x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Singer hails progress in music scene

The Dubai-based R'n'B artist says the music industry in the UAE has come a long way as he accepts the award.

Karl Wolf said there was a lot of undiscovered talent in the UAE.
Karl Wolf said there was a lot of undiscovered talent in the UAE.

DUBAI // The music industry in the UAE has come a long way in the last few years but still needs improvement, according to Karl Wolf, the singer and new MTV award winner. "Everything is available here in Dubai, artists and producers just need to look around for it and they will find it," Mr Wolf said. He was speaking at a news conference announcing his award of best new act at the MTV European Music Awards. "It's not that there is a lack of talent here, it's that there is a lack of undiscovered talent," Mr Wolf said. "There are no venues for these artists, but they are definitely around." A lack of open-mic sessions, or talent competitions, also leaves artists struggling to find the necessary outlet for their music. Calling Dubai home, Mr Wolf referred to his own experience to demonstrate the struggles artists face in the UAE. "I started DJing here at the age of 13, but it wasn't until I moved to Canada [at 17] that it really became serious," he said. Mr Wolf, or Karl Abou Samah, is originally Lebanese, but moved to Dubai when he was three. Growing up in the country, he found it difficult to break into a music scene that was all but non-existent. "Fifteen years ago, there was nothing here in the music industry, but Dubai is now developing rapidly, and in the last five years everything has shot up," he said. Samr al Marzouqi, channel manager of MTV Arabia, said the focus should not be so much on what was wrong with the industry, but on what had been achieved in the last year. Before the channel opened there were few platforms for local artists, or none at all, especially within the Emirates. Today most of the Arab stars who break into the international scene are from Lebanon, the Palestinian territories or Egypt, but Mr Marzouqi said the spotlight would shine on the Emiratis. "Talent is present in Dubai, even from the Bedouins as well," he said. "We look at MTV Arabia as a platform for these talents, and it is our job to publicise them as much as possible." The local scene is not completely devoid of rising stars. Referring to local band Abri, which has had huge successes over the last couple of years, Mr Wolf was keen to promote the idea of a fresh, up-and-coming local scene. He believed stereotypes of the Arab world could be eradicated through this scene. "Artists need to be smart and fuse their music," he said. "Don't look at the negatives, rather take it all as positives, and look at what you have as a culture." The MTV EMAs are considered one of the more prestigious music awards, watched by millions across the world. The 2007 awards were viewed by 30 million people, with stars such as Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, and Nelly Furtado performing. This year's ceremony will be held in Liverpool, UK, on Nov 7, and Mr Wolf is expected to perform his most recent hit, Butterflies at the ceremony. Describing his role in the music industry as taking Arab culture beyond the Middle East and into the rest of the world, Mr Wolf said he was on a mission to correct misconceptions about Arabs. "As an Arab person, being an international celebrity it is important to spread the beauty of my culture around the world," he said. "Essentially, the youth is our future and if I can change them then our future will be changed." Mr Wolf said his music had a genuine Arabic feel, and an authentic "flavour". "I believe what makes me different from other artists like Usher and Justin Timberlake, is that no one has what I have," he said. "I'm bringing Arab music to the forefront." Mr Wolf's previous hits include Africa, Summer Days (in Beirut) and She Wants To Know. nsamaha@thenational.ae

"It's not that there is a lack of talent here, it's that there is a lack of undiscovered talent," he said. "There are no venues for these artists, but they are definitely around." A lack of open-mic sessions, or talent competitions also leaves artists struggling to find the necessary outlet for their music. Calling Dubai home, Mr Wolf referred to his personal experiences to demonstrate the struggles upcoming artists face in the Emirates.

Describing his role in the music industry as taking the Arab culture beyond the Middle East and into the rest of the world, Mr Wolf considered himself on a mission to quell misconceptions created about Arabs. "As an Arabic person, being an international celebrity it is important to spread the beauty of my culture around the world," he said. Targeting the youth population, "I am trying to dispel these ideas. Essentially, the youth is our future and if I can change them then our future will be changed."

While other Arab musicians have hit the big-time, Mr Wolf felt his music had a more genuine feel to it. Comparing his music to the world renowned artist Shakira, who shares the same Lebanese origins as him, he described his music as more "authentic" than hers, with more of an "Arab flavour". "I believe what makes me different from other artists like Usher and Justin Timberlake, is that no-one has what I have," he said. "I'm bringing Arab music to the forefront."

nsamaha@thenational.ae