: the Wailers, Soul II Soul, Ragheb Alama and so on. Any one of them would merit a trip to the beach on a quieter evening. But Timbaland is the big one. Come down and pay homage.


In light of the above, it sounds a little presumptuous for Dubai's Fridge to advertise a hip-hop "masterclass" tomorrow. The city's rap scene, pretty much all of which is scheduled to show up at tomorrow's event, has grown with impressive speed over the past few years. It's still rather a fragile, unformed thing, more journeyman than master. But that only makes it more interesting. Mestiza, Swerte, Young Vaughn, The Recipe - all have reputations still to build, points to score and stunts to pull. Given the presence of a live band and graffiti artists, coupled with the Fridge's authentically distressed warehouse premises, we can expect a night of rare grit and excitement. Masterclass or not, someone ought to get schooled.


A couple of Dubai art exhibitions this week explore the strange relationship between photography and time. Leila Pazooki is an Iranian artist whose new show, Two Minute Photo, comes to the B21 gallery on Monday. The artist travelled around Iran, Mexico, Spain and Germany asking strangers to pose for a holiday-style snap. Then she would film them holding their pose for two minutes, while the world passed them by and the smiles froze on their faces. As a way of exposing the ordinary artifice of amateur photographers and models, this sounds intriguing.


Meanwhile, for the past week Martin Becka has been showing Dubai Transmutations at the Empty Quarter gallery. Becka used a 150-year-old camera to create images of Dubai, washed-out sepia visions of a future metropolis the likes of which Fritz Lang or HG Wells might have dreamt up. There's a suitably handsome coffee-table book to accompany the show, too. Enjoy steam-age nostalgia for the Zayed Road in your own home.


Finally, this week sees the next stop on the Gulf's burgeoning film festival itinerary with the launch of Doha Tribeca. For a first outing, the line-up looks impressive. The new Coen brothers' film is making its Middle East debut and there's to be an opening gala of Mira Nair's Earhart biopic Amelia, starring Hilary Swank, with whom Abu Dhabians will feel comfortably familiar after her surprise appearance at the Middle East International Film Festival this month. I'll be there to cover it, but Doha is such a short hop away that you might as well head over yourself. I hope to see you there.