Meet the brains behind Abu Dhabi's Dozenz video taking the world by storm: Saleh Hamed

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Meet the brains behind Abu Dhabis Dozenz video taking the world by storm: Saleh Hamed
Saleh Hamed

Published: Sun 10 Dec 2017, 5:35 PM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 1:39 PM

It's an '80s track set over a distinctly quirky video shot in Abu Dhabi. Ballet dancers competing against break dancers in a park to some retro synth-pop beats. Who would have thought it would have gone viral? But with 633,000 views on Facebook alone (at time of publishing), it is fair to say Dozenz's Need Nobody and the accompanying clip is becoming a phenomenon.
Of course it's not the first time the man behind it, Emirati musician Saleh Hamed, has achieved success. A decade ago he was an original songwriter and the keyboardist for local band Juliana Down. Returning to music after 10 years away, Saleh has created Dozenz, an experimental project bringing together many strands of art for your entertainment.
Here we find out more.
What can you tell us about the artists behind the vid and the song? Have you always been into this type of sound? 
The video was directed by Waleed Shah and myself and we wanted to create a video that was fun and representative of the Abu Dhabi we grew up in. All the dancers are about 16 and 17 (one is 21) and they choreographed all the sequences by themselves, then Waleed filmed and edited it all together. Cleverly, Waleed filmed all the dances several times from different angles on roller blades to give the impression that the video was using multiple cameras. 
I recently got into the retro '80s inspired sound (but before it became popular thanks to Stranger Things and the like). I have become slightly nostalgic for that period and for the films and music and just naturally found myself making tunes that sound like Need Nobody. I have a whole album is in the same vein. What is great is that I am working with some great artists from around the world who are Grammy Award winners, Billboard chart toppers and have worked with even bigger stars. It is a truly humbling and exhilarating experience. 
Is there a message you're aiming to convey to the world about Abu Dhabi and the UAE? 
I love Abu Dhabi and I always want to contribute to creating art and expression that is authentically Abu Dhabi without constraint. I love honest artistic expression that comes from the streets and from the kids. I want to learn more about my city and speak and interact with more people in my city and hear their stories and share my name. Dozenz is all about that. 
What made you come back to music after 10 years? The use of social media must have changed in that time. How does it feel to have gone viral?
I left music 10 years ago because I just dried up artistically. I had nothing to say. I found myself writing the same song over and over again. But then I met my wife to be and all of a sudden I was a fountain of music and lyrics. 
Social media is very, very different! This has totally taken us by surprise. When I was last involved with music I would never have dreamed of connecting with so many people so quickly or even being able to work with so many people across the world so easily. 
What is your ultimate goal with this now the project has gone viral?
To create an artistic movement that creates an authentic identity for Abu Dhabi that makes a connection in the UAE and beyond. 
How long did the project take to put together and would you have done anything differently?
The songs have taken a couple of years to develop but the video was done in a couple of weeks. The team behind the video was very professional despite their youth, which just goes to show how ready Abu Dhabi is to take it to the next level. 
Would I have done anything differently? I would have made sure the director Waleed didn't break his arm on the shoot! And taken more pictures of the team to prepare us for the positive feedback we were going to receive.
Do you think there are enough activities for the UAE's youth? What, if anything, would you like to see change? How does this project help?
I think there are lots of activities that keep them busy but not enough career paths and outlets for them to take it professional. We need some way to encourage the local media to court and nurture local talent. For example, I believe in Canada and Australia and even The States there is a minimum percentage of coverage that must be locally produced. That kind of regulatory incentive would ensure there was investment in this sector in a way that would provide real jobs for kids to develop. 
Going forward are you open to people getting in touch with you for future collaborations? How can people get involved?
Yes! Dozenz is all about the collab! Just contact us on the Facebook page or Twitter or even Instagram and we will definitely pick it up. We would love to see people interpret Need Nobody and create their own dances with it. We saw ballet and breakdancing and would love to see more of that and of other types of dances. Just film it, upload it online and tag Dozenz and we will reshare it with all our followers. 
What ideas have you got for future projects you'd like to do?
We are going to release a whole lot of music very soon and regularly as well as more videos. We are planning to do some very interesting events related to 80s based culture and that whole aesthetic. We will also be working with dancers across the world to create new and interesting visuals and collaboration opportunities.

By David Light

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Filming the vid
Filming the vid
Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes
Dozenz's Need Nobody
Dozenz's Need Nobody
Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes

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