As Yasalam’s Emerging Talent Competition returns with a boatload of untapped musical talent, we talk to Olly Wood, competition judge and one half of electronic dance music duo Hollaphonics, about developing the UAE’s music culture and what it takes to make it big
As a returning judge and musician, you must have an idea of what you’re looking for. What does it take for an act to stand out?
One of the things that draws my attention is when people do something different – not necessarily something wacky, but when people really work on their sound and find their own direction.
I believe that’s something that can be brought out of someone with a bit of coaching, which is another thing the competition tries to encourage.
We’re constantly thinking about how we present ourselves, and to be honest, after all the polishing, the best thing is to just be yourself.
Do you think we have a responsibility to nurture our homegrown creative culture?
Big time. I think there has always been an apprehension or a misunderstanding of what could be done with music, GCC and Middle East-wise.
Only one in a million can focus on music as something they want to do for the rest of their lives. But that has changed; with the growth of things like Anghami locally and iTunes and Spotify globally, there are so many ways to get your music out there.
That’s enabled people who thought there was no chance, to get the music in the ears of people who want to discover it, or want to discover music that’s like the music they love.
We’ve got a creative cultural revolution going on. It’s had to happen through sharing and mutual acknowledgement, and that culture is growing. It’s not there yet, by any means, but every little step is really important.
What makes the Emerging Talent Competition such a great platform for new musicians?
It should be seen by somebody as what it is: a platform to get your music out there.
This is an opportunity to understand, and if you don’t succeed, it’s another opportunity to ask why.
It’s not just about being the number one out of the thousands of people that enter – it’s just more people getting to hear your name and your sound; the more difficult it is for us to choose, the better it is for this country and the region as a whole.
What are you most looking forward to with this year’s competition?
There are more people looking forward to the competition and wanting to engage with it; I get people telling me they’ve submitted a track on Twitter or Instagram.
I’ve noticed that more people are coming out of the woodwork that are creating music to just get it out there, and it gives them a confidence, like, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Registration for the Emerging Talent Competition is open until 30th September. To find out more, visit: yasalam.ae