Dubai-based jazz musician Kamal Musallam reveals the ins and outs of composing music as he gets ready to release his second album Out Of My City.

He says he's keeping his orange cap on until his album is released and also seems fond of his wild caveman look. It indicates that he's been living in his studio in Sharjah for many months finishing up his long-awaited second album.

His curly hair is long and thick and his beard is growing uncontrollably. But his bright blue eyes show a man with a mission and a goal that nothing can stop him from achieving.

It wasn't easy, but somehow I managed to entice Kamal Musallam to emerge from his studio to talk about his album called Out Of My City.

"The main idea is to express my adventure in Dubai symbolically in my music. I will leave the title to the listener to interpret. It's about the relationship between the artist and the big city - how they go to the big city and struggle," he said.

Thirty-seven-year-old Musallam came to Dubai from Jordan six years ago to pursue music after abandoning his career as an architect when he discovered his real passion in life was music.

In these six years, the Kuwait-born musician released his debut album On A Jordan River's Side and has become a regular performer on the Dubai music circuit, playing at festivals and bars around town.

Jazz fusion

The self-taught musician composes, writes and arranges all his own music and admits that it's hard work. His music is a fusion between jazz and Arabic.

To explain how he creates a song from scratch he pulls out a pen and paper and starts scribbling and drawing circles around words.

"When I compose music, I have a concept in my mind and the concept has features and feelings to it. Then I interpret that with music. Sometimes a melody comes to my mind in random situations," he said as he pulled out his mobile phone and started flicking through his recorded sounds.

"These are all my ideas that have come to me on the spot which I record onto my phone so I won't forget. Then I take that idea and develop it from A to Z."

Musallam's music is predominantly instrumental with only a few vocals. How he creates a song that tells a story without words seems impossible, but not to him.

Finding stories

"If I say I'm happy, then I'm happy. It's very direct. But my music is really a lot about the other side - the listener. I don't mind telling people my story but I would love to give them the freedom to create their own story.

"With songs from the past album I had people come to me and say ‘this song made me think of this and that', and that made me say ‘wow, that never came to me'. It's really another dimension," he said as the scribbles continued.

"But I can say that in music we know easily if a sound is happy or sad. It's all connected to feelings. You have major chords, minor chords. We know that major chords are connected to happy feelings, just like colours. Like blue is connected to the cold and red is about passion and love," he said.

To illustrate, he unpacked his glissentar. The glissentar, he explained, is an instrument that is virtually unknown and is a mixture of the Arabic oud and the guitar.

Falling in love

"I play both instruments and I found this one by chance. No one was using it, so now I am developing it. It's a very fusion guitar. It fits more with a jazz band than an oud does," he said.

His love for jazz stems from the late '80s when he started discovering jazz sounds through pirated cassettes - which were the only available resources at that time - and fell in love with such greats as Pat Metheny, Miles Davis, George Benson, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and many others.

In 1994 he moved to France, where he attended festivals and concerts in both France and Switzerland, and met artists from all over the world.

Now with his album release on May 8, Musallam has only one wish: "I just want my music to reach as many people as possible."

Music Master speaks out

Rebecca Brianceau, from his music label Music Master, said she decided to sign Kamal Musallam after she saw him perform a few times.

"I signed him because I thought we could help him pursue his career in the right direction," she said, adding: "I totally believe in his product."

Brianceau, who also signed local soul band Abri to Music Master, said she loves Musallam's music because of its uniqueness.

"I like the fact that he composes everything himself and writes all his own music. The Arabic-jazz fusion is new and totally unique. I think it defines Dubai," she said. "I really love his music."

Did you know?

Kamal Musallam is developing a new guitar concept for Japanese guitar company Ibanez. His band - the Kamal Musallam Trio - usually consists of Rony Afif on the drums and Elie Afif on the bass. They perform regularly in the Blue Bar at the Novotel, Dubai.

Don't miss it!

Musallam's album Out Of My City will be available at all Virgin Megastores in the UAE from May 8.