Just a couple of years ago, you couldn’t turn on the radio without landing on another EDM track or a DJ-pop star collaboration topping the charts.
You either loved it or hated it. But today’s music scene is changing. Radio has now moved into stripped back R’N’B, gutsy trap and sentimental synth-pop.
That’s why ‘Nomad: On the Rise’ feels right on time.
The seven-track album, featuring 15 of the UAE’s brightest talents, is a highly addictive amalgamation of lithely produced R’N’B, trap and pop songs that fluctuate between heartbreak sweetness and straight-up bars.
If you’re already engaged with the local music scene, you probably already have this album on rotation. But for those of you who are still getting familiarised with what the region has to offer, this provides an introduction to more than a dozen of rising stars — from singers to producers and musicians.
“The whole thing was orchestrated by Nomad, who conducted a music bootcamp and asked me to direct and spearhead it,” said music producer Rayan Bailouni. Fifteen members participated in the bootcamp from October-November last year. Bailouni split them into seven groups to create seven songs for the EP, which finally released last week.
The artwork, by locally based graphic artist Maddy Butcher, was inspired by her first listen of the album.
“It’s about empowering our youth and grassroots level artists to know that they can do something in music for the rest of their lives, and the beauty, really, is the human story,” explained Bailouni, who suggested that other bootcamps could follow.
For now, we break down ‘Nomad: On the Rise’ song-by-song to give you a taste of what, and who, is truly on the rise in your city.
1. ‘Take It Easy’ – Dela Cruz, Arsenite
The smooth synth pull of ‘Take It Easy’ eases us into the album, with a mix of female and male vocals, combining a feathery delivery against indie-pop over-enunciation. The track moves at a tranquil tempo, juxtaposed against love-sick lyrics such as, ‘When the sun comes up, will you even take me home?’
For fans of: Owl City, Sharon Van Etten
2. ‘Floating’ – michele., Mjeezy, The Fuzz
‘Floating’ is an elegantly sensual and finger-snapping slow jam, driven by a strong yet restrained vocal performance, subtle production and a perfectly placed guitar solo.
For fans of: Jorja Smith, Summer Walker
3. ‘Tabbouleh’ – Menon, Baseloud, Vasi
The album switches gears with this multicultural trap collab ‘Tabbouleh’, which brings region-specific food staples — like tabbouleh, curry, adobo and daqoos — to the table. Filipino-Sri Lankan rapper Menon joins forces with medical practitioner and oud player Baseloud and up-and-coming drummer-producer Vasi.
For fans of: Migos, Gucci Mane
4. ‘Homesick’ – Ananya
A stirring introspection pulls us across the midpoint of the album, as Ananya leads us through wounded self-reflection and healing.
For fans of: Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande
5. ‘Back and Forth’ – KK, Vasi
‘Back and Forth’ is a suave R’N’B offering that’s as aggressively radio-ready as it is gentle in its approach.
For fans of: Zayn Malik, Khalid
6. ‘Drowning’ – Dina Stars, Draha
The album’s biggest EDM offering, ‘Drowning’ takes listeners on a small detour into a more pulsating, danceable space.
For fans of: Nervo, Pink Panda
7. ‘Foreign’ – Rai Han, Kiran Surath
The album-closer brings a suggestion of reggaeton into the mix interspersed with chilling high notes, as Rai Han and Kiran Surath wrap the project.
For fans of: The Weeknd, J Balvin