According to the dictionary, the word ‘mojo’ means ‘a magic spell, hex, or charm; magical power’. It’s a word that implies a certain quixotic appeal. But sadly this bar is rather less seductive than is sounds.
When we heard about the opening of a new music bar in the heart of Downtown, we were almost giddy with excitement. Apart from a few notable exceptions, most of the city’s best bar bands are found chugging away in Bur Dubai and Deira, and the idea of a hip, alternative rock bar sitting in the shadows of the Burj Khalifa sounded too good to be true.
Perhaps it was. On paper, Mojo ticks all those boxes: it’s stationed in a standalone room inside alternative club Republique, attracts a hip crowd and hosts a rock band just a javelin throw away from the Dubai Fountains. Yet we failed to fall under this Mojo’s magic spell.
Taking the space that formerly hosted comedy under the banner ‘Upstairs at Republique’, the steps leading up to Mojo are plastered with memorable song lyrics screaming out the venue’s wannabe credentials. Arriving upstairs, the first thing we saw was the bar’s name, shining stylishly from an illuminated logo in the shape of a guitar pick.
That name, incidentally, comes from the bar’s house band, Marwan and the Mojos. Former Thursday night residents at neighbouring Blue Bar, they’ve enjoyed something of a profile rise, now playing every weekend (Thu-Fri 10pm-2am) in a venue named after themselves. Such an honour perhaps leaves an unfair weight of expectation: while we don’t dispute the band are great musicians, the trio’s bizarre mix of Herbie Hancock funk-jazz standards, Bob Marley medleys and teen angst (Radio’s ‘Creep’) perhaps just isn’t strong enough as the marketing hook for an entire new venue. Nor is the venue really an ideal spot to hear them: an L-shape with the stage on one side, there are tables positioned deafeningly in front of the band (all reserved when we visited), with more casual drinking round the corner, but little halfway house to both chat and watch the band.
Despite this, with a few beverages inside you and the music cranked, it certainly makes a welcome pre-Republique spot, which is how most seem to view it, the crowd migrating downstairs some time after midnight. You just might want to watch your bar tab while you’re getting there: draft hops clock in at Dhs60, with bottles at Dhs45 and mixed drinks upwards of Dhs55. If you’re happy paying lounge bar prices in a rock bar, then this place may be for you. But there’s no mistaking this is a five-star ‘alternative’ venue, and we’re sad to say that, so far, we’ve heard better bands, bought cheaper drinks, and encountered a little more mojo on the other side of town.