Abri, arguably Dubai’s biggest band, have set sail for London
So you’re leaving Dubai. Was it something we said? No, it was just an internal decision. A lot of people in Dubai have given us so much love from the start, but we feel that we’ve done all that we can in Dubai for our music careers. The natural progression was to go to a place where we can be fully inspired and better ourselves musically, and the first place we decided upon was the UK. Dubai will always be our base.
When did you decide to leave the UAE? Was it easy to make? The plan was to go to the UK as soon as we released [Abri’s second album] Blank Notes here in Dubai. It was recorded in London, so we did a couple of gigs in the city and we just loved being there. I’m in love with London’s vibrancy. So it was definitely an easy decision to make.
How receptive have the crowds been over in Blighty? We did a few gigs in London and all of them were amazing, but the most memorable was the one we did in The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. We received so much love that night; I will never forget that gig. A lot of people came down for the gig out of curiosity – they wanted to find out about ‘this soul band from Dubai’. We gave it our all and they loved it. London has a deep-rooted and eclectic music scene, and there’s such a high concentration of talented musicians that everyone’s always trying to better themselves musically.
What impressions of the UAE musical scene have you made in the last couple of years? I recently went to Young Vaughn’s CD release gig at The Shelter and the place was filled with people. You would have never seen that many people come to a local artist CD release gig a few years back. I’m guessing that he has an underground following as well, but it’s amazing to see that people here are supporting good local artists. I also recently checked out the night that The Black Sheep have at Alpha; a number of local rock bands playing three-to-five songs each. The place was packed and a lot of the people knew and loved most of the bands. I would love to see that continue. It helps that there is more support from the media and radio stations now.
Will we ever be able to develop a stable scene along the lines of New York or London? I think people have to realise that the music scenes in those places took years and years to grow; first and foremost, our music scene needs time. There’s also an infrastructure for the music to develop there – the government here needs to relax permit rules and realise that UAE music is not always going to be Arabic-style. They have to realise and embrace the fact that the UAE is a multicultural country and that amazingly different styles of music, art and fashion can come out of here if given the chance.
Is leaving the UAE inevitable for any band hoping for wider success? I think at the moment if you are not doing commercial music – and by that I mean the kind of music that artists like Ramzi, Massari and Karl Wolf are doing – or Arabic-infused music then you will have no choice but to leave and go to a place where you can be more successful.
What bits of Dubai do you wish you could pack up in your suitcase and take with you? Maria Bonita’s and Burger House are two restaurants I would definitely like to take with me. And then it’s just little things like Thursdays, falafel shawarmas, the occasional proper shisha, the early morning call for prayer at the nearby mosque (there is something so familiar and peaceful about morning call for prayer that I love) and things like that. Abri’s latest album, Blank Notes, is available in stores.