CHILLED OUT WEEKENDS
I have become a bit of an introvert – more so lately – but I do make an effort to go out during the weekend especially on Fridays. It’s usually a chilled-out day, nothing fancy. I go and see my family in Mirdif for a while. If there is something special going on at night then I go and check it out, like Hip Hop Karaoke at TriBeCa.
MELTING POT OF MUSIC
Growing up in Dubai has influenced my music a lot. Back in the day, Dubai was one of the first places in the Middle East to introduce satellite TV, so our house had MTV and I used to watch all their programmes constantly – MTV Raps, Headbangers Ball, Alternative Nation, Slow Jams, all [those shows] heavily influenced my music. People from all over the world live here and early on in my life they were always introducing me to new genres of music; a few of my childhood friends have [now] become DJs and/or music producers.
SCHOOL OF ROCK
It all started with me singing in class at my school – International School of Choueifat Sharjah – when I was around 15 or 16 years old. My classmates thought that I had a decent voice so I joined the [school’s] music club and began performing at school shows. I wasn’t serious about it until I went to college and started singing in bands. That was when I realised that I wanted to do something with [music] and started writing and finding myself as an artist.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
My dad is a musician and he used to play his music loud in the house 24/7, so I’m pretty sure my earliest memories of music was listening to him record and compose his music. He plays East African music, called Taarab – it’s a mix of Arabic, Indian and African music.
I pretty much reverse hibernate in the summer – I go on vacation or I stay indoors as much as possible and I love going outdoors in the winter months and playing basketball with my friends whenever I get a chance. I even watch basketball games or highlights on TV to destress.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF ARTIST
I actually wanted to be a visual artist before becoming a music artist. I loved drawing and painting and actually studied visual arts at the Miami International University of Art in Florida, but I found my true calling with music.
A FULL PLATE
I am working on quite a few projects at the moment – I have a solo project that I am currently working on, I am collaborating with Yasser Anderson (a.k.a A Dozing Duke), a good friend of mine. Then there’s my band Abri & Funk Radius; our single and music video Sunny Daze (Ankabut) is out now. The best thing about being part of a band is the camaraderie we share. Besides the music, we always have a good time just meeting up and hanging out with each other.
WORK FOR PEANUT BUTTER
I am a simple man when it comes to food, give me bread and peanut butter and I’m good. I can eat that all day, every day. I cook once in a while but I love watching [other] people cook, it’s an art form in of itself. So I love eating out at Moshi, Cheesecake Factory, Maria Bonita’s, Jabal Al Noor, Ravi’s. I have been checking out a few [new] places since becoming a vegetarian.
SNEAKER UPON ME
My last expensive purchase was a pair of Y-3 Adidas sneakers that I got for Dh1,800. It was a while back though; when I realised I’m addicted to buying expensive sneakers, I gave up cold turkey.
I would love to explore South America as I’ve travelled to almost all the continents except for that one. Each individual country there has such a rich history and culture, I would love to experience all of them firsthand.
ON THE FLIP SIDE
This weekend I’m probably going to head down to Alserkal Avenue and check out some galleries and pop by The Flip Side, an independent record store.
… my well-being. As long as I’m gifted another day on earth, I’m good.
INSPIRATION AND INFLUENCES
I really listen to everything, as long as it’s good music. The genre doesn’t matter to me. I love Michael Jackson, Sam Cooke, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bob Marley, Bjork, Radiohead – they have definitely been some of my biggest influences growing up. But I find inspiration [for my songs] by living my life, there are so many emotions and experiences that go on in my life. Things or [current issues] around the world that I feel strongly about are also good sources of inspiration.
BETTER CAREFUL THAN MONDEGREEN
When I was younger I used to have a lot of those humorous moments where you mishear song lyrics. I always read lyrics very carefully nowadays just in case I’ve misheard something.
HAPPY AND SADE
I got to perform for Quincy Jones a couple of times and also performed alongside Kanye West and Arrested Development, but opening for Sade is one of my most memorable career moments. I love her music and she is a beautiful human being.
It’s an amazing feeling to hear my songs on TV shows like CSI and The Ringer. It’s kind of surreal when you hear your song playing during a scene on TV. I would love to do a proper soundtrack for a movie at some point. Any Quentin Tarantino movie soundtrack [counts as one of my favourites].
There is a moment in time when I am onstage where it stops becoming a performance and starts feeling like a spiritual experience. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, when everything is perfectly aligned – the performance, the band, the crowd. It is also an amazing feeling when someone comes up to me and tells me how much one of my songs means to them, or when youngsters tell me how much I inspired them to pursue music. Note that it doesn’t happen often, but it’s one of the reasons why I do music; to be able to touch or inspire someone.
Until The Quiet Comes, a short film directed by Kahlil Joseph featuring music by Flying Lotus, a DJ from Los Angeles, is a masterpiece that completely bowled me over.
LIKES FOR RESPECT
Would I rather be respected or liked? That’s a tricky question. I think I wanted to be liked when I was younger but as I grow older it’s slowly morphing into being respected.
What keeps me up at night is the thought ‘have I done enough’?