Alternative soul is the best way to describe both the man and the music – and it runs through every vein in Adam Baluch’s forever-bopping body.
The talented musician has been making noise on Dubai’s gigging circuit for years, playing in McGettigan’s DWTC, Fibber Magee’s, Loca and now Zero Gravity. The latest gig will see Adam perform his original material using a mixture of beatboxing, singing, guitar, keyboards and percussive sounds with a loop station.
The one-man band was born in the UAE to a Ugandan father and American mother, and grew up between Dubai and the US. Music never flowed through his childhood home, but it was apparent from his early years that this was something he was destined to do. ‘Musically, my family were very strict. We were only allowed to listen to classical music, no rock, rap or pop. I remember as a kid I’d slip out of the house every now and then. I’d be in a taxi or a mall, and there’d be music playing, and I’d just listen to it as long as I could,’ Adam says.
By the age of eight he was learning to play the trumpet and by ten, the piano. He moved to the US for his high school and as a classical trumpet and piano prodigy, joined the acclaimed Carolina Youth Symphony. ‘I didn’t really develop a love for music until later. I think when you have something that you’re made to practice every day, you don’t have that love for it, unless it’s something you really want to do. I did have an interest in classical music but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do in life,’ he explains.
In grade school, he immersed himself in the human beatbox percussion movement and post-graduation, he taught himself to play the guitar. ‘I left the classical scene a long time ago but playing in an orchestra has helped me a lot, as what I do now is pretty similar to playing in a mini band. I’m using multiple instruments at the same time and a loop station. So it’s made me think as a whole group rather than just myself,’ he says.
Playing nightly gigs at venues across Dubai means Adam is constantly honing his performance, and feels just as comfortable playing to a handful of music-lovers as he is playing to more than 10,000, which he did as the opening act for global soul legend Lionel Richie when he played Dubai back in April. ‘There was a point when I was really happy being a pub singer and doing a couple of concerts here and there, but then I realised that I’ve developed so much as a musician. What I’m doing now has really grown and I know I can write songs that will either hit people dance wise or in the heart. There are some emotional moments in my music but it’s also uplifting and positive,’ he says.
‘I didn’t take myself seriously at first, but things are different now. Opening for Lionel Richie was really a game changer for me. I’m totally comfortable doing the pub circuit for the rest of my life but I’d love to get on to the festival circuit in Europe and be able to write that song that opens the door for you,’ says Adam.
With his distinctly Bohemian demeanour and dress sense, he is the first to admit that he’d always opted out of the fame game, and had never set out to ‘make it’.
‘It’s about letting the pieces fall into place. If I had pushed my music earlier I don’t think I’d have been able to make the impact I’m making now. I’m not necessarily influenced by music trends, I’d rather start a new one,’ he muses.
After taking time out over the summer, the 33-year-old is currently producing his debut album, which is scheduled for release towards the end of the year. ‘My core and my crowd are telling me my music deserves to be heard. There’s no label involved yet, it all comes down to the material, and if it has the ability to be put in front of the right people, then hopefully it’ll be good enough for them push to the next level. The ultimate test is not going to be whether you get success in Dubai, it’s whether you can be successful in Europe or the US,’ he says.
With a fresh sound and bags of talent, it’s safe to say we’ll be hearing a lot more from Adam Baluch.
Adam Baluch at Drift, Saturdays 5.30pm-8.30pm. Zero Gravity, Dubai Marina (04 399 0009).
Where to get your soul fix in Dubai
Every Thursday listen to a live band playing soulful blues and rock. Alternates weekly.
Free. 10pm-2am. Blue Bar, Novotel, DWTC (04 310 8150).
See Rachael Calladine, one of the UK’s top soul and jazz vocalists, every Thursday.
Free. 9.30pm-12.30pm. Frioul, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 567 0011).