Homegrown buddies stir up the local music scene with authentic nights

Spill The Tea

No one can argue with the strong glue that holds together school friendships from the long haul as a kid growing up in the UAE. It's the sticky factor that keeps the founders of Karak Nights together, united and in unison with their mission. In preparation for this, we at Musivv got down to some market research. Asking a few people into hip hop, Arab rap, and photography about this brand. When asked if they know about Karak Nights, they answered a resounding "Yes!" In Dubai, however, there are so many cliques that it's hard to keep track of them all. Well, let's get to know more.  What's serving up the Karak Nights in mission, vibe, and refreshment?

Karak Nights team. Photo by Chary Baniqued

Karak Nights: A Brew Crew

Karak Nights comprises the guy you sometimes see wearing stylish aviators, Faizal, Interior Designer, then we have—jumping in—Aaron Ferns, a basketball player, and the dreadlocked DJ and Producer Nnamdi, co-hosting. Last but not the least, on the underground artist events orchestration, it's Vinay Premachandran.  

If Spirituality Is A Cacao Ceremony, Then Why Not A Karak Night?  

"In Dubai, the culture is you sit down and grab a chai, sit in the back of someone’s car and just have random conversations and end up talking for hours about the deepest things and it all happens around a chai. That was how we kind of began with it. That's the closest thing to Dubai culture, right? Because a lot of people that come to Dubai say there's no culture here since the city is so new. We grew up here though, this group of ours. If you speak to whoever grew up here they will resonate with those moments they’ve spent in that one chai place or just with a cup of karak in the back of their car. You know, see you have the richest people with their Lamborghini coming down. You have people on bicycles coming down. All of them are coming down to get that 1 Dirham chai.  Hopefully, it will stay at 1 Dirham," shares Aaron.

Karak Nights Founder Aaron Ferns. Photo by Chary Baniqued

Karakally Speaking:  The Collective Origins

"All three of us had the luxury of going to school together, we all went to Winchester in Jebel Ali. We had the experience of exposure to various nationalities. And everybody in the school was doing something completely different, the thought process was different. The conversations were super enlightening constantly. So we're doing this talk. We figured why not get people in the scene, because right now everyone is looking overseas to get artists, right? They’re looking overseas for creatives, whatever. However, there are people here who are so talented though so why not showcase them? When we were growing up, we never had anybody to look at, like, idolize, or show us a path," shares Nnamdi.  

"So with us, growing up we always assumed we were the only ones doing that kind of stuff. And then now that we're in the scene we look around and there's so much talent here. But nobody knows about it, no one is speaking about it. So we thought we'd showcase the journeys. First, we showcase how people got to where they got from the bottom of interviews. How Nnamdi got to the level that he's at now as a DJ so that the next generation that does want to do this, can now look at, like oh shit, this is where he messed up, this is what he did. And so this is how I can navigate myself through the industry. That's how we started, with talk shows, and then from there, the stuff showcasing their journeys. We moved into showcasing their talents, to the events that we have now," adds Faizal. 

Started At The Bottom Now We Here

"When we started it was in the middle of the pandemic, we couldn't actually have a physical platform with these people. The next best thing we could do, you know, was start all this off with a Zoom call. There was a boxer, there was a basketball player and a dancer. So we all hopped on without really understanding what the concept was. Just like yeah, let's have a conversation. We had a three-hour conversation. And we cut that up into 15-minute bits. We're all from different fields. But we all had one thing in common, it was the journey that we went through. And that's what we kind of spoke about. Now here we are," recalls co-founder Aaron.

Nnamdi’s Journey, The Gap, And The Gain

"My journey is actually long. I mean, ever since high school. I've always been interested in arts, and music.  In school, I always used to do it. I started a radio show in school. I was the emcee for a sports event. We did it one day, then it was like the PE teachers always forced me to do it.   I started producing music. And even when I finished high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I took a gap year, and that gap year I was just going from studio to studio, and I met a bunch of artists during that gap year. And from then I was on the scene making music. One day, I got invited to a party because they knew I produced, then it was, do you want to DJ?  So the day before, I practiced.  I'm sure I was terrible. But apparently, my music selection was great.  Then one more year of practice, and I started. Recently I had a realization, in the past two weeks, at least eight people have messaged me saying, can you teach me how to DJ? And I was thinking 'like what's going on?' Also then you realize that people actually underestimate the craft. Yeah, you'd be surprised.  I'm a very empathetic person. I think that's what makes me good at it because I'm very average when it comes to equipment, but my ability to read people you know, I think that's what differentiates me. So right here right now we will settle it, we will debunk the myth DJing is not just a computer that plays everything, there’s emotion. There's a lot of stuff going on.  One time I remember I had broken up with my girlfriend and my heart was broken. I was hired for this gig.  I prepared myself for the gig. You know, and I remember I started the set saying like, listen guys my heart is broken. I’m gonna throw them all my muscles. And it was probably one of the craziest sets, people were going crazy. It was a huge drop to drop.  Even in design as well. Because when you break up with someone you throw it into art.  I think some of the artists, the big ones, really want to go through a heartbreak album. Yeah, Taylor Swift Sure. Yeah."

Authentically Speaking

That was the whole thought process when we were starting this but not just to talk about the usual $#!/ that people talk about. Everybody has this notion of Dubai. That is the glitz and the glamour and tall buildings. But it's a lot more than that. There are genuine stories to be told. There are a lot of people here, they're just grinding that no one ever hears about. Yeah, and the arts. That's the thing. So that's what we want to showcase. We want to showcase not just artists, not just music. We're doing music right now because we're in a venue. But beyond that, we're supporting people in the arts as well in the creative industry, and the sporting industry as well. We were planning on running events, and sporting events. And our idea is, is combining all these elements together and that's exactly how you showcase.  See when it comes to authenticity, like all of us in all our fields way back, basketball, interior design, DJ.  But in the beginning, it was a shitshow for all of us. Right, like all of us, we're busting our behind to make sure we get to where we get, but people will see where you are now," says Faizal.

Convos and Cameos

"You can’t have a talk show without a variety of compelling guests prepared to be vulnerable, just ask Oprah.  Karak’s past participants have included Freek the rapper and videographer openly speaking as he feels.  Big Hass recounts his start in getting into radio, sentiments he received in breaking in, encouragement to the related arts, and poignantly speaking openly about the effects Autism has had so far in his life, and the deeper meaning it has brought to him. Tac talks about growing up with high standards which he felt he never measured up to and how he worked harder to strive for perfection, and so forth. There has been collaboration with what is the delicious sounding The Tasty Biscuits in workshops. Just check out the archives and the next 'upcomings'".

Tea Party

"The goal is to make sure the community is good. Our approach to this was always like, do it, see what the feedback is and work based on that. And so far, the feedback has been amazing. When we started our digital platform just podcasts and stuff, the messages we were getting back were incredible. So before these events, we were solely online. It was only on Instagram. We had the first event.  We had an invite-only to the number of people we can put in there and just hope for the best. On the first night, we had 150 People. It was buzzing that night. Then seven events down the line that we booked, went from not sure how many people were coming, to having to tell people I'm sorry we don't have space. So crazy that everyone said before that they wouldn't book local artists because they can’t pack the house. But today we're gonna have a lens for local artists in Dubai. And that's one of the reasons why we're not doing a weekly in a club. We're trying to keep up anticipation in between. But in the meantime, we also engage people online so we're trying to make sure that the narratives and the conversations about culture and Dubai's homegrown talent are constantly happening and coming up in people's faces."

Earning A Crust

About 'The Tasty Biscuits,' so the guitarist’s day job is in cybersecurity but at night they come in to play, and they're like killing it.  That's also one of the things that we want to change because artists can't support themselves with just, you know, they have to get a day job to support what they love.  The only way for an artist to make money here is to be a DJ, or as a singer or a rapper to sing covers and have a residency as an artist. But like what we're trying to do here, these events allow or provide a space for artists to come and showcase their music to see it becoming a real full-time career. That's not something you do when you don’t have time. Yes, there is talent here. It's about investigating.  But you know what’s crazy about these events, without realizing it, these Karak Nights events have become like a networking event for the industry. Like producers, people from different platforms come down, meeting new faces that we could potentially have on, so it's become a hub for anyone in the creative industry to meet others.  As far as challenges we can say maybe censorship can be one. As mentioned, we can't go too crazy. We are free to do what we want but we have limitations.  We are going towards a place where we can think a lot more.  So when this started during Covid, honestly, not gonna lie it was terrible. But also a blessing. Because it made us open our minds to not make ourselves a one-trick pony. And then it was like, you know, that hunger. Diversifying and you need seven streams of income, you know?  You need to reinvent yourself and be able to adapt.  You need to find out the market, find out what's important. You know, so the different ways. We're learning new things. We're just trying to stay humble and move forward. What do you think?

BACKSTAGE is musivv's segment honoring the men and women behind the successful artist. Features under this segment are eligible for a nomination under this category in the Musivv Awards’ annual recognition.

November 17, 2022

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