My radio show has been going for almost two years. With around two guests per show, over 92 shows, I’ve featured roughly 184 musicians or bands in total. And considering I’ve even had a harpist in the studio, this must show that the local music scene is live and kicking, right? Well the answer to that is a little more complicated than it seems.
So far we’ve looked at bands and musicians who see the UAE as the key to worldwide fame and those who believe that musicians should pack up their guitars – and harps – and seek their fortune in Europe or the US. And as stark as that second opinion seems to be, for now it’s the one I agree with.
Ultimately, the centre of the world’s music industry is based many time zones away and that’s not going to change in the near future, even if the music scene in Dubai is growing as fast as Al Barsha. It’s widely believed that you need to have as much good fortune as talent to make it in the industry, and putting yourself in the right place – be that London, New York or elsewhere – can increase your chance of being seen at the right time.
But before you go shooting off abroad, you need to know what you want to achieve. ‘I feel that a lot of musicians [in Dubai] cannot clearly define what their goal is,’ says Rachel Monk of EMI Arabia. ‘Is it to get more live gigs, to be seen and heard, to gain more experience or maybe even get an album released?’ They must, she says, answer this question before they can harbour ambitions on a bigger scale. In short, the best way to make your name is to plan, persevere and innovate. And then decide if you should stay or go.
All is not lost for those that stay, however: they can help turn Dubai into its own version of New York. Adham Ghanen of promotion company Ignite Events, says that Dubai ‘needs to change its state of consciousness about how original live music and other expressions of art are perceived.’
And while Dubai is on the right path, I fear we will have to wait for some time for Dubai’s first major international success. But that isn’t to say that the scene here is not something to be proud of. In those 92 shows, I have seen things changing massively, and the scene getting bigger by the day. It’s a beautiful thing. But whether we are promoters, musicians or fans, we all need to keep building those foundations for the international bands of tomorrow.
Zahra showcases the latest local talent on Open Mic every Saturday from 8pm-10pm on Dubai Eye 103.8