Sometimes it's not all about the bass

Imagine a world where the music suited the venue and the time of day, without thumping basslines accompanying your every F&B experience, says Sarah Williams
By Sarah Williams
Sat 13 Jun 2015 09:56 AM

Middle Eastern hotels don’t seem to realise how inappropriate their music choices are, with an almost obsessive adherence to playing house music at all hours of the day and night and at all venues.

Music is one of the main ways humanity has expressed itself for most of human history. And musical taste, like most preferences, is highly subjective and based on culture, age and upbringing, amongst many factors.

In most places in the world, the music suits the venue – afternoon tea and cake in a café would generally mean the eardrums were being gently tickled by soft vocal or a gentle instrumentals as one champed one’s crumpets; a restaurant dinner at an early hour on a weeknight would typically mean the speakers were free from thumping bass and 30 repetitions of the same musical line.

But in the GCC, it seems that any F&B outlet that serves alcohol feels it their duty to stick firmly to the status quo, pumping out the bass ad nauseam, with only house music on offer. Not only do F&B managers seem afraid to foray into the wide world of music on offer over 30,000 years of human history -- they also seem determined to play said same-same music at a volume similar to a jumbo jet passing through the brain.

House music, which originated in Chicago in the 1980s, is characterised by electronic-based dance beats, repetitive rhythms and sounds and a baffling ability to capture the fascination of every GCC-based F&B Manager going.

Recently, a friend and I went to a famous chef’s hotel restaurant for a 7:30pm meal on a Tuesday night. The lighting design in the venue looked like a Vegas club at midnight on a Friday, with blue pulsing lights on the tables and bright blue spotlights in the corners of the terrace.

The music was so loud that my dining companion and I couldn’t hear each other speak and could best be described as noise. More importantly, it was vastly unsuited for the venue, the day of the week and the timing.

I don’t need a dance beat or electronic rhythms to help me munch my mash and though the beat of a good acid house track and a synthesised bassline help me 'shake my groove thang' on a Thursday night, I can definitely drink cappuccino quickly enough without electronica assisting my every sip.

Some venues are absolutely getting it right, particularly in Dubai, where live bands are becoming more and more common and where ‘old school’ means more than simply funk-infused house.

But if F&B Managers could be a little bolder, they – and more importantly, their guests – could discover a brave new world of music which enhances experience and lifts the mood, instead of smothering all ambiance.

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