Living among the locals

10 musicians to check out live in the UAE

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The UAE’s young music scene has attracted a variety of talented, enthusiastic musicians from all over the world.

Having worked in the business for almost 10 years, Lebanese artist manager Elia Mssawir told StepFeed about his project of launching his own company in Dubai with the aim to support and develop regional artists.

Other initiatives like The Sound GaardenThe FridgeAlserkal Avenue, and Home Concerts in Dubai, also offer locally-based musicians who perform to a live audience at all sorts of events.

Here are some of the UAE-based talented musicians you should know about:

1. Sherif el Moghazy

One of the few advantages to having an explosive population in Egypt is the continuous flow of talent and creativity and the likes of Sherif el Moghazy into the UAE.  

He is a multi-instrumentalist musician whose main specialty is the handpan – a handmade instrument recently invented in Switzerland back in 2001. 

El Moghazy has dedicated his entire professional life to exploring this piece of metal to produce heavenly sounds; launching the region’s premier handpan project dubbed Music from Steel.

2. Sebrina Riley

Sebrina Riley’s work includes a unique blend of Jamaican and rock music

Her songs are inspired by a recollection of things she has seen, experienced, or even merely heard about. She can be found performing at TribecaThe Deck on 8, and Media One Hotel in Dubai.

3. WYWY

Filipino band WYWY has performed in Dubai, Singapore, and the Philippines so far. 

They were featured in Illustrado Magazine’s The 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf in 2016, the duo told StepFeed, going on to mention the release of their first album “Within You Without You” earlier this year, which includes five original tracks. 

You can watch them perform at Dubai-based events like Rise DCH, the Sound Gaarden, Food truck JamFreshly Ground Sounds, and Bad House Party.

4. Josh Monteath

In the video, singer/songwriter Josh Monteath sings his original song “Untitled” at sunrise on an abra (boat), on Dubai’s Creek. 

Monteath joined Dubai’s music scene in 2013 after his band fell through in 2012 as he tells Gulf News in an interview. Ever since, he has been a regular performer at events organized by Freshly Ground Sounds, The Fridge, and The Sound Gaarden.

5. Carl & The Reda Mafia

Since its formation in 2014, Carl & The Reda Mafia has brought together the talents of Indian Rock-n-Roll vocalist Carl Frenais, Egyptian Funk and Blues guitarist Tarek Reda, American drummer Colin, and Greek bass player Chris Asimakopoulos.

“Carl & The Reda Mafia are one of the top UAE bands, and the only act that toured the Middle East so far,” their manager, Elia Mssawir, told StepFeed.

Shortly after they got together in 2014, the band became a success story. Their song “Fight For Your Queen,” which they wrote for the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign, went viral with more than 160,000 views on YouTube. 

Soon after, they signed with the Abu Dhabi-based White Cube Studios and opened Bon Jovi’s concert in 2015 before 20,000 fans.

6. Nowhere Birds

Nowhere Birds is another charming Filipino duo in Dubai that consists of Jules Suarez and Mitchiko Bagayna. They have been composing and writing their own Indie Folk music since 2015 with nothing but a guitar and a tambourine in the background.

They told StepFeed that UAE residents “are starting to notice and appreciate local talents. But we really think that there’s a lot of gems waiting to be discovered.”

“We’re like a couple of birds flying together, nowhere. Wherever we go, wherever the wind takes us, even if we get lost, we will be alright as long as we are together,” Suarez told StepFeed.

“Dubai itself inspires us. The culture, how different people from different countries make connection, the happiness and loneliness to be [found] in a new place.”

You can enjoy their music at The Sound Gaarden, Freshly Ground Sounds, open mic events, and private parties.

7. Jay Abo

Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, the singer/songwriter Jay Abo says he writes about universal experiences that everyone encounters. 

“I love being part of the [music] scene here, it’s so fresh and you never know what talent is hiding around the corner or behind a dune,” Abo told StepFeed.

While he wouldn’t call himself a blues artist, it was this genre that ignited his passion for music, giving him the freedom to improvise and develop.

“The fact that I can put pen to paper and fingers to strings and find a way to communicate … that no one is alone in those experiences is something I’m really grateful for,” he told StepFeed.

You can watch him perform at TribecaJazz @ Pizza Express, and the Gramercy.

8. Imbue

Imbue brings the best of the East and the West. Founded by two Syrian artists, songwriter Bassel Abou Fadel and vocalist/guitarist Maher Al Halabi, the band also features Colombian-American drummer Juan Manuel Arenas, Cuban flutist Malena Avila, and Lebanese vocalist/bass player Jeffrey Ayache.

Together, they creatively blend bossa nova, jazz, and Arabic tunes and lyrics – a genre that can only be attributed to them. 

You can enjoy their enchanting Arabic jazz at Jazz @ Pizza Express as well as various other locations in Dubai.

9. Jamil Jabbour

Jamil Jabbour is a Lebanese singer, songwriter, and guitarist who has been performing for over 10 years. 

He is known in Dubai’s music scene for experimenting with blues and acoustic renditions of both popular and classic tunes. 

You can watch him perform at Jazz @ Pizza Express, The Gramercy, and private events.

10. Esther, Azarel and G-Beat

This video features singers Esther Eden and Azarel perform alongside beatboxer G-Beat.

G-Beat, or Jamal, has been around in the UAE music scene for over six years and has grown from a beatboxer champion to a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and poet.

Esther was born in Goa, India, and inherited her mother’s talent who was a jazz vocalist. Since Esther signed a recording deal with Universal Music MENA in 2015, she has performed in various concerts and venues, won an award, and released three singles and an album.

As for Azarel’s musical career, it has revolved around collaborations with his peers. In Dubai, he has performed on stage with beatboxers like G-Beat, live on the radio, as well as in various studio sessions.

Click here for an original version of this article

Yasmin Helal

About Yasmin Helal

Having lived in the GCC, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, Yasmin is a journalist who enjoys writing travel and culture features.

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