Emirati music producer Issam Freiha on his new single, and representing UAE globally

Issam Freiha aka icekream also drops some good advice for aspiring artists in a chat with City Times.


Enid Grace Parker

Published: Sun 20 Feb 2022, 9:42 AM

“A really good pair of headphones”.

Emirati music producer Issam Freiha, also known as icekream, believes that’s all a creative and driven person needs to work remotely and create some spectacular tunes.

However, in a Zoom interview with City Times about his new single and his journey as a producer, he expressed hope that 2022 would see a return to live performances and gigs - always at the heart of any genuine artist - around the world in a big way.

Issam is back on the music radar with his first single of 2022 - a sizzling track aptly titled Ablaze - produced alongside UK rapper Tullyman.

Despite the pandemic and its adverse effects 2021 was a busy year for Issam, as he released 10 new singles featuring artists like Prayah, Long Island rappers Hue Hef and KeyZz, Tullyman and Egyptian born Mo Sella.

The entertainment industry was hit hard by the pandemic, but what we gleaned from our conversation with Issam is that looking forward and coming out stronger than before is the need of the hour.

An upbeat personality combined with talent honed carefully over the years is always a great mix for anyone in a creative industry, and Issam is the perfect example of this.

As he took us through his journey as a producer, and expressed his pride at representing the UAE on a global scale, he also had some timely advice for aspiring artists on following their dreams, and why one should be wary of being enamoured by the overnight success that some celebrities achieve.

What can you tell us about Ablaze, your first track for 2022?

It’s a song that happened out of the blue. I spent some time in London over the last couple of decades of my life and I got in touch with the music and the culture there.

I wanted to do something different with one of the local artists and we made it happen - kind of ‘on the fly’ - remotely, if you will. But it turned out to be pretty cool and we did a nice video to it which accompanied the sonics - the music was complemented by the visuals which we felt was a good marriage.

You mentioned remote working, and a lot of people have been doing that - artists, singers and bands during the time of Covid, but have you adapted yourself to it now? Is it the new normal for you?

It’s the new normal for most people in my industry. Certainly the producers, like myself. We are used to producing remotely and also producing in a kind of isolated environment because all it that it takes for us, is a good pair of headphones, believe it or not!

And you have your laptop - hopefully that’s working fine - then a keyboard, and you’re pretty much set!

Last year was a good one for you - you released 10 new singles. Covid however hit the entertainment industry badly. What are your hopes for 2022?

I’m thinking of when times were normal, we kind of took it for granted. The most important thing by far is the festivals, and the removal of any sort of fear of congregation of a lot of people at the same time. That basically was the biggest issue everywhere, and understandably so.

So I guess when those things are kind of back to normal, crowd safety and all that, everyone will feel so much better about themselves, as performers, entertainers, artists; that would be a huge step forward for us.

Tell us something about your journey and how you got started as a music producer in UAE.

I was always influenced by music. And I started to recognise that it was more than just a fan relationship, it was more passionate than that. During my travels I was always exposed to the best kind of music and I realised, probably when I was 14 years old, that I wanted to make it my full-time job.

I knew because it just felt right - there was some sort of natural chemistry. So I took it with me; I was lucky enough being from a multi-cultural background and upbringing that I was able to use that to my advantage, because it was kind of a new vibe, a new scene in the UAE to be doing what I was doing, and there was only a handful of guys doing it.

So it was exciting and we were like, you know what, maybe we’re on to something. Down the line in history, looking back, we could be one of the first people (here) to really take it seriously.

Since you had that initial dream and got started, how has the music scene in the UAE evolved?

It’s evolved so quickly. I remember when the first festivals started, the first major concerts - major acts and artists were coming to the UAE, and then it became a regular thing. Then those artists would, like, start to vacation in the UAE.

So they’d go for business and pleasure and you could just tell that there was this hype building around the UAE everywhere, and that entertainment was a part of that.

And it was great, I was like, oh my God, we are here at the right time! This is incredible. So it was really cool to be part of that.

Tell us about some of the artists you have worked with. Who are the international artists that have inspired you?

The most inspiring artist that I met, and it was in Abu Dhabi, was Wyclef from Fugees. That was really something special because I approached him just like anyone else - you take that risk. I’m like you know what, he’s there, I’m going to go speak to him. What’s the worst he could say - I don’t want to talk to you? And that would be it, but at least I would have tried.

So I did it. He got a good vibe from me and he said, let’s go to the studio tomorrow, in Abu Dhabi, and we ended up making a couple of songs together.

That was really amazing - it felt like it was a sign for me that okay, please keep doing what you’re doing because clearly that worked out. I mean what else can happen? Where does the potential start or stop - it really felt like I was on to something, you know?

As a producer what are some of your favourite genres and what genres have you worked with so far?

I love hip-hop, house music, electronic (everything you can think of), jazz, and now the Latin music - reggaeton which is faster, and Afrobeats.

I love rhythm, so for me genres - they’re kind of like borders! I like the fluidity between all the genres and it just makes you move or it doesn’t! It’s like a natural feeling.

How do you feel about representing UAE on a global scale?

I think it’s an honour, even if it’s for something pretty niche and different, I guess. I think we benefit global society and I love that I have that representation and affiliation.

I can promote what everybody knows is the great hospitality and innovative and proactive mindset that we have and bringing that to the world stage would be really cool, but also if I can be a respected Emirati music producer globally - I would be very happy with that. That would really be a dream come true.

What is the advice you would give to artists who are just starting out in the music industry?

That (starting out) is the toughest part, I think. You have to be your harshest critic; you have to be completely honest with yourself. Because at the end of the day, whether people support you at the beginning or agree with you or give you their opinions, it doesn’t matter, it’s all going to fall on you.

So if you decide to do this because you genuinely think you have a shot or you’re much better at it than everything else that you’ve tried or not tried - go for it. Don’t worry about the mistakes that you’ll make and all the inevitable things that are part of the experiences.

It’s like a long-term investment. Don’t think about the overnight successes that we’re used to with celebrities - like Justin Bieber (who became a household name almost instantly).

Think of it like you’re buying stock in yourself and it’s going to pay off in 15-20 years or even 25 years. But you’ll be happy, you’ll be fulfilled, you’ll be satisfied and it would have been the right decision.

So just look at it long-term, that’s all I would say!

More news from Music