Find out which act has sold the most records at Virgin Megastore
Musicians are competitive: fact. Long before The Rolling Stones challenged The Beatles’ pop crown, cotton-picking bluesmen were listening at windows to steal each other’s guitar licks. Jazz players were practising scales day and night in a bid to blow the fastest trumpet. Classical composers engaged in intellectual battles to push harmony in previously unimagined dimensions. We could go on, but let’s just say a healthy competitive spirit is good for the evolution of music.
The UAE, of course, is no different. Yet while the Emirates punch well above their weight in terms of the range and quality of original acts on offer, there’s no denying that the finite supply of music venues can make it feel like rather a small pond. But who’s the biggest fish in this pond?
There’s never been an official body that counts UAE record sales, but with the vast bulk of CDs being sold by a single retailer, we went direct to the source and asked Virgin Megastore for the facts. The result is this, believed to be the first comprehensive list of the UAE’s best-selling artists. So, ladies and gentlemen, drum roll please ...
5. Kamal Musallam Instrumental jazz rarely picks up chart-worthy sales anywhere in the world, so Kamal Musallam deserves extra kudos. Fusing his Jordanian roots with Western sensibilities, he serves up spellbinding virtuoso pyrotechnics on guitar and oud. His bestseller is 2008’s Out of My City. www.kamalmusallam.com View Kamal Musallam’s Out Of My City video
4. Nervecell The overriding success of Nervecell is testament to the strength of the UAE’s thriving underground metal scene. Despite possessing a gloomy, apocalyptic sound that could in no way be described as commercial, the Dubai band continue to shift copies of their two albums, with 2008 debut Preaching Venom leading sales. www.nervecell.net View Nervecell’s Shunq video
3. Juliana Down Commercial rock giants Juliana Down have outsold their closest competition by a long stretch to safely take a slot in the top three, thanks in large part to 2007 debut Cause and Affect, the UAE’s fourth best-selling record ever. While last year’s follow-up, Empires, is yet to achieve the same success, the Abu Dhabi rockers continue to pick up airplay and recently returned from a lucrative trip to LA. www.julianadown.net View Julianna Down’s Control video
2. Abri Despite disbanding early last year, just weeks after being named Time Out Dubai’s Best Local Act, no other band has come close to the sales and recognition achieved by Dubai funk-rockers Abri, with second LP Blank Notes (2009) in the top three all-time UAE sellers. We’re also big fans of Emirati lead singer Hamdan Al Abri’s debut solo EP: download it for free at hamdan.bandcamp.com. www.myspace.com/abrimusic View Abri’s A Piece of Yourself video
1. Karl Wolf Wolf tops this list by a huge stretch, clocking in three times as many sales as his rivals. He may be Lebanon-born and Canada-based but, brought up in Dubai and signed to a local label, we’re happy to call him one of our own. Of his four UAE releases, 2007’s Bite the Bullet is the best seller, followed by 2009’s Nightlife. www.karlwolf.com View Karl Wolf’s Yalla Habibi video