What’s On teams up with Hype to delve into Dubai’s unplugged music scene. We profile the stars of Freshly Ground Sounds concerts in Dubai.
Freshly Ground Sounds was launched in November 2013, playing to around 40 attendees. Now, on their fully set-up stages, the regular gatherings attract figures in the hundreds at venues like The Roseleaf Cafe at Dubai Garden Centre, The Archive and The Magazine Shop. Such is the strength of following, they’ve even launched a campaign – #GetJoshToSheeran – to get one of their stars to support Ed Sheeran at his upcoming gig in the emirate.
With the help of our friends at Hype magazine, we profile some of the most popular of the performers.
Name: Dana & Mo
Age: 26 and 24
Day job: advertising manager at Thomson Reuters; communications executive at Leo Burnet
What instrument and type of music do you play? One mic and a guitar is all it takes. We mostly cover all sorts of genres and turn them into our own genre; we’ll soon come up with our own stuff though, for sure.
How did your first gig with Freshly Ground Sounds come about, and what was it like? It was an amazing experience for us. It was a huge success, and was a lot of fun to perform and take part in a gig filled with local talents and amazing audiences.
What do you think of the UAE’s independent music scene? I think the UAE’s filled with hidden talents of all sorts, and it’s really important to let people come together and expose these talents to one another. Freshly Ground Sounds makes this possible for a lot of us.
Name: Sarah Al Shaybani
Day job: Photographer and visual artist at sushiroll-studios.com
What instrument and music do you play? Guitar. Soft indie, jazz and soul, soft alternative rock, some pop.
How did your first gig with Freshly Ground Sounds come about, and what was it like? My sister, Iman Al Shaybani, signed us up.
What do you think of the UAE’s independent music scene? The region’s very weak when it comes to supporting western music. Arab musicians have a much better platform from labels, and I hope to see that happen for us one day. Projects such as Freshly allow us to channel our music and talents, which makes us actively grow and constantly create content.
Name: Iman Al Shaybani
Day job: Just quit a seven-year-long advertising career and now on to bigger things. Co-founder of sushiroll-studios.com
What instrument and music do you play? Indie rock, folk, jazz and soul, soft rock, New Age and pop as well. Anything my heart beats for will probably end up on our set list.
How did your first gig with Freshly Ground Sounds come about, and what was it like? A friend of mine had heard of Freshly, and he encouraged me to sign up. My sister and I have always been a duo, so I went and signed us both up without her even knowing. I broke the news to her, and we started rehearsing for the gig right away. Freshly was our first gig, and a huge learning curve in terms of stage presence and choice of songs to play. I can’t wait to perform again.
What do you think of the UAE’s independent music scene? It’s very young, but if you look on the bright side, it’s probably one of the best in the region. Dubai has artists from all over the world. We’re happy to be in the city at a time like this. One thing I wish we could have is more cultural and social support.
Day job: Works at an environmental NGO
Twitter and Soundcloud: @nora_Amb
What instrument and music do you play? I’m a singer-songwriter, and also into music production. I play soul and R&B.
How did your first gig with Freshly Ground Sounds come about, and what was it like? It was great – well organised, intimate, warm, friendly, and low-key.
What do you think of the UAE’s independent music scene? It’s diversifying and growing, and that is great. Platforms like Freshly Ground Sounds keep us active.
Name: Therese & Shane
Age: 17 and 25
Day job: student; graphic designer
What instrument and music do you play? We play guitars and ukulele. I guess you could classify it as folk pop/rock, but we like to cover a range of different songs as well.
How did your first gig with Freshly Ground Sounds come about, and what was it like? We performed at the pop-up gig Fresh Sounds Of The Fall. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but we got comfortable towards the end of our set.
What do you think of the UAE’s independent music scene? It’s great to see the independent music scene growing. I think a lot of people, including us, have been waiting a long time for the scene to develop and provide a platform for budding musos.
Name: William Mullally
Day job: magazine editor
Twitter and Instagram: @whmullally
What instrument and music do you play? I play acoustic guitar. The idea of picking a genre makes me ill, but I’d choose indie folk if my back’s against the wall.
How did your first gig with Freshly Ground Sounds come about, and what was it like? I picked up a guitar one night at a party and happened to catch the ear of FGS founder Ismat Abidi. She encouraged me to come down and play, and after a test run at an art gallery, the crew put me on for the first FGS gig at The Archive Safa Park in December 2013. The audience couldn’t have been better.
What do you think of the UAE’s independent music scene? The astounding response to Freshly Ground Sounds has proved two things: the talent is here, and the demand is palpable. With the right support, and the right venues and promotion, huge things could happen here. Remember, it only took three guys to start the Beat Generation in New York. As long as artists are challenging and supporting each other, it’s possible.