Even though I’m an expat girl born and bred, I went to college in the UK and this experience allowed me to see in depth what things are the norm a world away from Dubai.
On balmy summer days, it was a pleasure to wander around aimlessly through some of the most interesting boroughs of London, soaking up the music that surrounded me.
If you open your ears and concentrate you will notice that life in a big European city is always accompanied by a soundtrack. Music billows out of open windows, car stereos, buskers’ amps, iPods, shop fronts and the puckered lips of white-van men.
Everywhere you go you can hear it, but the great thing is each district of London has a different theme. Grungy Camden, for instance, is submerged in metal and indie, while Afro-Caribbean Brixton has reggae and roots, man. You can go to the East End and hear more cutting-edge tracks, acid jazz, Bangladeshi pop and electro. West London, meanwhile, is a melange from prog-rock to punk.
The same is the case as you travel around the world: each country has its own musical identity, from the ballads of Dublin’s The Frames, Australia’s Jet, who give a novel take on established pop-rock. Identities stick and define the genre of music that is dominant in each territory. And if you have a quality musical production line, bands within that territory still have enough room to explore the boundaries of that genre. What’s more, as tastes mature, so does the style of music: if the people hadn’t become dissatisfied with Boyzone, The Frames wouldn’t have the success that they enjoy today.
How, though, would you describe the Dubai music scene? That’s a bit of a tricky question, because we are surrounded by talent from every continent (well, except Antarctica). Is there one type of populist music that gets the people here going? Just five years ago, you could say it was old-timers’ ho-downs, with the cream of yesteryear coming here for a payday.
But today, with star turns like Coldplay coming to nearby Abu Dhabi, there’s a real energy to our music, and a variety that beggars belief. Bear in mind that I’ve had everything from Palestinian freedom rockers to Patagonian nose flautists on my show over the last year and a half, and all of them have been locally based. So over the next few weeks I’ll be outlining some of the popular genres we have available on local soil and finally try to work out just what the biggest scene is here in the city.
In the meantime, if you have any suggestions of bands and types of music that butter your parsnip, get over to www.timeoutdubai.com or my Open Mic Facebook group, and we can get a discussion going.
Zahra showcases the latest local talent on Open Mic every Saturday from 8pm-10pm on Dubai Eye 103.8