‘To have original music is crucial’

Homegrown indie-soul act Abri have gone from strength to strength and have remained true to their sound in the process. City Times gets the low-down on the band and their musical journey

By Mohamad Kadry (Staff Reporter)

Published: Thu 12 Jun 2008, 11:34 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:18 PM

Abri are Hamdan (vocals), Rami (bass), Andre (drums) and Julian (keyboard)

NEVER HAS a homegrown musical act caused so much stir, and so much excitement as Abri. Never was it believed that a genuine soul-thumping band could form out of the desert sands of Arabia, rising to fill a real void in a unique musical genre that is all but non-existent in the Middle East. And never has a group shown such unprecedented talent and drive, that it was able to silence the critics with its indie sound and humble spirit. This is what Abri is, but more importantly, this is what Abri has become.

Soul-searching sounds

Like a desert shamal, Abri is literally taking the world by storm. Hamdan’s vocals, Rami’s bass, Andre’s drums, and Julian’s keyboard all seem to fit together so effortlessly. Like holding a soft warm candle underneath an intricately designed crystal bowl, the band has become a national beacon for raw, uninhibited, soul-searching sounds. With the release of their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Sunchild’, Abri is set to embark on a world-wide tour this year.

“The success has been great. A lot of people said it would be really hard to have an original music act in Dubai doing the kind of stuff that we did, but we just went ahead with it anyways and the reaction has been fantastic from all sorts of people. It just makes you feel so good,” comments Julian, a British expat who began lending his keyboard skills a year back.

Before ever gaining notoriety for their unique sound, many people warned the group that their blend of indie/soul would never take off in a place like Dubai.

“People said it would be difficult... but now the situation has changed because of us, but it’s also changed because it was changing anyways. The whole music scene is changing... and while I don’t feel like we’ve paved the way, I think we are part of the movement,” adds Julian.

Original music

The quintessential savior’s of Dubai soul, the band, formed by lead vocalist Hamdan Al-Abri, is reflective of the national diversity that has made the UAE so famously accommodating and successful.

With his dreadlock image and rhythm, Hamdan grew up here knowing that in order for the world to believe in his sound, he had to be genuine and original. “We believed in our music, we knew it was good and people would respond to it,” he says.

With more and more music events being hosted in Dubai, things are truly changing here. Refusing to sacrifice their sound, Abri has been taken to the forefront of a national movement towards original music and identity.

“Music alone tells half the tale of culture,” adds Rami, a Lebanese bass guitarist who also grew up in the UAE. “People have to express themselves, and it’s important not to repress creativity and feelings. To have original music is crucial... these are the signs of a flourishing society,” says Julian.

Their music refuses to be classified, with elements of soul, R&B, reggae, gospel, and samba.

‘Everybody is an artist’

“Our music represents us and who we are as people. It’s a dialogue that you have with yourself, and I personally believe that everybody is an artist, and everybody should be an artist... sometimes its a way of working out certain feelings that you have inside yourself. I feel almost as if music just took me, I didn’t make a decision because I’ve always loved it,” adds Julian on behalf of the band.

“Music is one of the most beautiful mediums, it’s a universal language... we just want people to have a good time and be happy,” says Rami, who helped form the band alongside Hamdan 2-1/2 years ago.

As true die hard music fans themselves, the band is thriving on their acceptance and growing fan base, as they prepare to embark on their first ever UK gig later this month.

“The reason why we get better and better at the performances is because the crowd gets better and better with us,” says Rami. “Were just feeding off the energy with each other,” adds Hamdan.

True to form

Never has a band been so true to form, so true to spirit, and so down to earth. Many are claiming that Abri is exactly what Dubai and the greater region need, the answer to the UAE’s soul search. Representing the new sound of the Middle East, they have risen like a blossoming hymenocallis, a desert flower that thrives under the unrelenting heat of the sun and the infinite outstretches of the sand. Abri is Dubai. Abri is soul. Abri is Dubai’s soul.


WHAT: Abri

WHEN: June 13, 8pm

WHERE: Club Embassy at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

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