Where to go in the UAE to hear music or get yourself noticed as an artist
The UAE’s local music scene is notoriously fragmented. Whether you are a new or established artist – or an interested observer – here is where you can go to find out what’s happening, or get yourself noticed.
On the air
Abu Dhabi’s original music hub, White Cube, hosts a valuable, dedicated online radio channel – available free at www.whitecubestudios.ae – which broadcasts an impressively eclectic stream demonstrating the diversity and depth of regional talent.
Among the plethora of decent local podcasts presented by Dubai DJs – playing predominantly international fare – The Shady Shadow Show, from Analog Room’s Shadi Megallaa (www.mixcloud.com/Shadi_Megallaa), stands out for hosting a different local guest for each edition.
The weekly, issue-based podcast The Dukkan Show (soundcloud.com/dukkanshow), which is led by a group of local hip-hop luminaries, spotlights spoken-word artists and musicians in the UAE.
While the link-up with Triple W will end, there are hopes that Dubai Eye’s weekly regional music showcase – called ME Indie Jukebox, and hosted as part of the James Piecowye Nightline show on Wednesdays – might continue. Further afield, underground urban sounds get a welcome airing from innovator Big Hass, who presents what has been billed as Saudi Arabia’s “first-ever” hip-hop show, Laish Hip-Hop?, on Mix FM.
On the record
There has been plenty of good news for local electronic producers of late, with a number of home-grown record labels cropping up in recent months.
They include Ma’ana Records, which launched in April with Ma’ana: Sounds of Dubai 002, a 25-track compilation by UAE-based artists. It also recently launched a Ma’ana: Homegrown playlist on Apple Music.
August 5 marked the formal launch of Sunstroke Recordings – from the promoters of the same name – whose first three singles will each feature a new tune from a noted international act, alongside a remix from a local producer.
Meanwhile, the newly launched label from The 264 Cru – best known as the artsy collective behind alternative-flavoured club night Karak Beats – promises to showcase a mix of regional and international talent.
For the truly alternative, sound-art collective Tse Tse Fly are all set for the release next month of their debut compilation, Easy Listening Vol. 1.
There is good news for guitar acts, with rumours that an international major label with a base in the UAE is planning a compilation album showcasing Arabic-language indie.
On the page
Weekly free magazine Hype offers an unrivalled breadth and depth of coverage of the local music scene, thanks to a community-minded policy that gives different collectives of musicians, DJs, visual artists and creatives the chance to edit the pages of the publication on rotation. It is a scattershot but democratic approach that gives many up-and-coming acts their debut column inches. Local creatives have long read the bi-monthly glossy cultural tome Brownbook, which champions regional artists, as well as publishing long-form features focusing on architecture, food, travel and other culture.
One of the great gifts of the internet era has been the power for artists to undermine the hegemony of the mainstream press and offer anyone with a keyboard the chance to champion their own creative causes.
Bloggers, tweeters and other social networkers offer valuable support. Among the most prominent and prolific is The Culturist (www.theculturist.com), who has tirelessly promoted alternative endeavours for years.
For aspiring artists, niche Facebook groups – such as Musicians in the UAE and Dubai Jazz Society – are also a valuable resource, offering immediate access to fellow enthusiasts.
Singer-songwriters in the UAE have more opportunities to get their material heard than ever before, thanks to a growing raft of acoustic showcases.
In Abu Dhabi, talent hub White Cube UAE hosts a monthly showcase, Metronome (currently on a summer break), at various venues, often Umm Al Emarat Park.
Elsewhere in the capital, plans for a new monthly live-music series at The Sportsman’s Arms in Zayed Sports City were shelved in July, but may be dusted off in cooler days.
There are also plenty of open-mic nights in Dubai, including GoldPlayTheWorld, which is organised by singer-songwriter Abbo and held four times a week in various venues. The best attended is Sunday’s at Jazz@Pizza Express.
Live platforms Freshly Ground Sounds and The Secret Gaarden both present curated bills at showcase concerts and cultural events across the Emirates.
Rock and metal bands still have regular opportunities to play at established venues, including Bur Dubai’s The Music Room and The Huddle – contact promoters such as Rock Nation, Metal East Records and MainStage Music & Events. Alternative acts can score support slots from indie gig promoters The Other Side.
Updated: August 10, 2016 04:00 AM