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