Dubai Diaries: Hitting the right notes

Dubai - What are your favourite 'music memories' of growing up in Dubai?


Enid Grace Parker

Published: Wed 16 Jun 2021, 10:07 AM

"Music has the power to revive memories, sometimes so intensely that they hurt." These words from popular Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s short story Yesterday struck a chord recently as I mused on the monumental role music has played in my over four decades of existence.

Till I was about 12 years old, life didn’t really have a soundtrack, except for the constant hum of the radio and my dad’s tapes (among them, Chick Correa, Cat Stevens, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, as well as popular Hindi film music). When I reached Grade 8, influenced by my friends’ ‘music talk’ at school, I began to pay closer attention to the world of songs, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

Dubai 92 was the city’s only English radio station in the ‘80s, and my constant companion. What I most looked forward to on my way home from school was the half-hour of songs before being whisked away for lunch, homework or an afternoon nap.

There were a couple of shows I loved. Thursday nights had the UK Top 20 countdown, and Fridays, American Top 40 with Casey Kasem — a larger than life, vibrant radio personality whose voice still echoes in my head today. And every week, we tried our best to turn on the television to watch Chart Attack on Channel 33 — a countdown of the top 30 songs in the UK hosted by Simon Potter. Attempts to tape the show during exams were met with stiff resistance by mothers and a lecture that still rings in my years sometimes.

1987 — the year of my induction into music — boasted an unforgettable (if often cheesy) soundtrack — from Los Lobos to Madonna and Rick Astley; from U2, New Order and Duran Duran to glam metal at its peak (Bon Jovi, Poison, Guns ’n’ Roses)— there was brilliance in every genre, giving us tunes that endured, and left a huge impression.

So much of life at the time — especially on sultry afternoons of the annual summer vacation in Dubai — comprised creating ‘mixtapes’ — recording songs from the radio when you would sigh in disappointment if your favourite track ended too soon by cutting to a commercial, or the news. A friend who was an even bigger music buff than me stayed up all night once to record the American Top 100 songs of the decade (1980 to 1990) and I remain in awe of her dedication, and of her ‘double cassette’ recorder which always came in handy. Blank cassettes were always in demand at the supermarket — I remember buying ‘TDK’ and ‘Maxell’ tapes, among others. Once in a while when pocket money permitted we would traipse down to the Thomsun music shop in Karama, where the sales attendant had more knowledge of music, bands and artists than anyone I’ve ever known since.

Today my vintage collection of cassettes lies untouched in a drawer — I dust them off once in a while, never having the heart to discard them. They remind me of the joy music has brought to my life for so many years.

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