x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Quincy Jones in hunt for Arab Psy

The Quincy Jones Talent Search is looking for a hitmaker who can produce a song that will do for the region what Gangnam Style did for South Korea. Legend and local entrepreneur search for talent with global appeal, as part of transformation of region's music industry

DUBAI // Music legend Quincy Jones has begun a search for a singer or musician from the Arab world with enough appeal to promote the region globally.

The aim is to find a crossover artist, one whose work is authentically Arab but who can attract a fan base in other parts of the world, much as the South Korean star Psy did with his YouTube phenomenon Gangnam Style.

Entrants will be invited to submit music videos online and the winner will be chosen by a high-profile judging panel including Jones, 79, who produced Michael Jackson's Thriller album.

The Quincy Jones Talent Search will be run by Global Gumbo Group (G3), a music business set up by the Jones and the Emirati entrepreneur Badr Jafar, who has also announced major events and initiatives for the regional music scene.

He pointed to Gangnam Style as an example of the impact such an artist could have.

"Sometimes people say: 'Most people here only speak Arabic, so how are we going to cross over?'" Mr Jafar said.

"Now I use Psy as a perfect example. I say: 'Don't give me any excuse, he got over a billion YouTube hits'.

"It's catchy, it's in Korean, it's fun, and the guy has put Korea on the map. For people who used to only think about the Korean War when they thought about Korea, all they can think about now is Gangnam Style.

"There's no reason we can't have crossover artists. We want to find someone like Psy from the Arab world, although they wouldn't have to dance the same way."

Mr Jafar said Psy was signed by Justin Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, soon after the Gangnam Style video went viral, and there was speculation that Bieber was planning to record a duet with the Korean.

"If Braun signed up these people as well and suddenly Justin Bieber is doing a duet with a kid from the UAE, then suddenly a billion kids from around the world will not only know what the UAE is but will also feel an affinity towards the UAE."

Mr Jafar, 33, from Sharjah, said the winner of the talent contest would be a feature at Dubai Music Week, a new initiative announced this week.

He revealed that the event, to be staged at the Dubai World Trade Centre, would run from September 25 to 30.

Two associated music festivals, Dubai Rocks and Dubai Classics, will take place in mid-December and February next year.

The events will be run jointly by G3, Dubai World Trade Centre and the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, which is part of the Dubai Government.

Dubai Music Week will consist of an industry conference and exhibition, and a series of live concerts.

Mr Jafar said he hoped it would help to establish a vibrant music industry in the region.

"We have great concerts here, but we need to look a lot deeper," he said. "We want to be able to entertain people while also generating a proper, robust, internationally recognised music business.

"We will bring together all the entertainment providers to launch their projects and products for the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region from the UAE.

"We'll say if you want to be part of this game, you have to come and not just think of it as a sales point but use it as a hub.

"We're finalising agreements with artists, and we're talking about big names - the biggest.

"But we're not interested in them just coming and singing, we want them to invest their time and energy in the region. They have to take part in workshops and seminars - they have to inspire our youth."

Jones has told of how taking part in tours in the Middle East in the 1950s helped him to appreciate the way music could break down barriers.

"I have long been a vocal proponent of music and the arts being a great asset in building bridges between people and cultures," he said.