Do you want more live music and movies in Dubai? Would you go and see more documentaries if they were available?
Mahmoud Kaabour is a man on a mission. ‘Dubai is inexplicable in its lack of music scene,’ he states with gusto. ‘We get two kinds of music here: commercial artists like Kylie Minogue and Bryan Adams, or the cheesy variety lacking in any artistic merit that gets performed in clubs around the city.’ The Lebanese director of acclaimed documentary Being Osama and, more recently, Satwa Stories is taking no prisoners. After living in Dubai for several years, he believes the city’s music scene urgently needs to change – or, rather, come into being.
If rents were lowered, rehearsal spaces made more accessible and more people were able to work fewer hours or part-time, he is sure the city’s overworked population would form more grassroots bands and collectives. ‘I think if people could go and listen to a violin recital after work in Dubai,’ he continues, ‘they would even be less angry on the roads. I believe we need music like we need food, or a sidewalk: on a basic level it is such an important intake of daily life.’
At a stretch, then, Mahmoud is aiming to save lives, or at least our sanity, with ‘Music For the Eyes’, the second in his Mahmovies! series. This time its made up of music documentaries (the last was a collection of foreign films), followed by live musical performances and Q&As with the directors. ‘Music is the highest art form, even higher than cinema,’ he says. ‘It’s the way that communities communicate.’ We highly recommend, then, that you get along to The Jam Jar this month and start up the dialogue.
Knowledge is the beginning (2005)
Sunday January 25 The Cultural Foundation, Bainuna Hall, Abu Dhabi, 8pm
Monday January 26 The Jam Jar, Dubai, 7.30pm ‘The first film is a heart-wrenching, inspiring film that won an Emmy. The filmmakers brought together Jewish and Arab musicians to play in an orchestra, which has been playing collectively for around six years now. I’ve always believed in the film, but right now it’s even more challenging to people’s sentiments. During the massacres in Gaza people are forgetting the importance of communication. A lot of the members of this orchestra found a unique way to interact through music. This screening will be followed by a cello and piano recital from one of my best friends, Nassib Ahmadieh, who features in the film. It’ll be a casual performance; he’ll mix Arabic with classical music and speak about the pieces he’s playing. It’ll be a way to engage the audience into asking questions and making requests.’
Sunday February 1 The Cultural Foundation, Bainuna Hall, Abu Dhabi, 8pm
Monday February 2 The Jam Jar, Dubai, 7.30pm ‘This is a film of unbelievable ‘This is a film of unbelievable lyrical beauty, about a wonderful band from Iceland called Sigur Rós. They play very inspirational, atmospheric rock. After touring the world they suddenly missed their homeland and decided to move back [Heima means ‘home’ in Icelandic]. They then held concerts in very random places, including caves, mountains and hospitals. They never advertised these performances, but by sheer word of mouth entire communities came out to see them. It ended up being a beautiful love letter to their country – which, I feel, is one of the most visually stunning countries in the world. The film demonstrates the power of music to express love and national identity and is a very strongly sensational experience.’
Gonzales : From Major to Minor (2007)
Sunday February 8 The Cultural Foundation, Bainuna Hall, Abu Dhabi, 8pm
Monday February 9 The Jam Jar, Dubai, 7.30pm ‘We switch to something comic, avant-garde and entertaining for our third screening. Canadian electronica producer Gonzales originally established himself internationally by doing remixes of other people’s songs. Then he shocked the world by releasing a CD of himself playing a mix of saloon music with electronica touches on piano. This became a hit around the world. He was then invited to Paris to give a master piano class to people who have never played. This is a recording of him teaching that class, including cameos from famous musicians, such as Daft Punk, Feist and Jamie Lidell. The whole thing is so full of laughs. I hope it will show people that learning music isn’t as painful as they might think. Afterwards, we’ll have a performance by the Art of Now, a new jazz ensemble of people living in Dubai, whose songs are all inspired by stories of their city.’
Mad About Opera: Caffé Taci in New York (2007)
Sunday February 15 The Cultural Foundation, Bainuna Hall, Abu Dhabi, 8pm
Monday February 16 The Jam Jar, Dubai, 7.30pm ‘This is a documentary filmed in Caffé Taci in New York. I love it so much I took my girlfriend to the restaurant there 10 days ago and asked her to marry me. In a nutshell, it’s an Italian restaurant with open mic opera. An old pianist sits in the corner who plays any opera song she gets given. You can then get up on stage and sing. There’s often a major opera star around for a dinner, and they’ll engage in a song. The place has built a community in New York where people come to vent and sing and listen, without needing to wear a wig or suit or pay US$200 to see a show. It demonstrates a kind of place we don’t have in Dubai, not because we don’t like opera or Italian food, but because we’re very serious about our business. The director of the film will also be flying in from Germany to talk about what it was like to film the mad types who frequent and sing at the restaurant.’
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2003)
Sunday February 22 The Cultural Foundation, Bainuna Hall, Abu Dhabi, 8pm
Monday February 23 The Jam Jar, Dubai, 7.30pm ‘This is a monumental film about Metallica. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, two wonderful US directors, wanted to follow the band in the hope of making a rock-documentary, but they caught Metallica at a very strange time – when they were having issues as a group after being together for over 25 years. So, they hired a therapist. This video is the high- (and low-) lights from two years of psychotherapy sessions, in which you see these monumental rockers breaking down, speaking about their inner emotions and trying to understand one another. It’s a really powerful film because it’s so well made and is so full of intimate moments. We’re trying to fly Joe and Bruce over to be here in person, but, as their work’s always nominated for Oscars, they’re very busy… but we’re keeping our finger’s crossed.’
All Mahmovies!: Music For the Eyes screenings are free