Fatiniza in Dubai

We join Colombian-born UAE-based singer in the studio

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Fatiniza is a ball of energy. Our scheduled telephone interview goes something like this: ‘Hello, is that Fatiniza?’ ‘Yes, where are you?’ ‘Er, at the Time Out office in Media City…’ ‘I’ll be there in 10 minutes – you’re coming to the studio with me.’ ‘But…’ Dial tone.

Moments later we’re inside a huge black 4x4 sitting next to the striking Colombian singer, who is talking at such pace that for a moment it seems we’re in the wrong car, having walked into a conversation already in full flow. Her rapid speech spiced with an exotic Latino tang, Fatiniza’s monologue changes direction at the same pace as she talks. One minute she’s gushing about her new album, the next she’s swiftly but firmly dismissing the ‘one or two’ bad reviews she’s had. In an instant she’s explaining the demands of being both the mother of two young children and full-on rock chick, the next she’s laying into a recent article that repeatedly referred to Fatiniza as ‘Dubai’s own Shakira’ (‘I respect her and I’m flattered, but listen to the music – I’m nothing like her’).

All the while she’s jabbing at her car stereo, skipping between early demos of her forthcoming album, the music darting equally confusingly from ballads to ballsy funk rock, soaring soul and Irish folk jig. And
we haven’t even asked a question yet.

It’s the same story when we reach In The Mix studio, a warehouse in the midst of Al Quoz. One minute Fatiniza is running off to share hugs and kisses with dazed, chain-smoking musicians. The next she’s marching into the control room, listening intently while her guitarist tries to lay down a figure, patiently clapping the Latin-tinged staccato rhythm back to him. Eventually we manoeuvre her to settle on a sofa, something we’ve been eager to do ever since single ‘Out of Control’ catapulted the singer’s debut album into the UAE’s Top 10, back in 2010. That song was named Song of the Year at the Bite My Music Global Awards in Malaysia last month, triumphing over competition from more than 1,000 entrants from six continents, while its singer was also crowned Artist of the Year. It’s fair to say Fatiniza may now be the region’s best-known international artist.

Yet it’s been a long journey for the singer, who arrived in the UAE a decade ago to perform as part of a cheesy Latino covers band. ‘I used to sing every single week night for two years,’ she remembers. ‘It was scary. I was really, really young – it was my first time out of the country.’ Eventually she quit the band in disgust, and even left the UAE for some months, but ended up returning to pursue her music solo. She started small, DJing in Cuban bar Malecon, before founding her own events company. One day she wrote a song – her first – by accident. Fatiniza recorded a quick demo and filed it away, busying herself with
the duties of becoming a mother (her two children are today aged eight and four).

Three years ago Fatiniza found her debut recording in a drawer. Intrigued, she had a listen, and was surprised by the talent she’d shown in her songwriting debut. ‘I picked up the guitar and started writing more,’ she recalls. ‘I didn’t stop. I wrote all these songs – two per day – and chose the best.’ Those found their way onto debut album Confusion which, off the back of the video hit ‘Out of Control’, has been named one the most successful UAE-produced releases ever. Recently, that album has found an audience back home in Colombia: our interview is interrupted briefly when a film director stops by to talk about a new video they’re filming for the South American market.

In the meantime, Fatiniza – who’s in her early ’30s but is reluctant to reveal her age – is more focused on crafting a UAE follow-up. If the frenetic energy of our visit is anything to go by, progress is well under way, with a taster EP ‘Life is a Mess’ set for an August release, and a full second album to follow in the autumn.

Her producer, John F Williams – an American who has worked in the studio with Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder – sits back in his leather chairand muses: ‘On the last album she had a couple of songs,
but she was getting the experience. This time the songs are a lot stronger, I’m excited about this album. She’s taken it to the next level.’
Fatiniza’s debut album, Confusion, is out now. For more info, see www.fatiniza.com.

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