Alternative music in Dubai

Need a break from Dubai’s house-heavy scene? Try these instead

If there’s one thing the club scene in Dubai does well, it’s house nights. Lots of them. Whether you’re lounging by a pool, dancing in a VIP room or sipping drinks under the stars, you’re probably doing it to the sounds of house. While it’s easily the most prevalent type of music on the nightlife circuit, it’s not to everyone’s taste. Luckily, one-time superstar turntablist and now DJ, producer and purveyor of dubstep Joel Fuller, aka Prime Cuts from much-loved ’90s DJ collective The Scratch Perverts, is headed to Dubai to shake up the nightlife scene.

‘It’s always a pleasure, and a bit of a challenge, to do a show so far from home where you’re never really sure what kind of audience you’re going to get,’ says Fuller, as he prepares for The Scratch Perverts’ set at See You Next Friday on Trilogy’s rooftop next week. Taking place on Friday November 19, the event is being billed as Dubai’s first proper dubstep night. How would Fuller describe the music phenomenon that’s taking over the scene in the UK, where he’s based?

‘If you see what it does to audiences over there, it’s without doubt the most exciting music in clubland. For me, personally, it’s the first music that’s really excited me to the point of wanting to try and own it,’ he explains. ‘It’s the same kind of emotion I felt when I first got into hip hop when I was a kid. I felt like this music was just for me – it excited me that much. That it wasn’t for anyone else, just for me.’

Characterised by super-fast, super-heavy basslines and influenced by everything from UK garage to jazz, artists such as London-based dubstep producer Skream (real name Oliver Jones) have helped to popularise the music in the past few years. Jones has been praised by artists from grime producer Wiley to minimal tech producer Ricard Villaobos, after bringing a more melodic sound to his brand of dubstep. This has ultimately allowed it to infiltrate the mainstream thanks to its increased listenability.

So what can we expect from Fuller’s set? ‘I’ve been in a very fortunate position where I’ve been able to get tracks off people really upfront, probably a good six months before the music comes out, so I’m looking forward to doing some stuff that people probably won’t have heard yet and won’t be out for a while,’ he says.

The dominance of house music in Dubai has been blamed on a lack of awareness of, and access to, new music, given the impossibly limited and painfully similar playlists of most radio stations in the city, not to mention the three-track carousel of chart hits aired by MTV. Though he views Dubai’s music scene as ‘fairly young’, Fuller sees nothing preventing the city’s residents from being just as informed about the latest trends.

‘Just because of where you are geographically doesn’t mean you can’t be upfront, or “on it” musically, and that’s thanks to the internet,’ he explains. ‘Somebody who lives in the Himalayas can be just as clued-up as someone who lives in New York, London, Paris or wherever.’

While The Scratch Perverts may only be putting in an appearance here for one night, clubbers who fancy a change from house tunes will soon have plenty of alternative club nights to keep them happy. Open-air venue 360° has booked top UK producer Martin Rushent (see right) for the launch of Retrospect this week, a new monthly Thursday night event covering the ‘cooler’ end of the retro spectrum, from the ’60s to the early 2000s. Meanwhile, there are whispers of Big Love Sound System, a regular (if venue-hopping) Saturday event, being described as ‘an eclectic collection of audio adventures’. It’s set to put in appearances everywhere from Trilogy’s rooftop to the Desert Palm resort, spinning soul, funk, old-school hip hop and more. We’re told the organisers are even hoping to get De La Soul out for the launch, and possibly A Tribe Called Quest at a later date. What’s not to love?

The Scratch Perverts’ Joel Fuller, aka Prime Cuts, plays Trilogy Rooftop on November 19

Upcoming alternatives

Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi
Genre: World
December 1, The Irish Village
Celebrated Zimbabwean guitarist and composer Mtukudzi heads to the Irish Village for a live performance on the first of the month. His husky vocals are widely appreciated in his native country, and are bound to draw an adventurous crowd.

The Heavy
Genre: Indie rock
December 2, The Music Room
This British group are known for their interesting use of brass and funky vocals, and will no doubt bring a very different sound to this beloved Bur Dubai venue.

Genre: R&B, hip hop
December 3, Dubai World Trade Centre
Here’s one that needs no introduction. Akon returns to Dubai after the release of his new album, Akonic (out November 22). As much as we enjoyed ‘Smack That’, here’s hoping he introduces us to some fresh material.

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