Located deep in the dust-shrouded labyrinth of Dubai's Al Quoz industrial estate, the Fridge is an unlikely location for the spiritual home of the city's grassroots music scene. Sitting alongside anonymous-looking warehouses, factories and the odd art gallery, it is here that some of the UAE's most promising singers and musicians are given a chance to air their talent and perform before a small but appreciative crowd.
Indeed it's testament to the quality of its artists that on the night of the recent Madonna concert down the road in Abu Dhabi, the Fridge was packed with an audience left more than a little impressed by two locally based acoustic acts. No pyrotechnics. No half-naked dancers. Just a handful of musicians as gifted as they are humble, playing music from the heart.
Founded in 2007 by world-renowned harpist Shelley Frost, The Fridge set out from the very beginning to support and promote locally based musicians with genuine talent, believing that this is the only way to nurture a healthy music scene. Since then it has hosted, according to Frost, in excess of 150 individually unique performances. This is in addition to the countless theatre productions, aerial performances, dance workshops and masterclasses that are held there.
Quality and the wide scope of its performers are its strengths. The kind of music played at The Fridge ranges from classical to hip hop, jazz to folk. Auditions are held by a panel of staff to weed out the weak and, as is sometimes the case, the kind of deluded exhibitionists found in the early stages of The X-Factor.
"One Wednesday a month we hold an open audition, where artists take to the stage at The Fridge and have an opportunity to show us what they are all about," explains Frost. "Many factors are taken into consideration: musical style, repertoire, appearance and stage presence. We also have a frank discussion with the candidates as to their career aims and expectations.
"As a result, we are able to connect some musicians directly to regular work, while others become sought-after session players, working with some of the top bands in town, and still others might be encouraged towards more dedicated tuition, and revisiting us at some future point."
Asked how important she thinks the Fridge has been to Dubai's grassroots music scene Frost says that one of the cornerstones on which the Fridge philosophy is built is an "innate understanding of the need for a platform and hub for the performing arts in Dubai." She explains, "From the outset, our mandate has clearly been a strong commitment to playing a pivotal role in the developing performing-arts scene in the UAE… As a result, much of our extensive programming efforts, such as The Fridge Concert Series, are dedicated towards challenging and showcasing original and locally based talent.
"Programming at The Fridge is brave and eclectic, and definitely not afraid to take chances. Many locally based artists have had their very first public exposure at The Fridge, and still others have formed new projects with musicians that they were encouraged to collaborate and perform with.
"We are extremely proud of what we've accomplished so far and prepared for the many challenges ahead. We're definitely in this for the long haul!"
Below you'll find seven of the artists who have appeared at the Fridge and who are playing throughout the city over the summer months. To hear samples of their music, download the alpha. Select app.
Assaad Lakkis for Bull Funk Zoo
Nationality: Lebanese, born and raised in Dubai
Describe your sound in a sentence: A unique blend of funk, rock, jazz, reggae, dubstep.
Musical influences: Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, James Brown, Miles Davis, John Scofield, Wayne Krantz, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Charlie Parker, Bob Marley and so on
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians? Keep it real, play from the heart no matter what it is you play, you are always representing your heart and soul when you connect with your instrument. Listen to all music and be open to everything. Hard work always pays off. Experience new adventures and forget ego - it gets you nowhere.
As a musician, where do you hope to be in ten years time? I hope to have a good discography, and be on the road touring and experiencing new adventures.
Bull Funk Zoo plays at Jambase in Madinat Jumeirah on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights.
Describe your sound in a sentence: Intense, spontaneous, eclectically projecting distant roots into the present moment.
Musical influences: Parker, John Coltrane, Bjork, D'Angelo, Brad Meldhau, Brian Blade, Nerve, Robert Glasper
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians? It is all about ears. Always listen to new things and embrace them. Never stop listening to your heart - all the music mixes in there. Listen to yourself at all times, you are your own best critic.
As a musician, where do you hope to be in ten years time? Hopefully I'll be sounding like what I hear inwardly. It takes a lifetime to learn one drum and I have four of them in my instrument.
Rony Afif plays jazz at Blue Bar, Novotel, World Trade Centre on Fridays, with Jino Kim on saxophone and Andrew Jankura on keyboard and Nabil Amarshi on double bass.
Melisa Le Rue
Describe your sound in a sentence: Soulful bluesy vocals, honest simple positive lyrics, exotic rhythms, powerful chorus and a worldly feel.
Musical influences: Bob Marley, Sergio Mendes, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, Sarah Vaughn, Anita O'Day, Oumou Sangare, Miriam Makeba, Jill Scott, Aretha Franklin
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians? "Stay true to you as you do what you do" - the exact words artist Benjamin Zephaniah said to me four years ago and applicable to everyone, not just musicians or artists.
As a musician, where do you hope to be in ten years time? Still writing, performing, and gaining a deeper relationship with music. I hope I have a few albums under my belt by then.
Melisa Le Rue and Stoyan Stoyanov perform jazz standards in the styles of swing, samba, blues & bossa nova every Thursday at Ember lounge, The Address Dubai Mall.
Sharif Maghraby for Dahab
Describe your sound in a sentence: Acoustic ethnic fusion
Musical influences: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Camel, Bob Marley, SRV, Al Di Meola, Nassir Shama, Claude Challe
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians? Find your sound. Be original. Practise. Play live as much as you can. Be prolific. Keep your day job. Respect the music. Respect other musicians. Don't play every day. Learn from the greats. Find your own path.
As a musician, where do you hope to be in ten years time? We'd like to achieve international success and recognition as a pioneering Arab fusion band. To have recorded three or more albums; to have achieved world-wide success and be touring with the band in festivals all over the world; to be making enough money from music to enable us to experiment with new genres; to build a recording studio in Dahab, and so on.
Dahab play Fridays at Gramercy Sports Bar & Club, DIFC
Few as Much (Ziryab and Shero)
Nationality: Ziryab is Brazilian, Shero is American/Ugandan
Describe your sound in a sentence: A full, groovy, rocky sound created by two people.
Ziryab's musical influences: Lenine, Hermeto Pascoal, Jackson Do Pandeiro, Steve Vai, Tosin Abasi, Tomaso Albinon Shero's musical influences: Dave Matthews Band and Coldplay. Also hip hop, country, soukous, classical and sacred music
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians? Dedication is key, and always keep your humility.
As a musician, where do you hope to be in ten years time? To have reached out to as many people as we can with our example.
Few As Much play at Jambase at Madinat Jumeirah on Wednesday and Saturdays and on Tuesdays and Fridays, at The Stables on Shaikh Zayed Road
Describe your sound in a sentence: Soul with a hint of jazz, or jazz with a hint of soul.
Musical influences: Everything from classical to rock - Michael Jackson, George Benson, Jay-Z, Tupac, Sarah Vaughan, Dee Dee Bridgewater... the list is endless
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians? Stay focused, work hard, and practise, practise, practise.
As a musician, where do you hope to be in ten years time? To still be in demand would be good.
Rachael will be performing at various events in Dubai throughout the summer
Haruka Horii for Casual Jazz Ensemble
Describe your sound in a sentence: Simple, sincere, sympathetic science.
Musical influences: Chet Baker, Chris Connor, Sidney Bechet
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians? Aim only to play/sing what you hear and to be conscious of everything.
As a musician, where do you hope to be in ten years time? I'd like to be playing for a bigger audience.
Tiffany Schultz is passionate about the performing arts and loves nothing more than photographing musicians, dancers and actors absorbed in their art. These images form part of her current exhibition at The Fridge and involved scouring Dubai for locally
based talent and picturing them in action. Portraiture is Tiffany’s speciality and she says that getting to know people and capturing their character is what makes her job so enjoyable. For further information, go to www.tiffanyschultz.com