Meet the man behind Dubai’s coolest open mic nights
The open mic nights
Jazz@PizzaExpress For those who can sing, play guitar or any other unplugged instrument, this night is the perfect practise environment for newbies to the scene. Register from 6pm to 8pm and perform up to three songs. Free. Sun 7.30pm-1am. Jazz@PizzaExpress, Cluster A, JLT (04 441 6342).
The Gramercy Watch aspiring artists take to the stage and get 50 percent off selected hops all night at the British gastropub. Free. Fri 8pm-1am. The Gramercy, Precinct building 3, DIFC (04 437 7511).
Tr!beca Kitchen + Bar Eight home-grown singers and musicians perform their own songs at this trendy New York-style spot. With a happy hour from 5pm until 8pm and a chilled-out, laid-back vibe, it’s the perfect way to round off the weekend. Free. Sat 7pm-11pm. Tr!beca Kitchen + Bar, JA Ocean View Hotel, The Walk, JBR. (050 345 6067).
10 Open Mic Night Aspiring singers and fans of live music are in no shortage of open mic nights to attend – and it’s becoming a new trend all across the city to showcase talent, with some nights even getting the odd talent scout in to watch. Every Tuesday from 8pm to 10pm at Original Wings and Rings in DIFC, performers get 15 minutes on stage to show off their talent and be in with the chance of winning a trip to Sri Lanka for two nights, an iPhone 6 or a Dhs1,000 dine-in voucher for the restaurant. For each round the in-house guests will be voting. Free. Tuesdays 8pm-10pm. Original Wings and Rings, Liberty House, DIFC (04 359 6900).
Live and loud
Open mic nights can be pretty painful (or comical depending on your outlook) if you don’t know where to go for a good show. Thankfully, Dubai is quickly becoming a musical hub for emerging artists, with singers like Leoné Murphy channelling Adele and Egyptian hip-hop performer Andeo giving off a Marshall Mathers vibe. Sure, we can all see big shots like Bon Jovi and Take That performing across the emirate in the coming months (October 1 and October 30 respectively for these interested), but it’s worth noting that these chart-toppers weren’t always in the spotlight.
Take That’s Gary Barlow started out performing at social clubs in the north of England in the late ’80s – not exactly The X Factor stage – while Jon Bon Jovi gigged his way across New York’s club circuit. So who knows what Dubai’s open mic gigs could produce. Another John Mayer or Ed Sheeran perhaps?
The man responsible for finding some of the city’s finest performers and a new underground gigging scene is British singer-songwriter Abbo Abbondandolo. The former Royal Air Force engineer only learnt to play the guitar at age 26 and is now a full-time musician who has gigged his way from New York to Sydney before finally settling in Dubai. As founder of three of Dubai’s popular acoustic open mic music nights held weekly at The Gramercy in DIFC, Tr!beca Kitchen + Bar in JBR and Jazz@PizzaExpress in JLT, he knows how to separate the Sam Smiths from the Chesney Hawkeses.
‘I simply want this to be a platform for improvement, allowing people the chance to move forward with their musical desires and dreams, so I can look back in 20 years and possibly say to myself, “I was a small part of building that,”’ he says.
Friday and Sunday nights are open to all musicians who want to perform or practise, while Saturdays are for invited artists only. ‘These performers are pioneers of Dubai’s music scene of tomorrow. Everyone is treated the same as long as they don’t bring their “I’m a Rock Star Ego”.’
With two of the nights – The Gramercy and Jazz@PizzaExpress – proving successful for almost a year despite the news spreading via word of mouth only in an attempt to keep it niche, and with the recently launched ‘Tr!beca Sessions’ attracting new talent, the 42-year-old says Dubai’s residents are behind them.
‘There is a real community of support, which has allowed everyone to feel more at home on stage, and there have been many collaborations between artists as a result over the weeks. Audiences are now singing back the lyrics to songs written by the performers and some have booked a few of the acts to play at weddings and parties.’
For many of the performers at the open mic nights, the event has proven quite fruitful. Some have been offered the opportunity to make an album, while booking agents are scouting the weekly gigs. Head down and you might just discover the next big thing, too.
Artists to watch
We scout three Dubai acts performing across the open mic circuit that are worth looking out for
Artist: Chris Thomas Nationality: Greek/Lebanese Age: 25 Genre: Blues/rock ’n’ roll Instruments played: Guitar and harmonica
Best described as… The Black Keys on an acoustic guitar Abbo says: ‘He’s pretty much a tornado passing through when he’s on stage’ Favourite cover song to perform: A mash-up of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ What inspires your original songs? Personal life events Ultimate goal: To make music a career Where do you see yourself in three to five years? On stage in front of millions of fans performing my own songs Where can we see you perform? Jazz@PizzaExpress and The Gramercy
Best described as… Eminem Abbo says: A man from hip-hop who can blow you away with a backing track, a piano or an acoustic guitar, and uses each one with ease What inspires your original songs? ‘Nyctophilia’ is inspired by my travels in Australia that put my Dubai life into perspective Where can we see you perform? Jazz@PizzaExpress, Tr!beca and The Gramercy
Artist: Leoné Murphy Nationality: South African Age: 20 Genre: Pop/folk Instruments played: Guitar and piano
Best described as… Dubai’s Kate Bush, Adele and Tori Amos all rolled into one Abbo says: ‘A great local songwriting talent with an amazing voice’ Favourite cover song to perform: ‘I Kissed A Girl’ by Katy Perry Musical influences: Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson, Lenka, Jeff Buckley, Adele, Bob Dylan What inspires your original songs? Universal truths, love, heartbreak and songs that everyone can hopefully relate to or will inspire them to think more about the meaning of life and step outside of the box Look out for: Original track ‘The Box’ Ultimate goal: I’d love to write for major artists and have my music featured in beautiful and inspiring films. I’m hoping to record an EP this year Where do you see yourself in three to five years? Making a living off my music and doing what I love, with the people I love Where can we see you perform? Jazz@PizzaExpress, Tr!beca and The Gramercy