31 1 / 2012

Club night, Dust, has made its burgeoning rep putting the strut and imaginative beats into Dubai nightlife and its new regular live event at The Music Room looks set to cement that status.

The first edition this month welcomes pioneering Lebanese jazz/soul/funk/much-more-beyond crewBeirut Groove Collective (plus DJ action from Megadon BetamaxJames Locksmith and Mr Yeti). We dropped DJ and founding member Ernesto Chahoud a line to get the lowdown on getting down with BGC…

Beirut Groove Collective’s Ernesto Chahoud  (Credit: Nancy Siam)

Your primary focus is Afro-American music. Was it a case of almost creating your own scene in Beirut when you started out? Or was there already a thriving underground?
We created our own scene, indeed. There was no underground scene for Afro-American music in Beirut at all. It never existed before Beirut Groove Collective.  Beirut’s clubbing reputation is big in the region, but it’s not based on the quality of the music as much as the aggression of its nightlife and architecture of its clubs. It’s a sad thing, but the nightlife scene is incredibly money-orientated. We weren’t into clubbing in Beirut. We were more into house parties. We’d install a soundsystem, decks, invite our friends and be banging the whole building.

What kind of crowd are you hoping for in Dubai?
It’s our first time playing in Dubai, but we know the quality of Dust, so we’re expecting a cool, hip crowd; the best in the city, for sure.

How large is the collective?
Very big. We usually work with 10 to 14 different artists each time we throw an event: DJs, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, painters, video artists, photographer and so on. For Dubai it will be the two founders of the Beirut Groove Collective – Rami Obeid aka Stickfiggr, and myself – Heavy G, a DJ and filmmaker who will be documenting the event, and visuals from several BGC artists screened all night. It’s an amazing recipe for a real old skool unique dance party, the best you can get in the region.

One of Dust’s architects, DJ Solo aka Wriggly Scott, has played in Lebanon before too, right?
He came to support us in Beirut. He launched his album and blessed the decks at our Superstar Sessions Vol. 2. It was an amazing gig, one of the best, in an abandoned warehouse in the deep heart of the industrial area of Beirut. We had 500-plus people dancing all night. We first met through Stickfiggr, who is a friend of Solo, and Heavy G knew about his party Freshly Laced.

Are there any BGC records on the way?
I released very limited copies of my second album,Broken Bridges, three weeks ago. It’s a collaboration with Oma El Fil recorded at the Red Bull Music Academy in Beirut. This album has nothing to do with what I spin at all. It’s experimental electronic music.

Any final words?
We’re so exited to hit the decks in Dubai and funk it up.

Feb 17, The Music Room, Majestic Hotel, Bur Dubai, Dubai, 10pm to 3am, Dhs50. Tel: (050) 2484054. thebgc.posterous.com

09 1 / 2012

Scissor Sisters touch down in the UAE this week. What’s On interviewed the flamboyant American popsters in our January issue (on shelves now), but we also grabbed an extra special word with the band’s lead guitarist Del Marquis (second left in the picture below)…


Abu Dhabi isn’t the first place you’d expect to find the Scissor Sisters…
No everyone’s shocked! It’s going to be hot and some people have said ‘Don’t leave your hotel’! I don’t really know much more. We’re anxious and excited. We’ve been playing a few cities that are firsts for us. We just finished playing Hong Kong, Bali and Singapore, then Abu Dhabi. They’re audiences that we’ve never played to before.
Will you be toning down your live show at all?
Unless someone briefs us with a dire warning that something might happen, we probably won’t. I don’t think we’re too risqué. I just think it’s a lot of energy.
The band are going to be hanging out at the Volvo Ocean Race on the day of the show – have any of you splashed the cash on a boat of your own?
I don’t think any of us have actually that much money to be into yachting. But we’ll go on someone’s yacht, you know. I might get seasick, but…
Ms Dynamite is supporting at the UAE show. Are you fans?
Ms Dynamite? Oh yeah. I remember her albums coming out. Honestly, I haven’t seen much from her since but we’ve always been fans, so that’s exciting.
What’s your favourite and least favourite parts of touring?
The travelling is the best and the worst part. It’s just highs and lows, with very little in between. Sometimes I roll my eyes if we’re going to some place we’ve been to before and there’s something about it that rubs me the wrong way. And then sometimes there’s great cities where you’ve made friends and it’s an opportunity to catch up. But everything on this trip is pretty fresh and new, so we’re wide-eyed and eager. 
U2’s divisive frontman Bono once famously called you ‘the best pop group in the world’. What do you think about Bono/U2?
Fault them for what you want – anybody with a profile that big is going to get detractors – but I would never turn a song of theirs off. We’re fans. They do it better than 99 percent of everybody else. In the band we all love Zooropa the most out of all their albums. Ana [Matronic, SS vocalist] is giving me a stink face! Ana doesn’t like Zooropa at all. [Ana shouts ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ in the background] That would be my second. 
What’s the story with your new album?
It’s nearly done and should be out end of the spring. I don’t think it’s going to be what you’re expecting. There’ll be some threads for people to grab onto but it’s going to require some of our audience to move with us in areas they may be afraid. [Jokingly] Every song is featuring Nicki Minaj. Ha ha. No, we worked with some other people but she was sadly not available. Does the record have a title yet? It does not. It’s not even that I can’t say it yet, it just does not.
Jan 12, Flash Forum, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, 9pm, from Dhs295, over 18s. Tel: (02) 5098000. scissorsisters.com

15 12 / 2011

Dubai-based Iranian artist Arezu on her new exhibition, Trespassing, at Dubai’s XVA Gallery

First things first. Why do you only go by your first name?

I find first names to be very intimate and personal and that’s what my work is all about.

You were born in Iran. How does that affect your work?

It all started with painting. I started painting when I was 19 and I was living in Iran. I joined Taha Behbahani’s painting class; he is a world renowned surreal painter and sculptor. Some years after I took a photography course at University, and since then I haven’t been able to put my camera down.

 How would you describe your work?

 I work with elements of obscurity and ambiguity. I would like to leave the audience with hidden stories, un-answered questions and deep thoughts.

 Do people ever react negatively?

I don’t expect people to always agree with me; I am not looking for confirmation. Instead I would like to bring new perspectives of looking at life, and give enough space to people to find their own stories in my work.

 Crows and ravens are generally associated with death. Where does this element of darkness come from?

The crows in my work are a metaphor for freedom and anonymity.  I like working with paradoxes. I’m showing two separate sets of images in the exhibition and one is the opposite of the other.

You talk about freedom and space yet the characters within your portraits seem trapped. An interesting contradiction…

I choose to tell stories with something that is not there. If everything I want to say already exists in the picture, then there is no space for the viewer to explore.

From Dec 13, Tresspassing, XVA Gallery, DIFC, Dubai, Sun to Thur 11am to 7pm, Sat noon to 6pm, free. Tel: (04) 3585117. xvagallery.com

Look out for Arezu in our The Future Of Dubai Art feature in the upcoming January issue of What’s On

17 11 / 2011

Dep Ed Helen on Dubai 92