Dubai Rock City

This week, Zahra looks at why rock could be Dubai’s biggest music genre. Hmmm, interesting…

Last week I asked if Dubai could be defined by its overall taste in music. More than anything, it was an attempt to spark debate about which genre is closest to Dubai’s heart. To take part in the debate, check out the comments page for this article online – and to vote for your favourite genre, see the first of six weekly music polls at We’ll analyse the results in a few weeks, but for now let’s look at rock’s place in the hearts of Dubai’s population.

There’s no doubt rock – and all its sweaty, leather-clad offshoots – enjoys enormous popularity here, probably because of the polarising nature of the music, which creates a real, a kind of us-versus-them, community feeling among the fans.

What’s more, rock music spans cultures easily: it’s such a broad category that there’s something in it for everyone, meaning that true rockers come to Dubai from just about anywhere around the world. Oh yes – there are more poodle-permed rockers of yesteryear in this town than you might think. The thing is that they are now senior accountants in medical companies or process managers in Jebel Ali Free Zone.

Then you have the disaffected, faux-nihilistic youth who are dabbling with rock as they prepare for their A-Levels, not to mention those in between that follow the subgenres like electro-rock, industrial and prog rock. And, of course, the Dubai music scene reflects this wealth of tastes: Sun King ( and Universal Rogue ( cater to the more sophisticated rockhead, while Sandwash’s preppy, not-too-serious punk rock ( has captured the imagination of live music fans. Not to mention the relative commercial success of Juliana Down from Abu Dhabi, who are working hard to find a way into our charts.

But the kicker is that despite being surrounded by so many rock bands, it’s not always easy to see many of them live. ‘In underground bars in Deira and Bur Dubai there are kick-ass bands who attract an audience,’ says Sherif of Dahab, a band that fuses Arabic and acoustic rock, ‘but I don’t think that as a live genre, rock has picked up yet in Dubai. I don’t know why – it’s obviously popular in record collections, but not as a live genre in this city.’

I tend to agree. We have some excellent original bands in Dubai, but I think it takes an adventurous fan – when the airwaves are saturated with big-name acts from the charts around the world – to subscribe to grass-roots level rock music. But some are subscribing – by visiting events like Rock Nation, Slob Fest and The Strong South, and by coming to see local support acts that are opening for international names. But what else can be done? To have your say, check out the comments section for this article at – and don’t forget to participate in the poll!

Zahra showcases the latest local talent on Open Mic every Saturday from 8pm-10pm on Dubai Eye 103.8

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