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Tea with Culture

Podcast featuring discussions and interviews about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


Film and TV Viewing Log - January 2017

A Simple Life (Ann Hui, 2011)

A Simple Life (Ann Hui, 2011) 

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967)
The Family Fang (Jason Bateman, 2015)
The Witness (James Soloman, 2015)
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari, 2016)
Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson, 2016)
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi, 2016) 

A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983)
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (Eric Rohmer, 2007) 
Putin's Kiss (Lise Birk Pedersen, 2011)
Krisha (Trey Edward Shults, 2015) 
Amanda Knox (Brian McGinn, Rod Blackhurst, 2016)
Assassin's Creed (Justin Kurtzel, 2016) 
Sand Storm (Elite Zexer, 2016) 

The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper, 2015)
Christine (Antonio Campos, 2016)  
Weiner Dog (Todd Solondz, 2016) 

NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center - Performances in February 2017

The new season of performances at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center is upon us. The line up in February is packed with a wide range of musicians and singers, there is something for everyone. The new season will also see the opening of the Red Box Theatre which I am looking forward to. 

All the events are free to attend, but you must book tickets online in advance. Click on each title below for more information.  


Bang on a Can All-Stars
Date: Thursday, 2nd February at 8.00pm
Venue: Red Theater at NYUAD Arts Center

A new definition of concert music. Join us in the Red Theater for the world premiere of Wahat al Karamah by Mohammed Fairouz. Awarded Musical America’s Ensemble of the year and freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music. New York’s electric chamber ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars has consistently forged a distinct category-defying identity, taking


Steel Hammer
Date: Thursday, 9th February at 2.00pm & 8.00pm
Venue: Red Theater at NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center


The legend of John Henry, deeply rooted in Appalachian folklore surrounding the construction of the American railroad, has existed in many variations and forms – from illustration to tall tale, political polemic to popular song. Steel Hammer, the latest collaboration from composer Julia Wolfe, SITI Company, and Bang on a Can All-Stars, creatively explores the subject of human vs. machine and the cost of hard labor on the human body and soul. 

Based on hearsay and recollection, and culling from vibrant American oral traditions, Steel Hammer incorporates lyrics and music by Julia Wolfe and text from four remarkable American playwrights—Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor. Directed by Anne Bogart, performers take on wooden bones, mountain dulcimer, step dancing, and more as they explore the human impulse to tell stories and this quintessential American tale. 


Barzakh Festival - Day 1: Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa, Noura Mint Seymali
Date: Thursday, 16th February at 7:30pm
Venue: East Plaza at NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center

Aziz Sahmaoui brings together his musical passions — gnawa, rock and jazz— in a globe-trotting collaboration with high-flying Senegalese experimentalists with special guest Naissam Jalal. Led by composer, poet, and guembri player Samhaoui, a co-founding member of the influential Orchestre National de Barbes (ONB) and alumnus of Joe Zawinul’s Syndicate, University of Gnawa brings together gnawa roots, unstoppable choruses and emotional flights of improvisation, supporting richly layered poetic lyrics. Aziz’s bewitching voice, adept at alternating between the inflections of a bluesman, a muezzin, and a crooner, pulls us inexorably into his poetic universe where any bitterness of the day to day melts away into a jubilatory energy. 


Noura Mint Seymali is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania’s defining artist on the international stage. Drawing deep on the timeless repertoire of the Moorish griots, a hereditary class of musical poet/historians, her band conjures. “a full blown sandstorm of hypnotic grooves, melding traditional Mauritanian instruments, like the ardine and tidinite, within an electrified psychedelic rock band.” – The Quietus(UK). 


Barzakh Festival - Day 2: DakhaBrakha, Dengue Fever, Red Baraat
Date: Friday, February 17 at 6.00pm 
Venue: East Plaza at NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center   

Ukrainian “ethno chaos” band DakhaBrakha craft stunning new sonic worlds for traditional songs, reinventing their heritage with a keen ear for contemporary resonances. With one foot in the urban avant-garde and the other foot in Ukrainian village culture, DakhaBrakha shows the full fury and sensuality of some of Eastern Europe’s most breathtaking folklore. 



“Before it was partly Cambodian and partly indie rock…Now it’s 100 percent both.” Widely recognized for their trademark blend of 60’s Cambodian pop, garage and psychedelic rock, Dengue Fever’s have cross-pollinated their musical palette even further to include Khmer rap, Latin grooves, Afro percussion, layered Stax-like horns and more. 



Famously dubbed “The best party band in years” by NPR, Red Baraat is a pioneering eight-piece band from Brooklyn, New York. Conceived by dhol player Sunny Jain, the group has drawn worldwide praise for its singular sound — a merging of hard driving North Indian Bhangra with elements of go-go, rock and jazz — fueled by 3 master rhythm makers, the muscle of horns, a raucous guitar and a booming sousaphone.  


Trisha Brown: In Plain Site
Date: Friday 24th and Saturday 25th February at 11.00am and 4.00pm
Venue: Black Box at NYUAD Arts Center and various plazas around the NYUAD campus

Photo credits: Kat Schleicher

This site specific program illuminates Trisha Brown’s fifty years of dances, recombining earlier works to be performed in unexpected locations. 

Trisha Brown Dance Company’s new performance program, allows Brown’s dances to be freed from the constrictions of the conventional stage and to be once again performed in unexpected locations. But unlike her previous site-specific adventures, Trisha Brown: In Plain Site mines and then recombines material from her vast repertory to accommodate the unique spatial demands of the particular venue. 

Note: This performance begins in the Black Box and then will travel to various non-seated locations throughout the campus. All performances will be followed by Q&A’s with the artists.

Come early for pre-show artist talks at 10.00am and 3.00pm.  


Al Amal Hospital - Architectural Visual Diary


Early afternoon on Friday, 13th January, I received a message from a friend with the image you see above, telling me about the soon to be demolised Al Amal Hospital in Jumeirah, Dubai's first psychiatric hospital. That part of Dubai has gone through a major gentrification process by Meraas with the demolition of lots of low rise buildings and houses to make way from a new low rise apartment and office buildings and shopping malls, most notably, City Walk

I had assumed the hospital was already demolished, so was suprised to see the message my friend sent me. Needless to say, I went to take look. 

I took some photos whilst I was there, but was also frustrated that there is no concerted efforts to protect buildings from the 1980s. We keep getting told only buildings that are older than 40 years would need permission before demoltion, which means anything just under 40 years old are being wiped out without any thought of preservation, and it almost feels like a deliberate effort to demolish buildings that just turned 30 years old to avoid the discussion of preservation. 

The National published two Calls to preserve UAE’s modern architectural heritage and Old structures are part of UAE’s memory, conservationists say two days after the pop up exhibition, but I just feel the pleas are falling on deaf ears.   

An extract from Calls to preserve UAE’s modern architectural heritage 

A group of artists organised an exhibition of pictures documenting the long white corridors and date palm-lined courtyards of the psychiatric hospital, which was built in the 1980s. 

Art student Shamma Al Amri is among volunteers from the Hope Initiative who spent time with patients for art therapy workshops. They also fell in love with the building.

"We saw it was such a gem in the middle of Dubai and we were mesmerised by the architecture that takes you back to the 1980s, when a lot of us were born," Ms Al Amri said.

"The building has a deep significance, with courtyards showing how people functioned in our society."

Now that patients have been moved to a new centre in Al Aweer the building is being prepared for demolition, stripped of cables, doors and windows.

Only buildings constructed 40 years ago or earlier need permission for demolition from the municipality’s architectural heritage department.

The group has called on authorities and experts to use the structure as a cultural centre or library. 


Here are photos I took when I visited the space. 




Etihad Museum in Dubai

I recently visited the new Etihad Museum. Here's a glimpse of what I saw. I plan to go again because some of the spaces were not open. There's also a very good exhibition titled Emirates to the World: Postal History from 1909 to Unification. There was a no photography sign in that exhibition space, so unfortunately I don't have any images from it, but I do strongly recommend you visit. 

Unfortunately, the Etihad Museum isn't updated with information about exhibition, but this link has the information about hours and entry fees

Here are some photos I took which I shared on Twitter.





Road trip to Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah

Earlier this month I drove to Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, the highest point of the United Arab Emirates, at 1,892 m (6,207 feet) above sea level. It is approximately two hours from Dubai.

I had heard about the zig zag road that goes up the mountain and read about the mountain, so I wanted to experience it in person and to take photos too. 

I recommend you make this trip if you haven't already, especially before it starts getting hot. There are a few toilet stops along the way to the top of the mountain and at one point there are a couple of food trucks too. Yes, food trucks. They really are everywhere today. There are no petrol stations nearby so make sure you have a full tank before heading to the mountain.
I noticed lots of families finding picnic spots, and unfortunately, I also noticed lots of rubbish left behind. Despite the availability of dustbin by the local municipality and the signs about getting fined for not throwing rubbish in dustbins. It's upsetting to see people not cleaning up after themselves and maybe there needs to be a mountain patrol system that drives around, especially on weekends to make sure people don't leave their rubbish behind.  

Here are the photos I took, these were shot on 35mm and 120mm film, I have not taken photos with my film camera for a while and glad to be carrying it with me again. There's also one video clip too. 

Towards Jebel Jais

Jebel Jais
I stumbled upon this celebration during the drive up the mountain. Was told it was to celebrate a new born baby.

All photos © Hind Mezaina

Exhibition and Talk Series: Is Old Gold? 

Artwork by Hussain Sharif 

Is Old Gold? is an exhibition curated by Cristiana de Marchi and Muhanad Ali, opening at DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre and Art Centre, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai) on Tuesday, 21st February 2017.

It pairs 10 artists from the current generation of artists ((including yours truly) with 5 artists (Hassan SharifMohammed Ahmed IbrahimMohammed KazemAbdullah Al Saadi and Hussain Sharifwho were part of the UAE avant-garde contemporary art practice in the 1970s.

Looking at spirit of experimentation that was present at that time, Is Old Gold? aims to ask "how and why this narrative has been aborted, lost or evolved and if it can, or should be recovered in the current context". The exhibition suggests a gap has emerged between today's generation and the previous one and asks if it is "due to disparate socio-political concerns by the UAE’s rapidly shifting contexts, or is it the result of other, more inherently personal, motivations and choices" and seeks to find out if this gap can be filled". 

The 10 artists who were invited to participate in this exhibition are: 

  • Maitha Abdalla 
  • Amal Al Khaja   
  • Shaikha Al Mazrou
  • Taqwa Al Naqbi
  • Fatima Albudoor   
  • Moza Almatrooshi 
  • Hind Mezaina
  • Alaa Edris
  • Alia Lootah 
  • Jumairy     

In a comparative experiment that takes the form of a fictional narrative, two artists from the contemporary ‘younger’ generation of Emirati artists were assigned to work separately on a ‘character’ from the ‘5 UAE’. The experimental, productive structure of the exhibition reflects on the atelier atmosphere of innovative exchange initiated by Hassan Sharif and transmuted and sustained by four of his students – Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Abdullah Al Saadi and Hussain Sharif.

This hypothetical experimental structure, wryly reminiscent of a family tree, is the result of perceived dislocation between these generations and seeks to describe the qualities of this creative, methodological and pedagogical gap.

'Is Old Gold?' straddles this gap, presenting creative acts of remembrance and reconsideration alongside games of fantasy and, equally telling, utterly disconnected pieces that are the product of defiance or disengagement.   


Leading to the opening of the exhibition, there will be series of weekly talks starting on Tuesday, 24th January 2017 which will be moderated by Cristiana de Marchi and will include some of the artists from the exhibition alongside leading writers, curators, academics and culture producers in the UAE. It's a good line up of topics which will ask some important questions. I hope it will create valuable and thought provoking discussions about the art scene in the country. 

Below is the information about the talks. I will be part of the panel on 14th January. Hope you can attend one, two, three or all four talks and hope you can make it to the exhibition too. 

Tuesday, 24th January, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum

Knowledge Transmission: From The Atelier To Remote Teaching – Dominions Of Ideas And Inheritance

What roles have formal and informal education played in the UAE? Is there a shared cross-generational pedagogy despite apparent divergence? What necessitated the marked departure from the organic structures that propelled the creative spirit of the avant-garde ‘UAE 5’ to today’s more formal institutional approach? Whathas been lost and what has thrived as a result of this shift? 

Cristiana de Marchi will moderate a panel with filmmaker and writer Nujoom Al Ghanem, artist Fatima Albudoor, artist, cultural producer and curator Roberto Lopardo and academic Elizabeth Stoney for a discussion on the history of UAE artistic “educations” – both formal and informal.  


Tuesday, 31st January, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum 31

Imitation, Plagiarism And Tribute: Recurrences In Visual Arts 

How has the apparatus of the colossal international art world infiltrated, shaped and informed art practices in the UAE? Can a local-centric approach counter the press of the international? How does the conflation of these two systems, the local and the international, the emergent and the established, engender a spectrum of issues from isolation to imitation? Can self-sustainability be forged in these conditions? Is a kind of plagiarism via generational recurrence and resonance inevitable?

Cristiana de Marchi will moderate this panel with artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, anthropologist Beth Derderian, academic, curator and cultural producer Dr. Nina Heydemann and artist Hind Mezaina as they investigate the relationship between international and local systems and the risks of becoming derivative in attempts to forge both an individual and a shared artistic identity. 


Tuesday, 7th February, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum  

The Validation System: Self-Sustainability Or Foreign Acknowledgement?  

As local artists forge internationally renowned careers, what balance can be struck between the local and the global? What defines success across different audiences and for the self? Can a career be made locally or is engagement with international narratives always necessary? What are the different tools of promotion and recognition available to local artists and how should they be combined? 

Cristiana de Marchi moderates a discussion between director of Art Dubai and former Editor of Canvas magazine Myrna Ayad, internationally published art expert, public speaker, and advisor to diverse arts initiatives Mahnaz Fancy, artist Alia Lootah and gallerist Isabelle van den Eynde as they consider the roles played by art fairs, institutional shows, biennials and artist residencies in the composition of a successful yet self-actuated career.  


Tuesday, 14th February, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum  

The Valley In Between: Generational Disconnections, Divergent Agendas Or A Possible Continuity?  

As the cultural and social context of the UAE shifts perpetually, what are the threads of continuity that could make up a shared generational connection? Are there any common agendas between these divergent generations? As the infrastructure shifts, is there any possible continuity between the UAE avant-garde and the youngest generation of contemporary practitioners? What is inherited, shared and propagated? What is lost? 

Cristiana di Marchi moderates with artist Shaikha Al Mazrou, curator and writer Muhanad Ali (DUCTAC), curator of NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery Maya Allison and writer Kevin Jones in a discussion on generational disconnection and possibly sustained continuities.    


Detailed information about the artists and the speakers can be found on the exhibition's website The talks and the exhibition will be at DUCTAC, located in Mall of the Emirtaes in Dubai. 



Reel Palestine 2017

The third edition of the Reel Palestine film festival is back this month. It's on between 20th - 28th January 2017, screening a selection of the latest in Palestinian documentaries, dramas, short films and comedies.   

The screenings will take place in Dubai (Alserkal Avenue) and in Sharjah (Mirage City Cinema in Sharjah Art Foundation). The festival is free to attend.   

Here's the schedule and line up: 

Friday, 20th January at 7:30pm, The Yard, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai
Dir. Arab and Tarzan Nasser | 2015) | Drama | Arabic | 2015 | 85min

In Gaza, two hairdressers and ten customers of various ages and backgrounds spend the day trapped in a beauty salon while outside, Hamas police fight a gang who stole a lioness from Gaza's only zoo.  

Saturday, 21st January at 8:30pm, ​Mirage City Cinema, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah
Friday, 27th January at 7:30 pm, ​The Yard, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai  

3000 Nights
Dir. Mai Masri | 2015 | Drama | Arabic | 103min  
Layal, a newlywed Palestinian schoolteacher, is arrested after being falsely accused and sentenced to 8 years of prison. She is transferred to a high security Israeli women’s prison where she encounters a terrifying world in which Palestinian political prisoners are incarcerated with Israeli criminal inmates. When she discovers she is pregnant, the prison director pressures her to abort the baby and spy on the Palestinian inmates. Resilient, and still in chains, Layal gives birth to a baby boy.

Through her struggle to raise her son behind bars, and her relationship with the other prisoners, she manages to find a sense of hope and a meaning to her life. Prison conditions deteriorate and the Palestinian prisoners decide to strike. The prison director warns her against joining the rebellion and threatens to take her son away. In a moment of truth, Layal is forced to make a choice that will forever change her life. 

Sunday, 22nd January at 7:30 pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai

Electrical Gaza
Dir. Rosalind Nashashibi, 2015 | English & Arabic | 18min
In Electrical Gaza Nashashibi combines her footage of Gaza, and the fixer, drivers and translator who accompanied her there, with animated scenes. She presents Gaza as a place from myth; isolated, suspended in time, difficult to access and highly charged.  

Gaza Surf Club
Dir. Philip Gnadt & Mickey Yamine, 2016 | Documentary | Arabic & English | 87min
This film will be screened in conjunction with the short film: Electrical Gaza.  Gaza – a strip of land with a population of 1.7 million citizens, wedged between Israel and Egypt and isolated from the outside world. 42 kilometers of coastline with a harbor that no longer services ships. Hardly anything gets in to Gaza and even less get’s out.

The young generation is growing up with very little perspective - occupied and jobless. But against this background there is a small movement.   ​Our protagonists are part of the surf community of Gaza City. Round about 40 surfboards have been brought into the country over the past decades with great effort and despite strict sanctions. It is those boards that give them an opportunity to experience a small slice of freedom - between the coastal reminder of a depressing reality and the Israeli-controlled 6 mile marine border. 

Monday, 23rd January at 7:30 pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai 

In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain
Dir. Larissa Sansour, 2015 | Arabic | 29min
In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain resides in the cross-section between sci-fi, archaeology and politics. Combining live motion and CGI, the film explores the role of myth for history, fact and national identity. A narrative resistance group makes underground deposits of elaborate porcelain – suggested to belong to an entirely fictional civilization. Their aim is to influence history and support future claims to their vanishing lands. 

Dir. Ammar Al-Beik, 2009 | Documentary | Arabic | 40min
A trail of memories connects disparate places, from the film director in Syria and the artist Samia Halaby who paints and films Ramallah, to Bisan who wanders aimlessly through Jerusalem. Guided by Samia’s paintings of the olives and the wind of Palestine, gathering the stones and soil of Ramallah that are the “words of the Palestinian people,” the film evokes the space of exiled Palestinians. Their gaze, thoughts, and unspoken words become the light of the film that reflects back on the audience.

I received a present from the Palestinian painter and my friend Samia Al Halaby, a stone from an olive grove in the city of Ramallah. This was ten years after I received my first present, a Jerusalem stone, from a Palestinian friend who I used to meet mostly outside of my country, Syria. I have since then collected a wide variety of stones from Palestinian cities in a special album.

It was that year as well that the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, one of the most important characters in the film by Jean-Luc Godard, Notre musique (Our Music), died on August 9, 2008.

Darwish ascended to the heavens, heavy with the wounds of his usurped country, Jean-Luc Godard is still making films and lighting our nights, Samia is still painting and dreaming of her family’s house in Jerusalem, and Bisan, the girl from Jerusalem, is still walking in the alleys of ancient Jerusalem, passing by the surrounding hills without knowing her destination. 

Tuesday, 24th January at 7:30pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai

A Series of Palestinian Shorts
The Embroiderers

A selection of Palestinian shorts and documentary's which explores Palestinian embroidery, the impacts of dependance on foreign aid, a brave boy Yazan and a lesser known history of Bangladeshi fights in the PLO.  
  • Abu Ammar is Coming (Dir. Naeem Mohaiemen, ​2016, 16 min) 
  • The Embroiderers (Dir. Maeve Brennan, ​2016, 23 min)
  • Donor Opium (Dir. Mariam Shahin & George Azar, ​2011, 25 min)
  • I Am Not Afraid of the Soldiers (Dir. Rinske Bosch, 2016, 20 min)

Wednesday, 25th January at 7:30 pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai  

The Idol
Dir. Hany Abu Assad, 2015 | Drama | Arabic | 100 min ​
Mohammed Assaf, an aspiring musician living in Gaza, sets a seemingly impossible goal: to compete on the program "Arab Idol." 

Saturday, 28th January at 8:30 p.m, Mirage City Cinema, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah

Magical Substance Flows Into Me
Dir. Juamana Manna, 2015| Documentary | Arabic, English & Hebrew | 68min
A magical substance flows into me opens with a crackly voice recording. The voice is that of Dr. Robert Lachmann, an enigmatic Jewish-German ethnomusicologist who emigrated to 1930s Palestine. While attempting to establish an archive and department of Oriental Music at the Hebrew University, Lachmann created a radio program for the Palestine Broadcasting Service called “Oriental Music”, where he would invite members of local communities to perform their vernacular music.
Over the course of the film, Jumana Manna—herself a Palestinian from Jerusalem—follows in Lachmann’s footsteps and visits Kurdish, Moroccan and Yemenite Jews, Samaritans, members of urban and rural Palestinian communities, Bedouins and Coptic Christians, as they exist today within the geographic space of historical Palestine. Manna engages them in conversation around their music, while lingering over that music’s history as well as its current, sometimes endangered state. She asks these individuals to perform, and they do.
Intercutting these motley encounters with musicians, are a series of vignettes of Manna interacting with her own parents in the bounds of their family home. In fact, the domestic is a trope that is littered throughout this film with recurring kitchen, living room, and elevator scenes. In Manna’s metaphorical excavation of an endlessly contested history, the film’s preoccupations include: the complexities embedded in language, as well as desire and the aural set against the notion of impossibility. Within our hackneyed one-dimensional ideas about Palestine/Israel, this impossibility becomes itself a trope that defines the Palestinian landscape.   

Wasla - Arab Alternative Music Festival

Wasla is a new music festival celebrating alternative Arabic music. The festival will take place on Friday, 20th January at the Media City Ampitheathre in Dubai. 

I'm glad this is happening and hopefully more of this in the coming year. It's about time we celebrate music from the Arab world and an opportunity to introduce this music to a new audience. The festival will include genres ranging from reggae, rock, jazz, soul, pop, and of course electronic. 

We are Wasla, an Arabic word meaning the connection between two places, or a tool in the Arabic language to give a smooth platform to the beginning of heavy sounds. We are a team of Arabs and Arabists, introverts and extroverts, mad men and suits, lovers and givers that have connected together from across the world to bring a tangible alternative image and weight to the cultural produce of the Arab world.

Tired of the same image of yesterday’s palaces turning into rubble to the tune of fear and confusion, tired of the identity of ignorance and arrogance, tired too of the pastime of creative mediocrity, we are on a mission to provide an alternative, to celebrate the timeless connection of the Arab past with its present, its mother-tongue with its youth, and its talent with its audience – for Arabs, and for the world.


Tickets can be bought here.

  • Early bird (limited): 235 AED  - SOLD OUT 
  • Regular: 295 AED 
  • VIP: 445 AED (Elevated platform with seating, dedicated bar access and table service

Here's the line up in alphabetical order and schedule: 

Abri & Funk Radius  

Nominated for MTV Europe’s Music Award for Best Middle East Act, Hamdan Al-Abri is an Emirati singer/songwriter and one of the founders of Dubai-based soul band ABRI.

One of the most well known names on the UAE’s homegrown music scene, Hamdan Al-Abri has been recognized time and time again for his talent.

Playing music from a young age, he has already released two critically acclaimed albums and toured with legends such as Erykah Badu, Ziggy Marley, Arrested Development, Kanye West and Joss Stone.

Emel Mathlouthi  

A strident songstress whose intensity is cloaked in melliflous vocals, Emel Mathlouthi is also known for her role as a leading artist in the Arab Spring. 

She released her first album, Kelmti Horra (my word is free) in 2012, garnering lavish praise from critics and fans for her powerful vocals laid over a unique mix of north african rythyms and modern electronic beats. 

Her 2015 was prolific, including work on a new album with producer Valgeir Siggurdson and culminating with her solo performance at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. 


Jadal is a Jordanian rock band, formed by composer, guitarist, and producer Mahmoud Radaideh in 2003. One of the first Arabic rock bands in the region, they started their journey by grabbing listener’s attention with their cover “Kol Ma Gool Al-Tobah” for the legendary Egyptian artist Abdel Halim Hafez in Jadal’s Arabic Rock style. 

Known for their lively performances, Jadal’s music breaks boundaries, and challenges the music scene. Their diverse fans, both rock and Arabic music fans prove that music isn’t biased to language or background.


Mashrou' Leila  

Born of a nocturnal encounter at the American University of Beirut in 2008, Mashrou’ Leila is a six-member band that fuses the craftiness of a music workshop with the punch of stadium rock. 

With their distinct approach to storytelling and orchestration, they have crafted some of the most melancholic ballads and raucous anthems in contemporary alternative Arabic music, and went on to perform them live at sold-out venues in Lebanon, Cairo, Amman, Istanbul, Dubai, Tunis, Paris, Amsterdam,Montreal, Geneva, Serbia and international festivals such as Byblos, Baalbeck, BabelMed, Paleo and Exit.

I wrote about Masrou Leila previously, here and here.


Egyptian electronic musician and record producer NEOBYRD garnered mainstream recognition after two tracks from his first album “With You Again” and “My Sweet Heartless” were played on Egypt’s biggest radio station, Nile FM.

He is also known for his remixes for Daft Punk, Four Tet, NEUS & Egyptian Legend Hany Shenouda and has gone on to release two Albums: Transbyrd 2011, The King Is Dead 2013. His music video for ‘My Sweet Heartless’ was chosen as one of the top music videos of 2012 by Egyptian publication Ahram Online, winning in 2007, 3rd place and Special prize in a competition organized by ‘Ableton Live’. 

 I wrote about Neobyrd previously, here and here.

Salhi (Mounir Troudi & Imed Alibi) 

The exceptional meeting between percussionist Imed Alibi, Sufi singer Mounir Troudi, and jazz trumpetist Michel Marre serves to create a new expression of Bedouin musical heritage, in particular the “Salhi” which brings together mysticism, poetry, and atmospheres of party and trance.



Souad Massi 

Souad’s music pays homage to a time when the art of kalām or ‘discourse’ was valued by Muslims, rather than feared.

In medieval Spain, the wise men in the council of discourse were called the mutakallimoun – the scholars of debate – and each of the songs of Souad’s new album of the same name is an attempt to encapsulate their spirit of openness, intellect and tolerance in music.


This is the schedule. There will be local acts playing in between these sets. 


These are the acts I am recommending you don't miss: 





Mahsrou’ Leila  



Declaring Email Bankruptcy 

I've been playing email catch up for a long time. I'm talking years. Every time I try to get through my unread or unreplied emails or emails I should delete, I get overwhelmed by the whole thing and decide to continue later. Which only leads to more unread/unreplied/undeleted emails. 

Now that we're one week into the new year, I decided I need to start from a clean slate, and the only way I can do this is by declaring email bankruptcy
Email bankruptcy is a term used to explain a decision to delete all emails older than a certain date, due to an overwhelming volume of messages.  

If you emailed me, sent me a message via this blog, Facebook, text or Whatsapp and I never replied to you, I am truly sorry. If you still need a response from me, please resend your email/message. I am aiming to be better at responding from now on. 

[image via Someecards


The Ground Beneath Me by Mark Cersosimo

Mark Cersosimo
 documented his feet for a whole year and put together this video. The photos show his feet indoors, outdoors, bare, with socks, flip flops and shoes. It's a fun short video.  
I have feet. Sometimes they take me to far away places and sometimes they never leave my apartment. I took a photo of them and the ground beneath that lies beneath them every day from January 1st 2016 to December 31st 2016. Here they are in no particular order.