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Dubai: Live music springs back to life in the city

Michael Gomes /Dubai
michael@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 7, 2021

Musicians are ready to strike the high notes for events complying with all Covid-19 precautionary measures amidst eased restrictions in the city

The raging Covid-19 pandemic has failed to dampen the spirit of Dubai’s vibrant live music industry. There may have been an interlude because of the contagion, but live music is back with a bang amid an intensified vaccination drive.

Happy days are here again, as the UAE’s most populous emirate jives to the pulsating tunes of live music, whose echoes can be felt across venues, including pubs and restaurants. Musicians had gone into a ‘silent mode’ and music lovers were deprived of their daily entertainment fix, as Covid-19 played havoc.

However, the worst is behind us, as restrictions have been eased. Some venues have started promotional activities in earnest. The nudge is certainly in the right direction, as eager performing artistes are all set to strike the high notes and the shifting sand dunes will once again come alive with the sound of groovy music.

>> ‘GOVERNMENT DESERVES KUDOS’: POINT OF VIEW ROCKER NIK UZGARE

Veteran Dubai rocker, Nikhil ‘Nik’ Uzgare, who has been experimenting with new sound with his solo Hindi project with Universal Music MENA is looking forward to returning on stage. In fact, his award-winning rock quintet, Point of View (POV), are playing a sold-out show at the the iconic Lock Stock & Barrel — Barsha Heights on Saturday, July 10.

He feels enthused that live performers, who were down on their luck and savings for the past few months, will get back to earning a livelihood and also start entertaining music starved audiences yet again.

Nik says, “The Dubai Government deserves kudos for its brave efforts to put music back in our lives with their progressive thought process.” He also sees the Expo 2020 as a catalyst for the live music scene in the UAE.

However, he believes that musicians and patrons must respect the law and civic guidelines to make best use of the opportunity so that it works to their advantage. Any violation of rules, he says, is a loss for the live music industry.

Having said that, he has observed that people have become more responsible and are consciously taking all the necessary precautions against the viral outbreak that has affected everyone.

Other than fronting POV, the multi-faceted artiste juggles several roles with aplomb such as cutting a new album, with Universal Music MENA, and setting up new initiatives as the founder of his entertainment brand — Rock Nation UAE.

>> ‘FEELS GREAT TO CONNECT WITH A LIVELY AUDIENCE’: ANUSHKA ABRAHAM

“It’s an awesome feeling, as live music is back with a bang,” says a beaming Anushka, a Dubai-based singer-songwriter. “It feels great to be singing my songs and connecting with a live audience once again,” she adds.

A live show’s pull is unparalleled, as the amplification of melody takes an audience to an ecstasy of stratospheric proportions. “The reopening of live acts augurs well. Now, I can also attend concerts of other musicians, such as those who inspire us as well as get the chance to discover new talent,” Anushkha says.

>> ‘A STELLAR JOB’: LEO JOAMON

Guitarist Leo Joamon is all praise for the Dubai Government. “The authorities have done a stellar job to quickly adapt to the new normal. It has given us the opportunity to do what we know best — play music live,” says Joamon.

>> ‘HAPPY TO BE BACK ON STAGE’: GAZ HANSFORD of 13 Daze

Easing restrictions does not connote throwing caution to the winds. Gaz Hansford, Head of Entertainment, Lock, Stock and Barrel and frontman of the band 13 Daze, says he’s happy with whatever form of gigs take place after the reopening of venues.

Hansford, however, says musicians have been eagerly waiting for the restrictions to be lifted to entertain people on a big stage.

“It just feels awesome to be performing live again. We’re grateful for whatever form live music is slated to stage a comeback in — solo shows or light acoustic sessions. It’s just awesome to be doing it all over again,” he says.

>> ‘A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION’: WILL JANSSEN of The Boxtones

A recent Australian study pointed out that the music industry has been among the hardest hit sectors by Covid-19, as artistes largely depend on live performances for their livelihood.

But Dubai, as always, has been leading from the front and setting a template for the rest of the world to emulate. Janssen, an integral part of award-winning Dubai-based Canadian-Scottish rock band, The Boxtones, chimes in.

“We’ve been patiently waiting for the return of live music in the UAE. Thousands of musicians all over the world were rendered jobless, as live entertainment came to a standstill because of Covid-19 restrictions. Many countries are still reeling under lockdowns and are emerging out of them,” says Janssen.

“No wonder, I love the UAE, my home for the past 10 years. The reopening of venues is a step in the right direction. Of course, we’re relying on the public to comply with safety protocols while attending concerts in Dubai. Our band members took the jab in February. We’re also more than ready to be the vehicle of entertainment. Dubai Expo 2020 will be the oeuvre we’re all waiting for,” adds Janssen.

Janssen wants fans to have a blast when attending concerts, but also cautions them to enjoy in a safe manner and follow Covid safety guidelines.

“It’s so amazing to have myself and our fellow musicians back in the saddle! The mighty return of the live music scene here in Dubai has been both a blessing and a privilege — especially for the full-timers like myself and The Boxtones. And from what I can see at Tipsy Lion, Sofitel Downtown Dubai where Louise and I perform every Thursday/Friday (keyboards/keytar and vocals), as well as Hard Rock Cafe, Dubai Festival City featuring Gary & Gill (guitar and drums), the audience are following all health and safety precautions (i.e., wearing masks when not at a table and social distancing in designated locations). I would imagine it’s quite challenging to enjoy live music and ‘not dance’ but we do encourage those in attendance to enjoy themselves from their seats/tables… so far, so good! We’re all in this together and need work to continue!”

>> ‘MUSIC IS A LIVING ENTITY’: ISAAC, musician

Several musicians have been busy working on new sounds or honing their skills during the lockdown. Session musician and bass player Isaac says not being able to perform in front of an audience has taken a toll on his creativity, and his savings are depleted as live gigs dried up.

But he’s excited that the thrill is back.

“Music is a living entity that thrives in spaces, where an appreciative audience can enjoy a live feel. The lockdown took a toll on my creativity and my finances also dwindled. Now, I’m excited to perform the new sound I’ve been working on during the lockdown. The reopening of venues is music to my ears,” says Isaac.

>> Safety top priority for organisers

According to John Lickrish, CEO Flash Entertainment, safety is the main concern when it comes to organising shows. He has listed the protocols laid down by the authorities for a safe concert experience:

• Nothing can replace the thrill of live events. We know there is a huge appetite from fans to experience that thrill again; however, safety is our priority.

• We are working with the authorities, both Federal and local Abu Dhabi health officials, to ensure we have the right protocols in place for a safe return to live events.

• Capacity at live events will be limited, in adherence with the latest guidelines, to allow for social distancing and efficient people traffic management.

• All event attendees are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (two doses) and have a valid negative PCR test result displayed on their Al Hosn app.

• Mask wearing is mandatory at all times.

• We all have a responsibility to protect the health and wellbeing of the community and event goers are expected to adhere to social distancing and hygiene recommendations.

• Ticket purchases are limited to x 4 per person.

author

Michael Gomes

Michael Gomes is a seasoned journalist with more than three decades in the industry, but he still retains his humour and common sense. He has written scores of articles covering music, concerts, food, gadgets and Bollywood. In his spare time, he picks up the guitar to strum a chord or two or play with fire in the home kitchen.