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It’s time to face the music

July 17 -23, 2019

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly It’s time to face the music

Author, Ali Al Saeed, aims to shake things up in the kingdom’s music scene by providing artists and bands a new stage to share their creative sounds.

The 41-year-old music entrepreneur is revamping his original talent movement, Museland, into a music platform which will act as a record label that provides content production and launches new events.

Museland was initially conceived as part of the Elham Arts Festival in 2009, which was organised by an art collective that Ali was running at the time.

“We started with holding a music concert - one of the very first in Bahrain that featured an entirely local lineup of bands and musicians performing original music on the main stage – as well as released a compilation album that included tracks by artists from around the region in addition to Bahrain,” said Ali, the founder and creative director of Museland, from Isa Town. “Over the years, the concept transformed and shifted, but the focus was always to push the local music scene forward.

“I want to evolve artists and music through a variety of events and initiatives including concerts, festivals and a record label.

“Music is extremely dear to me. Even though I was never blessed as a musician myself, I have a deep connection to it. It has been the one constant in my life. I love discovering new music, attending music concerts, sharing music with others and I love seeing musicians who innovate and put their hearts and souls into their sound.

“That’s why I decided to take Museland further and establish it as the driving force behind the local music scene.”

Ali is joined by his associate Sumit Sharma on this exciting new venture. He had met Sumit during the Museland Music Festival in 2014, who has now taken a key role in managing the events.

Together, the dynamic duo is developing a number of projects, such as the MuseNight Concert series to entertain music lovers.

Last year, they had collaborated with Calexico to launch the MuseNight Concert Series for local and regional talents.

“The idea is that with each event we have a strong lineup of artists – including full bands, solo artists, and DJs - performing their original music to an eager and open-minded audience,” said Ali.  “Over the span of six events, we featured a total of 18 acts based in four countries and entertained hundreds of crowds.”

They are currently planning the second wave of concerts and are looking at venues and artists to work with.

Ali is also thrilled to be launching PUNKROCKDISCO Nights which will be kicking off tomorrow at Brazil Rodizio Grill & Lounge from 9pm with free entrance.

According to Ali, the idea was conceived out of frustration with the nightlife in Bahrain. He said: “When going out on a weekend, you’re limited for choice when it comes to finding a place that fits your vibe. I wanted to create an atmosphere that celebrates the indie, alternative spirit in us all! It’s the ultimate anti-weekend, anti-door-policy, anti-dress-code alternative party.

“We do this by focusing on creating an inclusive, open, environment-spinning records that we enjoy listening to that broadly encapsulate the genres of rock, punk and disco, and more importantly have fun while doing it.”

The event will feature crazy decorations, retro video gaming, inflatable animals and trippy visuals all around along with a mix of veteran DJs and first timers.

“We believe that we’re all DJs at heart and we’re trying to reclaim that label,” Ali added.

“For me, personally, it was always about creating a conversation with your listeners, to share your favourite music with them and transfer your joy of playing that music onto them.”

Frustration seems to be the drive for most, if not all, of Ali’s conceptions. “When I couldn’t get anyone to back me up as a writer, I found my own way to get published and became an award-winning, internationally-recognised author,” he said. “When I felt alone creatively, I founded an art collective that fundamentally reshaped the way people thought and looked at art in Bahrain and inspired a generation of artists. I’m hoping to be able to do the same with music.”

He also believes that there is so much potential for the music scene in Bahrain and is witnessing a change.

“Having been based in Dubai and periodically coming here for our concerts, I didn’t realise the shift that has happened,” he explained. “It seems the live music scene at the moment consists purely of cover bands - which are not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just that we need a bit of diversity.

“On one hand, it is good to see more venues giving local bands opportunities to perform, but on the other, that has become detrimental to the creativity and originality of the bands, with many of them focusing on honing their covers set lists instead of creating more of their original music, understandably.

“Even the international bands we get tend to be mostly cover or tribute bands, which infuriates me, that people and venues spend so much money on “novelty” acts more than anything.

“This is why our focus has always been on original music. To push musicians and bands to perform their songs because that is the only way they can improve and evolve their own unique sound, and have a stronger music scene.

“This is where Museland wants to fit into the scheme of things- to provide a playground for musicians and people to get exposed to new experiences and new music, and to create an environment that will propel and sustain that movement, not just in Bahrain but across the Gulf region.

“However, to achieve that, the music community has to come together again and go back to its roots of playing gigs for the heck of it, writing and recording new music and getting out of their comfort zone. We have a scene. Now we need an industry!”

In recent times, Ali and the Museland have released an album for Bahraini rock trio, The Relocators, and have launched the debut album of Belly of Paris as well as organised a regional tour. They also held concerts in Dubai, Bahrain and Beirut, one of which was nominated as the Best Gig of the Year at the Time Out Dubai Nightlife & Music Awards.

They are also working with Sultan Saffron and Aveora in addition to a new band ZUJAJ that plays progressive electronic music with a Khaleeji twist.

Those interested in learning more about the Museland movement and in collaborations can email info@museland.me

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