HHM: What’s the meaning behind the name DAHAB and what’s the overall inspiration for the band?
“Dahab” refers to a small sea-side village on the Sinai coast of the Red Sea – close to an area called Nuweiba. We are inspired by the natural setting of this place where the desert, ocean and mountains meet. Our music is a reflection of the organic and positive spirit of Sinai. Also – Sinai is a place with a very rich and diverse cultural, historical and spiritual energy and we sense that and try to project it in our music.
HHM: How would you best describe your music to a new listener?
We are acoustic. We are ethnic. We are fusion. We are world music – with English lyrics to have a universal appeal. We sometimes play ‘Arabic’ music on western ‘guitars’ as a way to express unity and diversity.
HHM: All of you guys seem to have vast experience, how did all of you meet and decide you wanted to play this fusion style of music together?
We all have journeyed to Sinai countless time and we found that we all share a love for that place. When we moved to Dubai – we met through common friends and had a good laugh about how life had brought us ‘full circle’ around. We then got approached by a local promoter to play an acoustic set for the Dubai Jazz Festival and basically – that was the impetus for us to form an acoustic trio. We had to quickly learn a lot of covers including blues, folk, and rock tracks. However – we also chose to include some of the original music that we had written. Those were very well received, especially some of the instrumentals that we play – and we found ourselves forming a band called “Dahab”.
HHM: Do you mainly play only festival type events?
We have played all sorts of events – but mostly festivals and big celebration ‘type’ events as well like the UAE National Day celebrations or F1 or Yasalam Beats on the Beach. We also played several residencies in high profile venues in Dubai. We occasionally play corporate gigs as well and one of our most interesting gigs was an ‘engagement’ party when we were first starting out.
HHM: How would you describe the “music scene” in Dubai? Is it mostly traditional music that is played live and on the radio?
The music scene in Dubai has progressed very well in the past few years. As a band that tries to focus mainly on our ‘original’ music, we have found that it is difficult to sustain our gigs and especially our residencies without resorting to playing covers as well – which we try to re-interpret in our own style. Mostly, bands that ‘gig’ a lot focus on either jazz standards, ‘pop’, heavy rock and Latino influenced songs as well. Most of these bands play covers to enable them to sustain their gigs and few of them also add their own originals to their sets. The radio plays mostly chart music and the club scene is also huge here with international DJs coming in and headlining at major venues.
HHM: Did most of you grow up playing traditional music?
Actually no, most of us grew up listening to progressive rock like Floyd and Zeppelin. We were all influenced as well by Marley, Santana and Hendrix. But we were also exposed to Arabic traditional music through our parents and peers – so I guess subconsciously we did ‘grow’ up listening to traditional music as well.
HHM: How are you received from the public being partly traditional but an added mixture of several different genres?
Our music has successfully managed to cross different genres and thus reach different people. We are very lucky because our music seems to have a universal appeal – with fans from all over the world connecting to the universal messages in our lyrics as well.
HHM: The internet and digital distribution has got to do wonders for DAHAB, being able to reach new fans across the world must greatly help in spreading your message?
Yes, we have made a conscious decision to invest in our website, FB pages, YouTube channel and also spending on an internet marketing campaign. It has made a huge difference because it creates a perpetual cycle whereby new people are discovering our music everyday – and it’s getting bigger and better! Our 1st album was put up for free on Jamendo as part of the Creative Commons license – and we have nearly 100,000 plays on that site – without the internet, that would not have been possible.
HHM: What are some of your biggest musical influences?
I think any band or musician that has managed to achieve some sort of unique sound is an influence to us. As mentioned Santana and Bob Marley both come to mind, as well as Floyd, Zeppelin, Doors, SRV etc. On the more traditional side – we listen to Oud players like Nassir Shama – and popular Egyptian singers like Mohammad Mounir. We also appreciate artists as diverse as Claude Challe, Shiva, Shpongle and even listen to deep progressive house sometimes. Then there are the Jazz greats – like Miles Davis or Kenny Burrell. So everything really – except for country music
HHM: How do you go about writing new music? Do you take on writing collectively, or each bringing songs to the mix on their own?
It depends, sometimes Sharif (who is the primary song-writer and composer for the band) will bring forth songs that can be 90% complete. The band will then jam them out and Majed will work on the arrangements while Adham might suggest interesting rhythmic patterns or changes. Sometimes – Majed will bring forth a song that is also 90% complete and Sharif may add a part to it as well ,depending the direction of the jam and the overall feel of the song. And sometimes (and those are the coolest songs) – a song is born out of the interaction of the 3 musicians. We didn’t know we were going to have a song – but we ended up with one. We then play it out and arrange it – and then Sharif may write lyrics for it. So we have different approaches to writing music. We all respect each other so there is no issues of ego or vanity or crap like that.
HHM: What are some big goals you would like to accomplish in 2013?
Well in 2013 we would like to record our 3rd album which is tentatively called “Raya’h”. We would also like to embark on a summer festival tour in Europe or Asia or North America. We want to build our fan-base and also increase exposure to our music. We feel that we can achieve these things with the constant support of our fans.
HHM: What are some of the more immediate plans, new music, video or any festivals that you know you will be a part of?
Well, probably a decent music video and also working on polishing up new tracks for our 3rd album.
HHM: Lastly, have anything you like to say to your fans, new readers and potential fans?
“Dahab” represents a fusion of different genres of music – there are blues, rock, folk, jazz and world influences. But the great thing is that there is cohesive end result which is a unique sound that we call our own. This is an example of how music can be used to convey that we as people can find a way to find a common ground for our differences. If we can fuse the music so easily – perhaps we can find a way to achieve balance and harmony between ourselves. We thank you for your support and wish you peace, love, joy and harmony. And do send us your feedback – we love to hear from our fans!
Interview by Dave HHM