Leisure Manager catches up with Lime Green Entertainment's Ram King, Lime Jam music coordinator, and Sonia Saïdi, 360 hospitality coordinator, at one of the company's open mic nights at Central Perk café in Jumeirah.
LM:Has the open mic night proved to be a popular concept?
There aren’t many of this type of event in Dubai and people are looking for this kind of thing — it’s different.
Sonia Saïdi:It is, yes. Every Saturday we often get a good crowd of people here.
Ram King:And the thing is, we keep seeing new faces, which is good - it's not just the regulars. Word is getting round and different people are coming to check it out.
LM:Who are the people that make up the audience - are they mainly expats or does the event also attract local Arabic people?
King:It really depends on the set list and who is playing. We post the set list up online - on our website dubailime.com - before the event, so people can see who's playing and people are starting to be drawn more by the individual artists. And we have five or six new performers and it's great seeing how excited everyone is to be involved.
LM:How long have the open mic nights been running?
King:The Lime Jam has been going on for about four months now. We had the first one in April.
Saïdi:We have the events at Central Perk in Jumeirah on Saturdays and at Berts Café in Dubai Marina on Tuesday nights. They're both as popular as each other.
LM:Why did you decide to run this type of event?
Saïdi:There aren't many of this type of event in Dubai and people are looking for this kind of thing - it's different.
King:That's how Dubai is - if you run a business and you're not constantly changing every week, offering new concepts all the time, you're probably going to fail because Dubai is just so new and you need to make yourself stand out.
Plus we were just so tired of going to cafés and bars and listening to cover bands. You can buy the CD and listen to it at home - what's the point of even going out?
Saïdi:People come here to hear something different. They come here, drink coffee, enjoy their time and listen to good music.
LM:Why did you choose Central Perk as a venue?
King:Instead of starting off in clubs and bars we actually started out in cafés because the audience is more responsive. They actually sit and listen to the music, listen to the lyrics and when I get feedback from the musicians, they always tell me how great that is - to have people actually listening to them.
Saïdi:The concept of the café is really cool too - the Friends theme - everyone loves the show so it's a popular venue and the atmosphere is right for what we're trying to do, as well.
LM:At what standard do the artists that perform need to be?
King:There are no qualifications for who can play - anyone can get up and play a song. I'd say 30% of the musicians we get in are professionals that play around [at different bars and clubs] but the majority of them are just regular guys that work in offices of whatever - they have jobs and come home and practice the guitar and just come here and play. It's a passion for them, and often this is the first time they've been able to play in front of a live crowd.
You do get people that can't sing in tune or whatever, but this is what we do, you know? It's about artist development - we put people up on stage and we help people to develop.
I have one-on-ones with the other musicians because I like to keep in touch with them and offer them advice on their guitar playing and so on.
But most of the time they actually come back to me, or they'll try to meet up with one of the other musicians to practice. They're also keen to find out about institutes or schools where they can get vocal lessons - they actively want to develop themselves.
We post up recordings from the events on the site and they can listen to themselves and hear what they want to work on too, so that can be quite an education as well.
LM:How do you recruit the artists to take part in the event?
Now that we’re getting up and running, I’ve been getting random phone calls from people wanting to perform.
King:We're always on the look out for new artists, and now that we're getting up and running, musicians have been coming to me - I've been getting random phone calls from people wanting to perform.
Saïdi:Last Saturday, two people that had just come along to watch came up and asked if they could take part. That's the thing - people come here and start to see what's going on and they get curious and want to try it.
King:As long as I don't have a full set list, we like it when people just come along and ask to play. It's kind of hard for us to re-arrange the set-lists too much, and they have to be planned in advance. But the way it is in Dubai, people often find that they have work commitments that they can't get out of, or family issues that come up, so I usually have one or two open places. And if the set list is full and I can't fit them in, then I just stay in contact with them and put them on for the next week.
LM:Who are the musicians that take part and what sort of music do they play?
King:We get people from the UK, from Australia, from New Zealand, the US, Canada, Lebanon... everywhere really. I'm really keen to get more local Arabic people to get involved, to come along and play guitar and sing original Arabic music.
LM:What do you think about Dubai's music scene?
King:I've been back and forth over the last three years on vacation because my parents live out here, and I just felt that there wasn't a lot going on in terms of a local, original music scene. I was here for about six to eight months trying to look for a something new and trying to look for a music scene, but there was nothing I could really tap into and have an interest in and everything like that. So I went out to Singapore, but I kept coming back and I heard about Studio City coming in and with all these studios coming in I thought there might be a huge boom in the music industry.
LM:How do you handle licensing issues for an event like this, with so many different musicians?
King:Under Dubai law you have to have a live music licence for each artist, but it's not really hard to arrange. You just go up to the Municipality and fill out the applications. They charge you per musician and we're licenced to have live events, but it's actually up to the venue to arrange the licence, so we'll pass all the particulars to the venue - all the passport copies and so on - of all my musicians that I'm going to put up for the whole month, not just that week, because I change the set list once in a while, putting new faces in.
[The venue] arranges the licence for each of the musicians. I think there's a one-month licence and a three-month licence, and the venue pays for that, so the licence is owned by the venue, which means that the artists can't go off and perform at other venues - Central Perk has three different locations [in Dubai], and the musicians can play at all of them, but they can't just go to other bars or restaurants. They would require another licence.
It can get kind of complicated, but you just have to find out all the details and understand what's required.
LM:Did you have to do a lot of research before you launched this concept?
King:We just had to ask a bunch of questions about what exactly we had to do. Then we had to look at all the information as it came back to us, and step-by-step we got to grips with what needed to be done. We had to fill out a lot of papers.
LM:What plans do you have in terms of taking this event to other venues?
Saïdi:There aren't many of this type of event.
King:We're trying to do that at the moment actually. We're trying to find new places to hold the event, all over Dubai. People can't come all the way from Bur Dubai, for example, all the way down here to Jumeirah, or from Deira. So we're really trying to find different places.
King:We'll definitely start by going to other cafés, but we're also now starting to look at the idea of moving into clubs and bars, to a venue like Aussie Legends - we're really trying to get in there.
What's happening now is that I've got about 25 musicians that have been meeting up at these open mic nights and at other Dubai Lime events, and they have been getting together and hanging out.
They will all be talking and then one person will pick up a guitar, and they'll all jam together, so what's been starting to happen now is that some of them have decided to get together and form bands.
That would be great for venues like pubs and bars, where we can actually put up a whole band.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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