The global music institution that is the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) has been around since 1998, celebrating music’s most unusual, creative and up-and-coming talents, and pioneers of new musical genres.
Each year, the academy takes place in a different city (the last three editions were held in Montréal, Paris and Tokyo) and runs a series of workshops and lectures for aspiring musicians from around the world.
It’s dedicated to nurturing the global music scene, with an open-minded, international ethos. Its alumni – everyone from producers and engineers to singers, songwriters, DJs and instrumentalists – are incredibly diverse, and this month, more than 30 of them will be in Dubai for the Red Bull Music Academy Weekender; four days of workshops, events, exhibitions and massive parties at some of the city’s coolest venues.
Some of RBMA’s most exciting international stars will be playing gigs alongside regional artists, such as Kuwaiti multimedia artist and producer Zahed Sultan. His project, titled Hiwar, explores the connections between the traditional pearl diving music of the Gulf and today’s local music scene with a live audio-visual performance featuring traditional and contemporary folk musicians from the UAE. The world premier of a film documenting his work will kick off the weekender at MusicHall on Wednesday April 12.
Each of the Weekender’s events will feature talented local musicians, such as Analog Room’s Siamak Amidi and Shemroom, who will be supporting two of the most eclectic DJs on the weekender line-up at ON42 on Thursday April 13: The Black Madonna (whose vinyl DJ sets span disco, techno and more) and Moodyman (with his classic jazz and soul sampled dance music that fuses fast-moving house and techno).
“Dance music needs some discomfort with its euphoria,” says Marea Stamper (aka The Black Madonna).“It needs people who don’t have the right shoes to get into the club. [It] needs shirts without collars. It needs people who had to come before midnight because they couldn’t afford the full admission. Dance music does not need more of the status quo.”
And therein lies exactly what makes the ethos of the Academy and its events so exciting. Far from bringing you crowd-drawing mainstream names, the Weekender is all about discovering and appreciating new music, new artists and new genres. Ones that you might never have thought even existed until now.
At the Steigenberger Hotel on Thursday April 13, you’ll be able to hear trance from Academy alumni Axel Boman or South Korean house, by way of Berlin, from Peggy Gou. Or, head over to Room 2 to hear Chicago-based DJ Earl, whose jazz, funk, heavy sub bass and unstructured hip-hop has been taking one of America’s coolest cities – and the world – by storm. All of which will be supported by Dubai’s own Deep Like Thursdayz! DJs Sam Farsio and JC Pinto.
We could go on and on. Each and every artist on the Weekender line-up has a background and outlook that’s in some way unexpected. Friday night at d3 is all about rapper, hip-hop artist, producer and songwriter Earl Sweatshirt and Afro-Nuyorican indie, alternative hip-hop and R&B artist Princess Nokia. Don’t miss Dubai-based indie-electronic, synth pop, chillwave band Muhaisnah Four, either, who will be playing a selection of ’80s-inspired tracks from their debut album.
And these artists are just the tip of the iceberg. The weekender is a testament to the evolution of Dubai’s music industry. Where exclusive, velvet-roped clubs with strict entry policies once reigned, a booming alternative scene is beginning to thrive, and it’s one to be taken seriously.
This might all sound excruciatingly hipster, but just trust us. It’s one of the most interesting and varied line-ups to land in the city, and that makes it one of the most universally appealing, and don’t be fooled into thinking that packed dancefloors aren’t in store. Stamper is right – dance music doesn’t need more of the status quo. So stick your wrong shoes on, ditch the collared shirt and head out for what is, plain and simple, four nights of fantastic music.
Prices vary. April 12-15, times vary. Various locations including Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City; Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay and Club Vista Mare, Palm Jumeirah, www.platinumlist.net, www.redbullmusicacademy.com.