Abri head home

Time Out catches up with one of the UAE's most popular bands

Hamdan Al-Abri
Hamdan Al-Abri
Nervecell
Nervecell
Dion Mavath
Dion Mavath
Juliana Down
Juliana Down
1/4

Back in September 2009, popular local soul band Abri packed their bags and waved goodbye to the UAE as they made for London, telling us, ‘We’ve done everything we can here’. A little over a year later, minus two of their original members, they’re back…

Last time you spoke to Time Out, you were moving to London. What happened?
A lot has happened… Two of the guys amicably left the band. Julian is in Brazil right now and Andre is back in England working with his brother. They’re both musicians so they decided to form their own band, start producing for people and start playing live together. When we went to England it was supposed to be the whole band going, doing a few gigs and getting exposure. Unfortunately when we got there the guys decided they didn’t want to be in the band, so I was a little lost in the beginning – I didn’t really know what to do.

You also said you felt you’d done all you could in Dubai. What’s changed?
I don’t feel that way any more. I did feel that then. As a band I felt like we weren’t really going anywhere or we weren’t getting the opportunities we wanted. We had amazing fans and we still have amazing fans, but it felt like radio stations in the UAE were not giving us enough support. Since I’ve been back, there have been so many changes. I think the music scene is really growing, and the arts scene and urban scene as well. It’s almost snowballing, and I think I could contribute to it.

Did you learn anything from your time in the UK?
It was inspirational. I could go out there each and every night and see a different band playing different music in a different place.

Do you think Dubai needs more live music?
As much as I love the UAE, it doesn’t have that kind of vibrancy. It’s getting there, but it’s not like England – it doesn’t have those places where people can just chill out and check out a band that’s playing experimental music, or playing music that has a big calypso influence or African influence. It inspired me to not give myself any boundaries, as far as what I can do vocally and musically.

So what are you guys doing now?
I just did a track with [Iraqi hip-hop MC] The Narcycist. It’s more of a housey track and hopefully he’ll release it soon. I started to do my own thing in London, writing my own material, doing unplugged gigs to get a feel for the scene. Now, the agenda for me, and I’m sure for [bandmate] Rami [Lakkis] as well, is to get new material done. As much as we love the last album, we’ve been playing the songs for a long time. I think we need new material.

When do we get to hear it?
We’re working on getting a solo EP ready by January or the beginning of next year. Actually, I’d better not say January – it may not be ready by then!

Abri play the last night of their residency at Tamanya Terrace at the Radisson Blu Dubai Media City on December 22.


Where are they now?

We spoke to this rowdy bunch late last year, but what are they doing these days?

Juliana Down
Between contributing to Abu Dhabi’s F1 entertainment programme and winning Best Band at Ahlan! magazine’s Best in Dubai awards last month, we’d imagine the Abu Dhabi-based indie rockers are currently chilling out and feeling deservedly smug. Expect a flurry of activity from the band fairly soon, though – latest studio album Empires is primed for release in early 2011, with supporting shows promised in the UAE and beyond.

Dion Mavath
This time last year, the UAE’s resident inked-up house DJ was celebrating the release of Warrior, his debut album of beats. He’s since signed a six-figure deal with Sony, hooked up with Christina Aguilera (not like that) and enjoyed decent chart success in both America and Europe. Next up? Collaborations with Swedish deck-wielders Avicii and Axwell, plus a second album. A busy gent indeed.

Nervecell
Hailing from Dubai, the gloomy death-metal quartet have been collecting passport stamps in the past year like they’re going out of fashion, stopping in Europe, India, Turkey and more to support the likes
of Suffocation, As I Lay Dying and Deicide. A new, as-yet-untitled album is slated for March – expect bone-rattling bass lines and vocals that’ll have your little sister diving for cover behind the nearest sturdy object.

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