In closing off my sixth year of travelling the world with my guitar – wherever my job as a Formula One journalist takes me – I therefore arrive at an uncharacteristically disappointing weekend. I’ve only failed to play in a bar or other venue in a country about three times in the full six years of the adventure.
But Abu Dhabi has never been one of the easiest places to find somewhere to play, and I now have a much greater understanding than ever as to why. But first the good news: I now know of two regular open mics in Abu Dhabi, but one of them – on Sunday night – was disappointingly cancelled on the weekend I was there, for the Formula One race!!! The other was not scheduled for that weekend anyway, as it is just once a month.
But the truth is that Abu Dhabi, which is a fabulous city in many ways, has amongst the world’s most Draconian laws for musicians wishing to play in public. I found this out firsthand two weeks ago when a contact in Formula One who was working with a client at a very big hotel in Abu Dhabi offered to me to do a gig at the hotel. He had learned that I play my guitar and sing wherever I go, and he very kindly offered me to play at this hotel.
I agreed. But then the hotel management got in touch with me to arrange the whole thing, and according to the laws in Abu Dhabi, we had to undergo a few formalities: Could I please send my passport, my mother’s full maiden name and a list of the songs I intended to sing. I felt a little peeved that it all came to so much work for the hotel people, but since they were nice enough to go this far to offer me a stage and a mic, and considering I figured it would all be a great adventure for this blog – and my life in general – I sent a scan of the passport, my mother’s maiden name and a list of the songs I intended to sing (as well as a link to my personal music site Brad Spurgeon Music, so they could hear my songs I would sing).
Back to a French Moment and “open mic” at the Mercure in Abu Dhabi
As I awaited their response and the day and time for the gig, I visited a Mercure hotel for a meal, and what should I find but a duet from France singing French classic songs. At one point, a man from the audiences asked if he could sing a song, and the couple accepted. So we had a kind of open mic. On the other hand, I did not bring my guitar to the meal and so had nothing to play with, and anyway, I figured I had my gig coming up, so I was not desperate.
The next morning as I went to the circuit for a day of work, I passed through the spectator area and there I found an Englishman doing a solo guitar-voice gig for the empty canteen area in the extreme heat of Abu Dhabi. He had a fabulous voice, I videoed him, and then went to speak to him. He lives in Dubai, was just doing the gig at the race, and told me how doing musical gigs in Abu Dhabi required a lot of paperwork – i.e., if I had any idea of playing on his stage, forget it!
So it was that the weekend slipped by, I played my guitar in my hotel room several times, but with no response coming from the hotel after I sent my passport, mother’s maiden name and song list, I never DID get a gig. And at the same time, I did not further press the poor management person at the hotel. It was, after all, my last musical adventure of the year, I had a massive number of articles to write about the exciting Formula One season, and when I thought about it, I actually DID have a kind of musical adventure to write about on this blog….