The next big thing in music? Know what it takes to hit the local scene

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So after many months of secretly honing your musical chops, you’re now ready to take your act to the next level.

The UAE’s music industry is still growing, so it can be a challenge to get your band off the ground as you try to meet fellow musicians, secure shows and produce albums.

But don’t hang up that scratched Telecaster just yet as there are still ways to meet fellow musicians around the city: all you need is patience and creativity.

We speak to Abu Dhabi-based troupe Uptown to find out how to start a band.

Getting social

Finding like-minded people today is easier thanks to the internet. Start by scanning the community section of the classifieds site Dubizzle or other popular social media websites.

“There are Facebook groups like Musicians of Abu Dhabi and Musicians of the UAE that are very effective. Here you can advertise yourself or announce that you are looking for certain band members to begin a project,” pianist Joel Ison advises.

“When posting in these groups, it will always help if you can add a video or links of yourself performing. This allows others to see and know your kind of music.”

It’s also worth checking out to find music-loving groups like Abu Dhabi Folk Club, Abu Dhabi Jazz Lovers and Abu Dhabi Live Music Lovers and Players.

But don’t forget about live events, where there’s a probability that you’ll bump into someone with similar musical interests.

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“We perform with Claes Anderson, a very talented saxophonist at Jazz@PizzaExpress,” Ison explains.

“An engineer by day, we discovered Claes at a jam night here in Abu Dhabi, which only shows that these events are great to make yourself known or discover musicians.”

Polishing your sound

After finding the right members for your group, the next step is to sharpen your ensemble’s sound.

As they say: practice makes perfect. Turning up the amp’s volume inside your flat is not an option as you’re certain to earn the ire of your neighbours.

Bands on residency or those that have regular gigs enjoy the privilege of practising at the venue where they are performing.

The case is different for most bands as rehearsal studios are scarce, but not entirely nonexistent, in the city, something Joel hopes will improve over the years.

Most music schools have their own studios and it might be worth asking them if they can rent it out for non-students.

Steps and Strings, located on Al Najda Street, has a studio complete with equipment that can be rented out from AED 200 an hour.

Being heard

Securing steady gigs is another hurdle most bands face here, according to flutist-vocalist, Ludys Hernandez.

“If you are looking to just get your band’s material out there, the jam nights and open mic nights will be your best option,” she remarks.

“There are fantastic institutions here such as NYUAD and Rooftop Rhythms that fully encourage creative original material, in music and poetry.

Organisations like these are carrying out magical work to encourage musicians to put forward their compositions, and perform them live.

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“But if you’re out to do covers, prepare a promotion pack of your band: video, bio, photos, among other things. There are many music venues in hotels that offer contracts to bands, or weekly residencies.”

While being a musician in Abu Dhabi does have its challenges, Hernandez encourages aspiring musicians to persevere.

“Get yourself out there: meet people, perform with as many musicians as possible.

“Jam nights are a great place to rehearse if you are struggling to find a rehearsal space. These events are all about being creative, so what better place to rehearse?

“When performing, record yourself on your phone. It’s important to listen back to your performance and see what areas need improving.

“With social media, there is a world of marketing possibilities. Create a Facebook band page; invite your friends to like your page and update it on a regular basis. Waleed Shah, founder of photography and production company White Cube Studios, helps amateur and professional artists put together promo materials.

“Once this is done, you can concentrate on the most important part: performing your music to a live audience.”

Need to know:

  • Steps and Strings. Al Khazna Tower, next to Nissan Showroom, Al Najda Street. 02 676 4775
  • Rooftop Rhythms.
  • Whitecube Studios.,
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