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"Local heroes"

Local heroes

With just two singles and just a handful of gigs to their name, why are Abri on the cover of Time Out? Because they’ve just released the best album by a local band ever. That’s why. Andy Buchan caught up with the Dubai-based band that could go all the way

Tucked away in the deepest, darkest depths of Al Quoz, past a blubbery Michelin man and down a rickety, rock-strewn road, lie the faintest clues that Dubai’s musical drought is ending. There’s a cool-cat black fedora lying on the well-used sofa; an infestation of guitars loosely arranged around the raggedy rehearsal space; and then there’s the sunny-sad sounds emanating from the back room of the studio. Melancholy piano notes linger in the air, nimble bass rhythms rumble and the drums pitter-patter with military precision. But it’s the voice that’s responsible for the tsunami of shivers rampaging down your spine. A bewitching soup of soul and rhythm and blues, it sounds like nothing and everything you’ve heard before. And it belongs to Hamdan Al Abri, the charismatic lead singer of Abri – the best original band Dubai has seen since… well… ever. Is it a title that sits easy with the band?

‘It’s not an issue of handling it – it’s just our time,’ says the band’s bassist Rami Lakkis, sitting bolt upright in his armchair. ‘It’s our time. We’ve worked hard enough to get where we are.’ Julian Symes, the band’s elder statesmen and the man soon to be responsible for an outbreak of air-piano across Dubai, is a little more reserved. ‘If people want to say we’re the best band in Dubai, or Bur-Dubai or even the best band in Al Quoz, then cool,’ he says calmly while fiddling with his nearby fedora.
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There are many reasons why the tag fits. Their debut album, Sunchild, is an ambitious explosion of sound with influences as diverse as samba, jazz, soul, R&B and swing all given an accessible pop polish. Then there’s the fact that the band have warmed up for everybody who’s worth warming up for in this town – from Shaggy last June to Arrested Development in a couple of weeks. Last weekend, they opened for Joss Stone on the second day of the Desert Rhythm Festival. But could it simply be that the band are the biggest fish in (an admittedly growing) small pond?

‘It could be, it could be,’ nods Julian, growing into his role as the band’s spokesman. Sensing we’re about to pounce on his lack of belief, he adds confidently and firmly, ‘But no. It’s definitely a good, valid argument and it makes it easier for people to pick us out as there’s not that much around. In terms of quality though, I think we can play anywhere and with anyone. But I don’t think it’s because we’re a big fish in a small pond. On the other side though, there aren’t the venues for us to play here, there are problems with licensing, you don’t have the crowds that will follow you and there’s no real music press. So it kind of evens it all out.’

He’s right. Many bands have tried and failed to put themselves at the forefront of the city’s music scene. Juliana Down, Abstrakt Collision, Nervecell, Asking Alexandria – they’ve all garnered record contracts and they’ve all taken tentative toddler steps towards the big time but have all, ultimately, failed to make Dubai and the world stop and take notice. And Abri nearly joined their ranks as also-rans. Formed in 2004, half the band were based in Dubai (the UAE-born Hamdan works for Virgin and Julian is an English teacher) but the rhythm section were living in the UK. And it was while Hamdan and Julian went back to visit that they had their musical epiphany. ‘Hamdan and I went to this pub in Brixton for a gig,’ says Julian leaning forward intently. ‘I had this keyboard with only two and a half octaves and this really naff cheesy demo mode. And it just sounded like a really bad pub band at two in the morning. Horrible. I knew then that this wasn’t the reason why I played the piano.’

Back once again in Dubai and with interest from record label Music Master, the foursome made a concerted effort to make their musical dream a reality. Rami, a full time session musician and Andre Atherley, the drummer, who is currently unemployed – or a ‘full time musician’ as he claims with a smile – decided to up sticks and make the move to Dubai where the band gelled immediately.

An impressive debut album is in the shops, but it’s live that the band’s musical magnetism really hits you. Three days later, Time Out heads down to see the band open for Joss Stone at Desert Rhythm. It’s a potentially tough slot. With expectations sky-high following Kanye West’s hip-hop histrionics the night before and with an opening slot and the heat of 4.30pm to contend with, Abri could easily have become daytime background fodder.

There’s no danger of that happening as Hamdan – clad in an eye-watering yellow t-shirt and drainpipe jeans – bounds onto the stage with all the enthusiasm of an ADD Tigger and proceeds to conjure an ear-piercing, note-perfect banshee-scream by way of anouncement. It’s fair to say the band have got Dubai’s attention.

‘That was the idea,’ says Hamdan as we sit in the band’s back-stage trailer talking over the show. ‘We wanted to get people’s attention from the get-go.’ And true to his word, Hamdan prowled the stage like James Brown in his prime. The crowd were coerced into singing backing vocals, glass-rattling notes were thrown around with dizzy abandon and he got so caught up in his dancing during the breakdown to ‘Mr Brandyman’ that Time Out was certain a cartwheel across the stage was just seconds away. During ‘Point Of View’ he strips his suit jacket off to reveal toned arms with the sleeves rolled up James Dean Style while his decision to throw band t-shirts into the crowd nearly provokes a riot as people scramble for the freebies. And it all comes utterly naturally to him. You were born to be a star, weren’t you?

‘This is what I was put on earth to do, man. People were screaming and shouting – that was amazing,’ says Hamdan breathlessly as he smiles for yet another post-gig photo. ‘I’m just so grateful that so many people were there.’ He’d better get used to it, because this is merely the start.

Sunchild is out now. - TIME OUT


Sick and tired of so many bands constantly mimicking American or British acts? So are Abri. Their 100 per cent home-grown cocktail of Stevie Wonder-esque music avoids being a crossover cliché. The Dubai-based musicians are on the up, having released their album Sunchild, completing the video for their latest single, A Piece of Yourself, and heading to London to promote their music. Vocalist Hamdan Al Abri, 27, drummer Andre Atherley, 24, bassist Rami Lakkas, 24, and keyboard player Julian Symes, 40, are understandably amped about the prospect of taking their grooves global. We caught up with the jazzy foursome at the Radisson SAS in Dubai Media City hours before they jetted off… - OK Magazine

"Where past meets future, ABRI is now!"

Hamdan Al Abri, vocalist for Dubai's musical saviors speaks about the scene, performing live and what inspired the band to take up an important cause

AS THE sustained tremolo of a mouth organ floats above the Radisson SAS and out over the artificial lake in Media City, one could be forgiven for briefly mistaking the scene for the Louisiana bayou. After all, the walking bass lines and rolling rhythm of the keys describe a place a million miles from the Dubai desert. Beneath the full moon and in the open air of the Tamanya Terrace above the hotel, the social chatter of Dubai's hipsters (or Dipsters) can't compete with the rustic blues ensemble up on stage because this is where rock came from. This is how a human soul sounds unleashed.

The man I came to see, Hamdan Al Abri, is sitting at a table in front of the stage, quietly shaking his dreadlocks, absorbing each crack of the snare drum. The lead singer of the Dubai band ABRI, he suggested we meet at this show, an intimate gathering of blues legends above the city, to talk about Dubai's music scene, what it means to be a 'live band' and their recent support of an art contest to raise awareness of diabetes in the region.

During a break in the music I manage to pull him aside. Before I even get a chance to ask him if he's having a good time, his grin provides an answer.

'These guys are old school, it's great. I love listening to this stuff.' His subdued voice is barely audible over the city's din. I've heard it before though and know that it's capable of a powerful, arching howl when he's on stage.

Hamdan's alter ego is more reserved, more bashful. 'This stuff is part of what makes ABRI,' he continues, motioning towards the stage. 'A little bit of Southern Blues, a little bit of Radiohead, some Bjork and some Charles Parker.'

We sit down on a ledge away from the crowd. 'This kind of music reminds you of where it all comes from.'

It is true, I think. This is history for the ears and it's great to have this sort live entertainment in Dubai. I can't help but think that people one day may say the same sort of thing about the man sitting next to me and his talented band mates.

Together two and-a-half years, ABRI began meagerly with keyboardist Julian Symes and Hamdan playing cover songs at Wafi City's Peanut Butter Jam.

Their temporary bassist returned to the UK for school but introduced the duo to his brother, drummer Andre Atherley. Rami Lakkis then joined up as a permanent bassist and everyone immediately gelled.

ABRI is one of the first big success stories for an original music act in Dubai's pre-pubescent scene. The local jazzy-soul-funk band have recently broken out with their new album, 'Sunchild', released on November 1, 2007, garnering plenty of press, a growing fan base and playing with international music acts such as Shaggy, the Fun Loving Criminals and Arrested Development. Their single, Philosophies was number one in Dubai and the rest of the album is credence to their wealth of talent.

Despite having an instantly recognisable album loaded with infectiously pleasing music, ABRI is for all intents and purpose a live act. On stage, you quickly realise that they are the real deal and not some manufactured studio group.

These guys can rub your face in it, push it down your throat and the only thing you can do to keep from drowning is move to the music. They recently held their own at the Desert Rhythm festival in October alongside musical heavies Kanye West, Ziggy Marley and Joss Stone.

'Desert Rhythm was a blast,' Hamdan says with a grin. 'Dubai really turned out at the show. On stage it was pretty amazing because people were singing along with the songs. They knew the words and I wasn't expecting that. Playing live is what makes it real. It's the energy, the participation and the vibe. When the crowd is into it when they feel it and you feel it you can't help but give it your all.'

'The best gig we ever played though was at this club called 'Liquid' in Bahrain,' his eyes roll back as he places the moment.

'The opening band was a local death metal group and all their hard core friends and fans came out to see them. I mean, we like to think we are hard core but these guys were definitely a lot harder and their fans were a little bit intimidating. They stuck around for our set though and loved it. It was amazing. They were cheering and dancing it up and we won them over. It showed us that it doesn't matter. Any age, any style, every time, as long as the vibe is there people will dig us.'

The vibe is something that is sorely lacking in Dubai when it comes to live music. Even up here, with the city skyline as a backdrop and historical figures of the Blues movement belting out songs they played years ago with the likes of Buddy Guy, BB King and Santana, the mood is pretty low key.

It isn't anybody's fault really. Dubai's nature is such that people don't stay long and many of the groups that ABRI played with over the years have disbanded because a key member has moved on.

As the city grows and more people root themselves here, the hope is that the scene will develop organically. ABRI aims to be a major reason for that but a lot still needs to change.

'It's hard to be a struggling artist in Dubai, probably harder than most places,' he explains. 'Nothing is close by so you have to have a car. It's expensive to live here so we pretty much all have day jobs. Rami does session stuff, Julian's a teacher, I work for Virgin. There isn't really a community built up around local talent. And there is plenty of local talent.'

'People have this mentality that they have to go out to see the number one DJ. Why is it that everyone who comes to Dubai claims to be the number one DJ? Why bring international acts? Bring some love for the local acts,' Hamdan is being dead serious but he's smiling as he always does.

'There isn't the same vibe, the same atmosphere here as in London or New York or Toronto. But it could happen, there is potential here, the music and arts are coming up, we can feel it and it's great to be part of it.'

IT'S NEARLY 10:30pm but there's a guy stepping onto the stage with his sunglasses on, maybe to keep the full moon's rays from his eyes, but it's irrelevant as the bass comes in with the kick drum and Hamdan is tapping his foot. My time with him is running short.

His father played Swahili tribal music. He even had some success and composed some pieces. Hamdan tells me that ABRI might incorporate his dad's music into one of their own songs 'to pass on the legacy,' he explains.

Legacy is something that the band has already started building. It's partly because of his father that ABRI has recently signed on to be judges for 'Inspired by Diabetes', an international art contest that engages people to think about and express how diabetes affects them, the people around them and society as a whole. His father was diagnosed with diabetes when he was very young.

'My father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 21 years ago so he has had it most of my life,' he explains.

'It is how I have always known him. He has always had to watch his blood sugars, watch what he eats, but I never really thought much about it because it has been ingrained in my family.

'I never really considered how my mom watches over him or how he keeps a chocolate bar in his car in case his blood sugars get low.'

Driven by a need to give back to their local community, ABRI is using 'Inspired by Diabetes' as a platform to promote art as well as bring people's attention to the global epidemic that affects nearly 250 million people worldwide and to the enormous affect diabetes is having on the region.

Here the cause is especially important given that the UAE has the second highest rate in the world per capita with one out of every five people aged 20 to 79 living with the disease.

The group offered their talents to choosing local winners for a competition, which ended on January 31, 2008.

For Hamdan, the competition really forced people to take a moment and actually consider how diabetes affects those living with the disease as well as their friends and loved ones.

'That's why I encourage people to take a moment and think about how diabetes touches them,' He says.

'It opens your eyes. Put yourself in their shoes, see their life. How would it be? What would you change? By changing your perspective you can truly be inspired.'

ABRI is inspiration in of themselves. There seems to be a passion behind every action, every song, every show.

The guy in the sunglasses is gripping the mic now, he lets out a howl and even the least attentive patrons in the bar take notice.

Some ladies are dancing and as I peer around, against the backdrop of Dubai Marina's skyscrapers, I spot a guy dancing in the window of the apartment across the street.

There may be hope for this city yet.

When asked how committed everyone is to the band, there is no question. 'Totally committed. This is the band. We're set! We all know what we want to do. ABRI is about making original music and inspiring others to do their thing. We are playing stuff that is different but it comes from the heart. It's not Arabic or traditional, it's not Western or commercial. ABRI is soul, jazz, blues - that music isn't from around here,'

Hamdan glances towards the band on stage then to the crowd shifting in the moonlight. 'But people get it.'

To hear hit songs from ABRI's debut 'Sunchild', visit www.myspace.com/AbriMusic or check out their website www.abrimusic.com.

For more information join the 'I'm inspired by diabetes' group on www.facebook.com.

ABRI is:

Hamdan Al Abri - Vocals

Julian Symes - Keyboards

Rami Lakkis - Bass

Andre Atherley - Purcussion

Formed: 2004

Album: Sunchild - released December, 2007

Music: Soul/funk/rock fusion

Influences: Radiohead, Donny Hathaway, Bob Marley, James Brown, The Beatles

Website: www.abrimusic.com - Khaleej Times

"Band ambassadors: UAE's nominees at MTV Europe Music Awards"

Band ambassadors: UAE's nominees at MTV Europe Music Awards

By Kelly Crane, Staff Reporter
Published: September 20, 2008, 23:52

On cloud nine. That's how band Abri describes feeling after being nominated for a category at this year's European MTV Music Awards.

And on cloud nine is exactly where this UAE band may as well be.

It takes approximately 60 seconds to be bowled over by the passion, enthusiasm and excitement which is so deeply rooted in the four members of the Dubai-based group and a further 60 seconds to realise it's something you may never experience again.

Nominee in the Best New Act for MTV Arabia category, the boys fight desperately to play the "cool" card as they speak about the opportunity ahead.

Up against four other artists from the region including Carole Samah, Fayez, Karl Wolf and Mohammed Hamaki, the category winner will get the chance to take to the stage at the MTV Europe Music Awards held in Liverpool, UK, on November 6.

Formed in October 2005, Abri - Julian Symes, Hamdan Al Abri, Rami Lakkis and Andre Atherley - have made a mark in the UAE and are hot off the heels of a promotional tour and recording session in the UK.

The foursome played at Vibe Bar @ Truman Brewery, in London, before heading to the Fortress Studios, famous for recording songs from the likes of Keane, The Killers and Coldplay.

Going to london

"I was so excited about playing our music in London. As soon as we got on stage the energy of being there in London and the crowd just took over. The crowd absolutely loved our music which was wonderful," Hamdan, 27, barely able to sit still, says.

"The UK has a thriving music scene, filled with super-talented and passionate artists. It's the best place to showcase and perfect your art form. And if UK's brutally-honest crowd loves what you are offering then Europe, America, Canada and Japan will follow suit.

"You just have to be original and hustle for what you believe in or you will just be left behind. Life in the UK doesn't wait for anybody."

With a long list of artists from Keane to Coldplay gracing the halls of Fortress Studios the boys admitted to keeping their eyes open for the odd celeb. "It felt kind of surreal using the same studios that established artists have used and it just shows that we are on the right track. M.I.A. did some recording there and I'm a huge fan of her music. I was hoping to bump into David Bowie while we were there but it didn't happen - maybe next time."

Symes, 40, said: "We saw a picture of Tom Jones at Fortress because he had recorded a song there. Also we played alongside Foreign Beggars and they are very well known in London. They are a great bunch of guys and showed us a lot of love. Their performance was amazing."


A breakthrough act, Abri are crossing borders and oceans to find fame but say the UAE will always be their home. But why the UK?

Hamdan added: "We wanted to record the album in analogue so we recorded on two-inch tape, using an analogue mixing desk and a vintage microphone for my vocals. We just wanted to do it old-school because we love the sound quality so much.

"We wanted to record it live, as in all of us recording at the same time rather than individually. Unfortunately there is no studio in the UAE which has the facilities we needed to do this."

Symes added: "The whole team at Fortress did everything they could to make us feel at home, especially their in-house recording engineer, Tom Morris. It was initially nerve wracking as we knew we were following in the footsteps of some big names such as Coldplay and Basement Jaxx, which can be a bit overwhelming.

So what needs to change in the UAE if artists are going to "make it"?


"We need a better platform to showcase," Hamdan said. "There are so many restrictions when it comes to performing live and too much attention is given to international artists when we have enough passionate and talented local artists here. More venues, more events and fewer restrictions would be welcome."

Renowned for his "crazy" hair Al Abri oozes confidence (in a nice way). Maybe it's the dreadlocks or maybe it's a true belief in what he does but the singer believes losing is not an option.

"We will win it. My acceptance speech and reaction will be spontaneous because it just feels more natural that way. Let the hair do what it wants, give it some love and care and you are set. I won't be practising my ‘we-are-really-pleased-for-you hand clap' for if we don't win - because we are not going to lose."

Slightly more modestly, Symes admits he wouldn't write his acceptance speech until he knew they had won saying it was "counting chickens" to prepare.

At the Virgin head offices where he works, Al Abri said his colleagues were the first to find out Abri were nominated as he celebrated around the office.

But for Symes it was his wife who received the good news first. He says: "We have a one in five chance of winning and I say good luck to anyone who wins. We are already on our path. There are millions of people suffering in all sorts of ways. Much as we'd love to win, if we don't, it could all be a lot worse."

Getting it right

Rami, 25, says: "We are all hungry for one thing; making music, and what's better than that is we all understand and complement each other in our music. I think it's our time because we have worked extremely hard to get to where we are at present."

Symes says: "Thanks to all our fans in Dubai, thanks to the media and a super big up to MTV Arabia for their support, this wouldn't be happening without them."

Realising it is starting to sound like his acceptance speech Symes breaks into laughter and stops in his tracks.

"All we ask now is that the people of the region get online and vote for us to make our dreams come true so we can make the UAE proud."

Visit www.ema.mtva.com/vote to register your vote for local boys Abri.

Al Abri finishes it off perfectly by saying: "Lets take this all the way." - GULF NEWS

"ABRI at Diesel xXx party in Dubai"

About 2,000 people attended the Diesel xXx party Saturday night (October 11) at Madinat Arena, Madinat Jumeirah, where DJ Christian Burn spinned house music to a small crowd before Abri started warming up the arena around 10pm. The UAE four-member soul band played a couple of new songs from the album they recently recorded in England as well as songs from their previous albums including A Piece of Yourself.

Dancing in the audience after their performance on stage, Abri’s members were pleased with the party. Hamdan Al Abri, the band’s singer, said the feedback they received was very exciting and the party was a lot of fun.

One of the audience members, Ziri, from Brazil, heard Abri for the first time and said it was amazing.

Around 10pm, the party didn’t seem as large as in some of the other 16 cities around the world participating in the xXx party and broadcast live on three large screens, such as Tokyo and London.

“I thought there would be more people,� said Emirati Nlwal Alapameemi, 22, who was waiting for Chicane.

But the crowd quickly grew and filled up the arena on time for the next act, Chicane, aka Nick Bracegirdle, along with his musicians including Natalie and her amazing voice. The famous DJ played a variety of old and newer songs, while the crowd was actively shaking and grooving to the house tunes.

Many people said they wouldn’t stay until the end of the party at 2am because they had to go to work the next day. Chicane’s act ended at midnight when a great deal of party goers left. But those who stayed – still a large crowd – got to enjoy the exciting house rhythms of Dubai-based DJ Kennedy - Xpress


Time Out is lost. More pressingly,
we’re dripping from a freak
thunderstorm and adrift in City Centre
amongst a seething maelstrom of
wild-eyed, product-hungry shoppers.
We’ve been bashed by trolley-wielding
mothers, inhaled plumes of secondhand
smoke, had hordes of screaming,
inconsolable kids holler at us and been
brushed aside by big-striding, blingedup
gangs of teenagers. The one man we
asked for directions sent us on a wild
goose chase to the far end of the mall
where there’s nothing but hurried
building work. And certainly no soul
band by the name of Abri.
Fifteen minutes later and we’ve
found sanctuary. Hidden on the middle
floor of City Centre, sit two unassuming
men the singer and the melodic brains
behind Abri (translated as ‘ferry
crossing’ in Arabic, ‘shelter’ in French
and ‘to open’ in Portuguese). Julian, an
English teacher by day and the group’s
pianist/keyboardist/songwriter by
night, is your archetypal cool jazz cat.
Clad in a sunburst orange T-shirt,
regulation natty zip-up cardigan,
black-rimmed specs and a sweeping,
jet-black comb-over, he’s the avatar of
laid-back. Hamdan, meanwhile, the
band’s singer and on-stage focal point
by night and Virgin worker by day,
resembles Thierry Henry but with a
shock of Sideshow Bob-esque dreads
dangling from his head.
Rather unfortunately for a band just
hitting its stride, half of the group – the
brother-brother rhythm section – are
based in the UK and have no intention
or returning any time soon. An
insurmountable problem, no?
‘It is difficult,’ admits Julian in his
London twang. ‘It would be nice to have
the whole band in one place. The way
the album’s been written, it’s got a real
dance feel – funk, soul, reggae. They’re
flying out for our gig on April 14 but we
need that drum and bass, we need the
rhythm section. It’s a four-piece so we
do miss them.’
Problems associated with
traversing four time zones aside,
Abri are that rare commodity in Dubai
– a talented soul-jazz-funk band that,
gasp, don’t play endless ‘Lady In Red’
covers and, shock, have no intention of
going down that route. Hamdan, born
and raised in Dubai, has seen enough
talented musicians trodden into the
tourist trap while Julian, oh-so-nearly
a professional musician in his native
London, has been in Dubai for three
and a half years and is hopeful of
inculcating some original values into
the city’s burgeoning scene.
‘It’s not easy out here,’ says Hamdan.
‘A lot of people don’t have open minds,
if a band is doing their own thing, it’s
tough. Two years ago, there was no
music scene.’ ‘But,’ counters Julian on
a more optimistic note, ‘there are some
other bands breaking through.
Abstrakt Collision are doing good
things. Juliana Down and Nervecell are
starting to get some recognition. And
the good thing about MySpace is that
people are connecting with each other
– and I think that’s going to help the
music scene develop.’
True enough, scroll down the band’s
page www.myspace.com/abrimusicand
you see good luck messages from the
name-checked bands. There are also
three rather excellent songs that
showcase the bands poppy, polyphonic
playfulness and Hamdan’s fulsome
falsetto in particular. Reminiscent of
David McAlmont (he of the skyscraping
hit of yesteryear ‘Yes’ recorded
alongside ex-Suede bassist Bernard
Butler), Hamdan might be more reticent
than Julian when we meet, but on record
he’s a lithe, free-form singer. Head south
a little further, however, and you reach
the band’s mission statement.
‘Abri is a four-piece soul/indie band,’
reads their MySpace profile, ‘formed in
Dubai. Like everyone else in the UAE
we are absolutely loaded. We drive to
rehearsals in our customised Rolls-
Royces, our singer Hamdan has a solid
gold microphone, and we often throw
diamonds into the audience at our gigs.
Our debut CD is about to come out and
anyone who buys it will get a free
Nissan Patrol.’
Congratulations on the Rolls-Royces
gentlemen. ‘Why thank you,’ the pair
laugh in unison. ‘We had a serious
statement, but we thought that’s what
people would expect. Dubai needs to be
taken down a notch or two sometimes.
A lot of people have really responded to
that humour as well. If you want people
to listen to your stuff, you need to
connect with them.’
It’s this humour, alongside a wide
range of influences (‘Radiohead, Stevie
Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Bob
Marley, Fela Kuti, N.E.R.D. and Dr Dre.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Damian
Marley,’ says Hamdan breathlessly)
that has pricked local distributor Music
Master’s ears. Their album is slated for
a November release with more shows
promised in the meantime, with their
return performance at May’s Original
Music Festival first. But while the
duo has always appreciated a broad
spectrum of beats, it wasn’t always
that way.
‘My previous job at Virgin really
helped me,’ nods Julian. ‘I had an openminded
approach to music. I liked
every type of music apart from country
and goth. And the first person I worked
with was a goth. And she introduced
me to Nick Cave, The Cure and The
Cult and I really liked it. And then
I got moved to the country department
where I got into Johnny Cash. I then
lived in Brazil for a year and that really
opened my ears.’
Factor in Hamdan’s lyric-writing
skills and you have a potent
combination. While most songs have
one eye on the dancefloor (‘get the girls
on there and the boys will follow,’
smiles Julian, an ex-DJ), there’s a
deeper, grittier message. On ‘Little
Girl’, Hamdan tackles the illegal
deportation of women, while ‘Brandy
Man’ is about the perils of alcoholism. ‘I
don’t want to sing about cheesy stuff
like going to a club and guns and hos,’
says Hamdan. ‘But at the same time we
don’t want to make it too deep, we want
it to be catchy and have meaning.’ With
purpose and playful poise on their side,
the band shouldn’t be lost in Dubai’s
musical wilderness for long.•

"Radio 1 concert"

Radio 1 Concert – Saturday, April 19th - 0 comments
Radio 1 threw a free concert for its listeners at the Dubai Tennis Stadium last Saturday for no other reason than to say thank you to its loyal patrons (at least none that we can tell). The event featured Kelly Rolland (of Destiny's Child), and our homegrown favorites, Abri (who were by far the best act of the night, although the other acts were quite good as well). It would seem that most parents didn't allow their teenagers to go to a concert on a school night, especially after they came home from Akon the night before with cigarette breath – we're not complaining. Aside from Abri's performance, which brought the house down, the other highlight of the evening was Kelly Rolland in a short sparkly dress. Bionce who? - Dubizzle.com

"ABRI 2008 Hot 100 Ones To Watch"

2008 Hot 100 Ones To Watch

Individually they are four talented musicians, together they are Abri, one of the UAE's biggest selling and highest profile music groups. Dubai born and raised Hamdan Al-Abri, the band's lead singer, says the best advice he has received is to be true to yourself. "I am here to make music and let the rest of the world know that Dubai has a young but growing music scene. I enjoy it because I love it, it's my passion, there is nothing else I would rather be doing."

This commitment is shared with all the other Abri band members. Bassist Rami Lakkis is devoted to everything musical. As well as his role with Abri, Rami is a session bass player with a variety of bands, and confesses his perfect day in Dubai is "heading to a music gig."

Drummer Andre Atherley arrived in Dubai to visit his brother who was playing bass for the band. Abri had no drummer, and the rest is musical history. The Englishman's favourite things are the beach, sun and people, while he looks forward to a day when musicians and singers can get up and play without having a licence - a common gripe among local artists.

Similarly Londoner Julian Symes came to Dubai for his friends and the sun and never left. As Abri's keyboardist, Julian says the group, "have a lot of fun together, have met some really interesting people and been to some fantastic places."

Together they all believe in the importance of helping the local music industry flourish... which is probably why it is developing into such an exciting one.
- AHLAN Magazine


Our first CD, "Sunchild" was released in the Middle East, and we released two singles. The video for our second single is currently being shown on MTV Arabia. We have been on heavy rotation on all UAE (especially Dubai) Radio. You can hear us on myspace and Youtube as well.



MTV Europe Music Awards 08 Nominees ABRI, described as 'the best original band Dubai has ever seen' (Time Out). Their powerful blend of Soul, Jazz and R&B resonates throughout the region.

The Dubai-based band was born when vocalist Hamdan Al-Abri met keyboardist Julian Symes in 2005. Within two months, the duo had written enough tracks to produce their first album and were then joined by Rami Lakkis and Andre Atherley.

Dodging the conventional trend of musical 'genres', ABRI's music is a harmonious sound created by four musicians with extremely varied musical backgrounds. Hamdan is a UAE national, having been born and raised in the Dubai. The singer's early musical approach was heavily influenced by his father's East African musical background but he has now developed a expressive vocal style that is completely his own.
Julian Symes has been making music at an early age. Raised in London , England , he produced his first tracks using an old piano and 2 cassette recorders when he was only eleven years old. Julian went on to test new musical waters in funk, bossa nova and jazz piano.
Andre Atherley also hails from the UK , where his formative years were spent playing drums in his father's gospel band. He then played in both salsa and reggae bands throughout the years, finally coming to rest in the rhythm of ABRI.

Like Hamdan, bassist Rami Lakkis was also born and raised in the multi-cultural folds of Dubai . Exposure to region's diverse mix of traditional music to Western modern music inspired Rami, and resulted in the development of his unique bass playing skills.

ABRI has been seen performing internationally in the UK at the Vibe Bar, Monkey Chews, Jazz Talent and have performed in Dubai & Bahrain sharing the stage with Kanye West, Mika, Joss Stone, Ziggy Marley, Arrested Development, Fun Loving Criminals, Shaggy & Kelly Rowland.

The band's single, 'A Piece of Yourself' won battle of the beats on the nations biggest radio station, Radio 1 and sold more CDs than any other local band. Their album, Sunchild released in the Middle East on November 1st, 07 was seen in the Virgin Megastore top 20, beating out Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent.

Recently, ABRI recorded their new album at the famous "Fortress Studio" in the UK . Will Davis, the mix engineer who is currently working on the album, had this to say about the band: �It has been a real pleasure working with ABRI��.their inventive compositions are delivered by one of the most exciting vocal talents it has been my privilege to hear�. The highly anticipated cd will be ready for release in early 2009.