In conversation with UAE's first rock artist

In conversation with UAEs first rock artist

Self-taught musician Mohammed Bafoory has just launched his second album


Nilanjana Gupta

Published: Fri 9 Aug 2019, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 9 Aug 2019, 8:00 PM

Musicians are a dime a dozen in the UAE. But rock and roll has been, and will always be, about breaking new ground. Mohammed Bafoory is proudly following in that tradition. A self-taught musician and rock star, the 25-year-old describes himself as the UAE's first 'rock artist'.

While Emirati rock artists aren't exactly unheard of, Bafoory claims to be the first to have published a music album, in December 2018. Those who were witness to his electrifying performance, at his first official concert held this month in Al Ain, would say his music is set to transcend both cultural and geographical barriers. "I hope that more Emiratis come forward and declare their love for rock music, publish albums and break stereotypes. It's important for us to connect with other rock artists in the community in order to build a thriving music scene in the UAE," he said. Bafoory practises what he preaches too; his first album Fall and Rise is about pushing boundaries, especially the ones that exist mostly in our minds. It also highlights the struggles he faced in his adult life for following his passion for music. A second album, Time Machine, will hit digital platforms today (August 9).

The singer was only eight when he lost his father, and that sadness propelled him to his musical journey. "My father's demise brought me closer to music as I started feeling the emotions behind everything I watched and heard at that time, be it cartoons, video games or WWE. I started playing piano and guitar, and as I grew up, I took to producing original rock songs," he said.

Bafoory picked up an acoustic guitar in 2011 and watched YouTube videos to learn how to play the instrument. Once he understood all the major chords, he didn't need YouTube anymore, he said. He realised his true calling when he brought home an electric guitar for the first time and fell in love with rock music.

MARCHING TO HIS OWN BEAT: Scenes from Mohammed Bafoory's first official concert, held last week in Al Ain. Photo by Alldrin
Today, Bafoory juggles between his day job at Capital Health Screening Centre in Abu Dhabi and a course in Applied Media at the Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi Men's College. As a guest relations officer at Capital Health Screening Centre, he is responsible for registering the guests' information into the system, answering queries and handling feedback. While this job puts food on the table, Bafoory always desired a jet set lifestyle, full of adventure, creativity and curiosity. So, at the end of the day, he makes sure to hit the recording studio daily to create music that gives wings to his mind and flight to his imagination.

Not only does he sing in English and Arabic, to everyone's surprise, he also does an ace job at Urdu and Hindi. He credits this to his mother who hails from India. "My parents met in Mumbai, India, when my father, a UAE national, was on a business trip. They got married and my mother moved to Ras Al Khaimah even before the Union was formed. She was fortunate to witness the historic moment when the UAE was formed in 1971," said the youngest of seven siblings. Growing up, Bafoory and his family frequently travelled to India. At the dinner table, the four brothers and three sisters would critique Bollywood movies and laugh at Shah Rukh Khan's dialogues. Now they are all also fluent in Hindi.

Bafoory started performing live in 2013. "My first performance was at my college's talent show where I played Zombie, a protest song by Irish rock band The Cranberries. I was, perhaps, the first person to go on stage and play a rock song with a guitar while wearing a kandoora. Everyone's jaw dropped," he said. The musician went on to perform at major events in the UAE including at the 2016 Ted Talks. "One of the best memories in my music career was playing The Godfather theme song in front of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. I was sweating when the leader stood in front of me and asked me to play. When I was done, he clapped and wished me good luck," he said, as he played the video from that day which continues to get hits on Instagram even today.

Bafoory's moment of pride came when he sang the UAE's national anthem at the Mother of the Nation festival in Abu Dhabi Corniche on December 2, 2017. "A lot of Emiratis don't get the chance to express their gratitude for the country but when I sang the national anthem on live television that day, I felt I was able to thank my country in a small way. It's still nothing compared to what the UAE has given me. I always try my best to give back to my nation," said the proud Emirati who is hoping to someday bring laurels (and a Grammy) to his motherland.

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