You won’t necessarily associate Doha with rock music. But one musician is working very hard to change that.
Naser Mestarihi, a 26-year-old full time head banger has been refining his licks and leads for many years. Long enough, he believes, to finally release his debut album called 1987, which has just hit shop shelves in the UAE.
Counting Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix among his guitar heroes, the Qatar-born Jordanian, who studied in Dubai, hopes his self-funded release will help put his adopted country on the indie music map in the Gulf and beyond.
A self-taught musician, who says his life’s been one massive musical journey, Mestarihi spoke to Soundbites about the challenges of being a rock musician in the Middle East, the inspiration for his album and who he considers are the biggest threats to rock music today.
Tell us a little bit about 1987. Also, why 1987?
1987 is what hard rock music should sound like as opposed to what we listen to today. It’s an amalgamation of what I call bedroom jams and licks or leads that I’ve compiled, I basically created structures, put in what I would love about the glory days of rock and put together a true hard rock record.
I chose the date to pay homage to that era and my favourite record which came out that year. Unfortunately it took longer to complete than expected, I’m pretty quick at laying tracks but circumstances like cancellations etc. slowed the progress. A great collaboration I had on the record was having Travis Marc fill in on drums, Travis is well respected in the British music scene and recently performed at the Brit Awards. I’m looking forward to having him on my next record as well.
How does the Qatari indie music scene compare to the UAE’s?
They’re both great music scenes. Doha needs to up the ante with original bands and musicians though. Dubai was easier for me in the sense that I had many friends involved so there’s always been this great camaraderie between bands, promoters, producers and sound engineers.
Does it still make sense to be in shop shelves these day? Isn’t it better to just release things online?
It depends, really. I’m a musician that still buys records, in fact I still buy vinyl and I also buy discographies on iTunes. Artists and bands put a lot of money and effort into their work and I think we owe them the simple courtesy of buying their music. So my answer is yes, it does make sense and I also release my music online for those who prefer that method of purchase.
How difficult was it to make this album?
Tracking records is easy and a quick process for me. Therefore when dealing with a difficult engineer who is extremely precise and is keen on robotic sounding takes, you run into some problems. Financially I funded the entire production, manufacturing, packaging etc. The label helped in distributing the record.
Making a rock record with proper production isn’t cheap. My next record will probably leave me skint cause I’m really pushing for killer production and using high end gear.
Do you have a music video?
The music video for the second single “1987”should come out soon, I don’t have dates yet. I’m also in talks to film a documentary with a major television network, that will be announced within the next few weeks.
What are the biggest challenges of being a rock musician in the Gulf?
Naser Mestarihi’s 1987 is available at all Virgin Megastore outlets in the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. For more on him, go to nasermestarihi.com.