ABU DHABI – I was greatly relieved to find that one of the rare open mic, open jam events in Abu Dhabi, one that I had found last year, still exists this year, and was as fun and open as ever. This is the Friday night jazz night at the Mood Indigo Lounge in the Mercure City Center hotel, in downtown Abu Dhabi. It is hosted and led by the genial and talented Rob Millner, who plays piano and sings, and he had a drummer and bass player backing him up throughout the evening. It is organized by Bruce Olsen. It is mostly geared towards jazz, as I say, but like any great open stage, just about anything is acceptable. But what I did find out to my great disappointment is that if I had gone directly there on Wednesday night upon arriving in Abu Dhabi, I’d have found a similar evening devoted more to folk, acoustic music, with this time Rob Millner on the Irish fiddle!
And I can confirm by what I heard through a short snippet of a recording, Rob is as adept on the fiddle as he is on the piano! In any case, the stage was certainly open on Friday, and although this might be one of the best kept secrets in Abu Dhabi, as the place was no overflowing with jammers, there was a very agreeable saxophone player who joined in, and I had my moment behind the mic, with the band, too. First at Mood Indigo Lounge jam in Abu Dhabi
I kind of get tired of always playing the same standard songs in my repertoire whenever it is a jam situation – i.e., playing with musicians I’ve never played with before on songs they don’t know – so I decided to try something a little new. I felt confident with Rob’s piano as well as the drumming and bass playing, so I decided to risk doing Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat,” which has two, three, maybe even four different chord structured parts to it and can take other musicians by surprise if you don’t know it. I also did a couple of Bob Dylan songs, and of course, “Mad World.” Second at Mood Indigo in Abu Dhabi
To my amazement, it went over just fine – at least I’m judging by the way I felt we only went off the rails a couple of times, and by how a number of people in the audience were dancing away to it. It was a great pleasure, especially in this oasis of a night club in Abu Dhabi, which is not dry of musical joints, but has only about three other open mics from what I can make out – and none of the others took place this weekend….
If I can get back again to the Mood Indigo Lounge, I will!
My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.
This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.
Someone had the bright idea to delay the only true open mic that I can find exists in Abu Dhabi for the second Saturday of November, when it always appears on the first Saturday of November. This is the open mic at the B-Lounge at the Sheraton Hotel, and the excuse for delaying it was that it is the Formula One Grand Prix weekend in Abu Dhabi. That, of course, was precisely the event that drew me to Abu Dhabi in the first place, and that permitted me to be present in a hotel across the street from the Sheraton and ready, willing and excited to take part in the open mic. Alas, they decided that racegoers do not, after all, want open mics. So I was unable to attend, and as a result, I have put it on my list, but under the section of places I have heard of and can recommend, but been unable to attend. Still, I have seen the venue, and read about it, and it looks interesting and fun. Anyway, aside from that failed opportunity, the Bait al Oud, or House of Oud, still exists, and that is open pretty much all the time, and it has pick-up jam sessions now and then. And there are plenty of expatriate bars and pubs throughout the city that have live music. The problem for musicians wishing to take part in open mics is that either Abu Dhabi or the United Arab Emirates, I have heard, have music taxation laws that do not promote the idea of an open stage. I have been unable to confirm this information beyond my original source, but what I have been told is that bars are obliged to pay a kind of entertainment tax for each band or other artist who takes to the stage – to the tune of something like 1000 dirhams. That instantly makes putting on an open mic a major expense, and somewhat impossible as a concept. Still, I know there are open mics here and there in the U.A.E., and so either bars are able to pay, to get around the tax or my information was incorrect. I felt it good to mention, though, as a way of spurring on dialogue, should anyone be able to find information on that fact that I cannot find. Ultimately, though, it would explain the lack of many open mics in the region – a region that is otherwise full of live music of every kind.
Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy
The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other 20 and more cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.
ABU DHABI – I have seen busier days at P.J. O’Reilly’s pub in Abu Dhabi. In fact, I usually don’t like being there alone when it is so busy that party-goers are bursting at every seam. Last night, I decided to drop in to see the regular Wednesday night act, Paddyman, in order both to have a nice night out, and also to seek an open mic or open jam session for myself. I achieved the former, but not the latter.
Paddyman is a one-man-band Irish phenomenon who has travelled the world playing his music in Irish pubs and elsewhere, usually with an Irish theme from the crudest to the softest. He also does most bar rock stuff you can imagine, in his own way, and, I noted, it is so fast-paced that he rarely ever finishes a song before segueing into another song. He also writes his own songs, both comical and touching.
He is now based in Dubai, and sings around the Gulf, from Bahrain to Dubai to Abu Dhabi, and other spots. A highly in demand Irish singer, carrying the home flames to the legions of expatriates of the region.
A High-speed Paddy in Dubai
His real talent is in getting the audience to react, request songs, sing-along, and generally turn the most staid Irish pub into a party. That’s pretty necessary in Abu Dhabi where, although P.J. O’Reilly’s is an oasis of merriment, there are certain things in the Emirate that seem not to be tolerated…such as taking videos of the performer.
So it was that I only managed to get a couple of snippets of Paddyman, and they are in no way representative of the raucousness of his act. I got told off by the security guard at the door, near where I was standing, and he said if I continued making videos I’d have to leave the premises.
Anyway, I thought I’d mention this, my first night out in the music of Abu Dhabi. Yes, this is expatriate stuff in an Irish pub, and not representative of the local music. But in other ways, it kind of is. Keep posted for further notes as to why….