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|Life in United Arab Emirates|
The music of the United Arab Emirates stems from the Eastern Arabia music traditions. Distinctive dance songs from the area's fishermen are also well-known. Liwa (or leiwah / leywah) is a type of music and dance performed mainly in communities which contain descendants of Bantu peoples from the African Great Lakes region, and hybrid Afro-Arab rhythms such as the Sha'abi al-Emirati and Bandari remain the standard in both traditional and popular music in this historically cosmopolitan country.
Performers in the country include Mohammed Al Muhairi (better known as Mehad Hamad), Ahlam Ali Al Shamsi, and Hussain Al Jasmi.
The Emirati-American composer Mohammed Fairouz has been commissioned to premiere his fifth symphony at the Abu Dhabi Festival in 2020
In 2020 Emirati Composer Ihab Darwish was commissioned by The Palm Fountain (Dubai, UAE) - world’s largest fountain by the Guinness Book of World Record, to compose an official musical theme “Aim For The Sky” as a sonic brand and its signature music. The composition pays homage to the UAE's culture as well as capture Dubai's cosmopolitanism and is performed regularly at The Palm Fountain at The Pointe, Dubai, from December 1, 2020.
In 2021 Abu Dhabi Festival commissioned Emirati composer Ihab Darwish, in collaboration with Emmy-winning composer John Debney and Academy Award-winning composer David Shire, to celebrates the historic opening of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi. Bringing together top international composers, musicians and vocal ensembles from Christian, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds, the symphony celebrates unity and peace amongst different faiths. World premiere: October 2022.
The UAE houses a lively underground music scene consisting mostly of expatriates. Concentrated in Dubai, the majority of local artists play rock and metal music. Some musicians also play alternative styles of music such as ska, punk, house and experimental music.
Yassin Alsalman, better known by his stage name Narcy, was born in Dubai in 1982.
Canadian singer Karl Wolf lived in Dubai between the ages of three and seventeen, and has since returned to perform in the UAE.
Wissam Khodur, better known as the Syrian/Lebanese MC Eslam Jawaad, has been living in the UAE since 2011. In 2017 he appeared onstage with Gorrilaz, having previously worked with bandleader Damon Albarn on The Good, the Bad & the Queen.
Members of the psychedelic indie band Flamingods lived for a time in the UAE, and founder Kamal Rasool credits Dubai as a pivotal incubator and inspiration behind 2016's third album Majesty.
In 2012 the UAE's only chain music retailer, Virgin Megastores, revealed a chart of the best-selling local acts to entertainment magazine Time Out Dubai. Based on total sales of all combined releases, the list was nominally topped by Karl Wolf, with second and third places going to soul-pop quartet Abri and rock group Juliana Down - two of the first homegrown acts to achieve widespread recognition in the Emirates.
In 2015 this concept was repeated in The National, which compiled a list of Virgin's 20 best-selling local releases of the past five years, as well as breaking the chart down by genre. With Wolf this time deemed exempt, the list was topped by Juliana Down's 2011 album Empires (Abri's two albums were released earlier in 2008 and 2009), followed by house-pop duo SickAsSwans' debut These Words and Nigerian-born urban act Ash Hamman's self-titled debut.
A year later The National updated the chart looking specifically at the best-selling releases of the past 12 months, revealing metal act Svengali to be the best-seller with debut Theory of Mind.
Among the best-known UAE acts internationally are metal band Nervecell. Other hard rock and metal acts from the UAE to tour internationally include Anuryzm, E.Y.E., Point of View and Jay Wud, who launched a fundraising campaign to finance sessions in Los Angeles for third album Transitions.
In 2012 hard rock quintet Point of View launched their debut album Revolutionize the Revolutionary with a concert alongside Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, then a member of Guns N' Roses, who appeared onstage performing songs by both bands. Thal later joined the band on a tour of India and appeared onstage in Abu Dhabi wearing a "PoV" t-shirt. Point of View's lead singer Nikhil Uzgare later branched out into Bollywood, recording a rock song as the theme to movie Iraada.
Following the breakup of Abri, eponymous lead singer Hamdan Al-Abri released a self-titled EP before joining funk-rock band Bull Funk Zoo in 2012, alongside guitarist Assaad Lakkis. He later formed the popular cover band Abri & Funk Radius alongside jazz musicians Rony and Elie Afif, which released its first original music in 2017, debuting the single Sunny Daze, and was the only UAE act invited to perform at the alternative music festival Wasla. Lakkis went on to lead Bull Funk Zoo solo. In 2017 Al-Abri also unveiled new music as a member of trio Abri & the Dream Fleet, collaborating alongside producers Megadon Betamax and Adriano K on the album We Fly. The latter had earlier produced a collection of South American folk songs and curated an accompanying remix disc featuring contributions from international producers, released in 2012 as A L.A.S..
After a period of inactivity, in 2015 Juliana Down frontman Dia Hassan released a debut solo single What is Love?. Following the split of SickAwSwans, in the same year Clarita de Quiroz released her debut album Speak. Delete. Repeat.
Formed in 2013, house-pop duo Hollaphonic have received international attention in the press, recording fourth single Dangerous with guest vocals from British reality TV star Vince Kidd.
Teenage pop singer Esther Eden enjoyed significant local exposure after being handpicked by British star Jessie J to guest onstage at 2014's Redfest DXB festival. Eden was later signed by Universal Music MENA and performed as a solo artist at the same festival a year later.
In 2015 hip-hop trio The Recipe launched a well-received comeback with the single Death to Get Here.
Behold The Locus released their long awaited second album 'Nations' during the summer of 2020, due to the pandemic situation the band decided to keep the album as an online release and is available on itunes, Spotify, deezer and anghami.
The UAE is also home to a small but productive collective of jazz musicians. Among the most celebrated is Lebanese pianist Tarek Yamani (whose third album Peninsular was premiered at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Festival) and compatriots, drummer Rony Afif and his brother Elie Afif.
Jordanian oud player and guitarist Kamal Musallam has released eight albums to date, fusing jazz and Arabic influences, and is consistently ranked among the UAE's bestselling acts. Musallam has performed with notable international musicians including Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, George Benson and Stanley Jordan and has recorded a full album with Billy Cobham under his project EastMania. For 2009 album Lulu (a tribute to UAE heritage) he collaborated with Emirati folk group Sokoor Al Magabeel, as well as with Hamdan Al Abri and Rasha Rizk.
Below is an alphabetical list of UAE-based artists who have released original material commercially in the English language:
A number of compilation albums have been released independently, highlighting different genres of music from the UAE: