Dahab interview

Dubai-based band tell us about their musical life and influences


Local band Dahab have been playing together since 2004, creating their own music and performing across Dubai. Named after a small town in their ‘spiritual home’ of Sinai in Egypt, the trio, despite being unsigned, has so far produced two albums, which they’ve financed by themselves. With their next gig at The Fridge on February 28, we met Egyptian lead vocalist and guitarist Sharif Maghraby to learn more about the band.

They’ve just written a song about the recent unrest in Egypt.
‘We’ve decided to record it today! Everybody tries to make a difference in their own way. A friend of mine sat on Facebook all day linking people to people, being like a disseminator of knowledge. Another friend decided to take his video camera and go to Cairo to cover what was happening there, and another went there to fight – he just stood in the street looking for a fight. I’m not like that; I’m an artist, so I wrote that song about the situation.’

They went back to Sinai for inspiration for their second album.
‘The three of us spent a week in the mountains, getting inspired by being part of that environment. It’s an amazing place. After a week we were charged with positive energy, so we went to the studio where we recorded our first album with the same producer, and spent a week bringing the songs to life. That was really exciting.’

The production process still amazes him.
‘When you write a song with just two guitars and a percussionist, it has a certain sound or scope, but when you start to add drums and the producer introduces arrangements and effects… Suddenly, the songs you’ve played for a while take on a life of their own.’

If things go to plan, the next few months should be busy…
‘Though we’re not generating that much money from performances right now, as far as exposure and PR is concerned we’re doing well. We’re about to launch our website so people can buy the music directly, and we want to release an album, get a video out and do a regional tour in the summer, then maybe go to Europe.’

…though they’re not making any decisions to leave their day jobs.
‘I think that the fact that we do have day jobs allows us to produce our music independently. The band has done really well, and will continue to do well. We were approached by a local distribution and record company who said, ‘You guys are exactly what we’re looking for,’ so we’re in discussions now to be on their 2011 release.’

When they recorded first album Spirit of Sinai, egos got in the way.
‘Remember the feeling when you first realised you could do something really well, and there was this kind of vanity attached to it? It was the same thing for me with our first album – it was kind of, ‘Oh, look at us! We can play and make music!’ We were insecure and we wanted our sound as a three-piece to come across as the dominant sound. It could have been much more balanced if we’d been more relaxed about giving everybody who was part of it a chance to express themselves.’

Their second album, Qabeela’h, is very different to their first.
‘The songwriting on the first album was not as good, and from a production standpoint the producer learned a lot from working with us the first time. If you listen to the first record and then our newer one, it’s like a leap forward, in style, in arrangements, in our confidence as musicians, and our need to be heard. It became more about the music with the second album. It’s definitely more mature and more of a group effort.’

Dahab play The Fridge on February 28 as part of its sixth concert series.

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