STEP Conference 2017

Representing the Region's Independent Music Scene
April 7 | Dubai International Marine Club

Buy Tickets

About

STEP Music

STEP Music in partnership with Anghami is bringing together music leaders, record labels, producers and artists together under one roof to explore the latest trends, challenges and the future of the regional music industry – all combined with live performances from some of the region’s top independent artists!

About

STEP Music Festival

Featuring 18 independent artists from around the region performing live across 12 hours – from alternative rock to hip-hop, electro-pop to jazz/soul. Starting just before 2pm with cool pop sounds on our indoor stage, you can enjoy a full day of awesome music with a killer hip-hop lineup in the evening and four of the region’s biggest bands on our outdoor stage, all rounded off by two great DJs playing till 2am.

Don’t miss it.

See Who's Performing

2017 Performers

Mashrou Leila

Mashrou' Leila is a five-strong indie band based in Beirut. Born out of a late night / early morning jam session at the American University of Beirut, Mashrou' Leila (whose name roughly translates to Overnight Project) fill their live performances with some of the most bittersweet ballads and raucous anthems you’re likely to hear.

Their rousing, sensual electro-pop anthems about political freedoms, race, religion and modern Arabic identity have challenged the status quo of the Middle Eastern pop industry. Mashrou’ Leila have won fans worldwide, and were the first Middle Eastern artists on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The band has self-released four albums to date. Their most recent, Ibn El Leil (2015) – launched at the Barbican in London – brilliantly reimagines the vibrant sound of contemporary Beirut with guitars, drum machines, samples, razor-sharp violin and magnetic frontman Hamed Sinno’s mercurial voice.

The Wanton Bishops

The Wanton Bishops define Lebanese rock & roll. Since 2012, Nader Mansour has been gathering friends and collaborators around him to take his raw blues-induced rock & roll down an ethnic-electronic highway shimmering with colourful romantic psychedelia.

From Glastonbury to SXSW, Nova Rock to Solidays, The Wanton Bishops have seduced audiences all over the world with visceral energy, intimate sensitivity, and haunting confusion. After a highly acclaimed debut album Sleep With The Lights On, they recently released a new EP, Nowhere Everywhere, showcasing a special brew of rock & roll than could only originate from Beirut, with its notorious identity crisis and cultural openness: It’s Lebanese rock & roll!

Narcy

Narcy, formerly known as The Narcicyst, is the artist name of Yassin Alsalman, a musician, actor, professor and multimedia artist based out of Montreal, Canada. Being a pioneer of the Arab hip-hop movement through his Iraqi trio Euphrates in the early 2000s, Narcy was a seminal part of a growing voice in the public sphere.

Currently teaching one of Canada's only hip-hop courses, at Concordia University in Montreal, Narcy’s ethos has been to blend performance with education, media with literacy, and creativity with cultural heritage. Narcy also currently heads WeAreTheMedium, an international family of independent creatives that come together for curation, performance, consultation and product-based creation.

As a film enthusiast, he recently directed a short film for indigenous supergroup A Tribe Called Red, sharing the screen with Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def. Narcy is now a JUNO-nominated director of music videos (the JUNO Awards are Canada’s version of the Grammys).

Autostrad

Autostrad are an Arab Mediterranean indie band from Jordan. They play eclectic, original music inspired by a number of different genres including reggae, funk, Latin and rock, all with an authentic Arabic touch. Autostrad have released three albums: Fe Autostrad (2009), Autostrad 2011 (2011), and Nitrogen (2013) and are currently working on their fourth.

Inspired by everyday life in Jordan, Autostrad’s repertoire tackles a variety of themes, including love stories, struggle, financial challenges, drug abuse and finding oneself. They have a wide-reaching fanbase among youth in Jordan, the wider Arab world, and Europe and America.

Autostrad have a signature slogan in Jordanian Arabic, “Agwa no3”, meaning “the best kind”. It is the band’s catchphrase when they refer to their fans, music and the causes they advocate.

Adonis

Adonis are a four-piece Lebanese pop-rock band, famed for their engaging Arabic lyrics, catchy tunes, and playful arrangements. Formed in 2011, Adonis made their first steps as an online sensation with signature tracks like “Stouh Adonis” and “Daw El Baladiyyi”. The band have since performed at the most prestigious venues across Lebanon and the Arab world, and headlined major festivals, including the Beirut Holidays Festival, the Beirut Spring Festival, and Amman’s BAB Music Festival. Adonis have been the face and voice of major campaigns across the Middle-East, including the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism’s “Live Love Lebanon” campaign, Lipton Levant’s “Cup Half Full” campaign, and Pepsi’s “Out Of The Blue”, to be launched in summer 2017.

Following the best-selling albums “Daw L Baladyyi” (2011) & “Men Shou Bteshki Beirut” (2013), Adonis are collaborating with renowned regional producer Jean-Marie Riachi on their third release. Due in 2017, the two pre-release singles of the album, “Eza Shi Nhar” and “La Bel Haki”, are already leaving a solid mark on the Arabic pop landscape. "Their music is something to fall in love with. The five boys from Adonis produce songs that are, at times, achingly gorgeous, charming, whimsical and enchantingly Lebanese.” - Now Lebanon

Flipp & Daffy

Daffy & Flipp are the MCs behind the monster hit “Ee Laa” (13 million YouTube views and rising), produced by DJ Outlaw. Bahraini MC Flipp (real name Hussam Aseem) and Kuwaiti singer/rapper Daffy (real name Nawaf Fahed) are both well-respected artists in their own right, and have successfully collaborated on the album 9ARAT, which reached Number One on iTunes MENA. Both are on the roster of Outlaw Productions. Daffy’s solo sound fuses hip-hop, R&B, soul, jazz, reggae, and a bit of Arabic/Middle Eastern, blending different cultures in a unique sound. In 2014, his single “Samboosa” took the region by storm, hitting over 1 million views on YouTube. Flipp (ake Flipperachi) is known for his energetic performance and explosive lyrics. In May 2015, Flipp shared the stage with one of hip-hop’s biggest icons, DMC of RUN DMC, in a live performance of RUN DMC’s hit single “Rock Box”. Together, Daffy, Flipp and DJ Outlaw are bringing mainstream recognition to Middle East hip-hop.

2017 Speakers

Universal Music MENA

Patrick Boulos

Patrick Boulos is Universal Music's CEO for the Middle East and North Africa. In this capacity, he is in charge of the Group's strategy and growth in this region, which holds great promise for the development of cultural exchanges. He builds strategic partnerships and develops innovative services and tools to promote the diverse musical offering of Universal's labels. He also works to expand this catalogue by discovering local talent. Patrick’s connection with music started at a very early age; since his childhood he was surrounded by a strong musical influence and environment as his mother was a piano instructor, and he enrolled in music classes himself. A lot of his leisure time was spent listening to records, and reading about new musical trends and developments and the music makers on the scene. Attending live shows was always his passion, and his first was at the age of 11. His journey with Universal Music Group started in 2001 in Paris, France, after multiple years of advertising experience with multinational ad agencies. He moved to the Middle East in 2010 to establish the operation of the company in Dubai and to found Universal Music MENA to look after the multiple markets of this region.

Musician

Ramy Essam

Ramy Essam became an overnight sensation during the Egyptian revolution, when the songs he performed in Tahrir Square became the anthems of a whole generation of young Egyptians struggling for a better future. International media attention quickly followed, and before long Ramy’s name was known far beyond Egypt. His song “Irhal” (“Leave”) was ranked Number Three in Time Out London’s ‘100 Songs That Changed History’.

In October 2014, Ramy was offered safe city residence in Malmö, Sweden, where he has been working on new material, creating an album where heavy rock riffs join forces with infectious Oriental beats and political street poetry demanding social justice, gender equality and human rights.

Ramy is an artist of, and for, the people. Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello, who signed Ramy to his Firebrand Records label, has described Ramy as the “hard-rock Bob Dylan of the Middle East”.

JMR Productions

Jean-Marie Riachi

Jean-Marie Riachi is a multi-award-winning Lebanese arranger, composer and record producer. The first record he produced was Elissa’s Baddi Doub, which catapulted them both to stardom. In 2001, he founded the acclaimed JMR Studios in Rabieh. In 2002, he created his own label, Oriental Music Publishing.

Jean-Marie has produced songs for numerous advertisements and films throughout his career, including “Nour El Shams”, the theme tune for the 2001 movie Spy Game, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.

In 2006, he arranged and mixed "Light the Way", performed by José Carreras and Majida El Roumi at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. He also composed “La Ma Kholssit Lehkayi”, the all-star tribute to ex-Lebanese prime minister Rafik El Hariri, which has since become a local political anthem. In 2009, Jean-Marie teamed up with several prominent Lebanese pop singers, including Ramy Ayach and Yara, to produce the multilingual Belaaks, which presented a unique fusion between ethnic oriental instruments and an acoustic jazz band. The platinum-certified album was followed by an equally successful sequel, Belaaks 2, in 2015, which showcased unique collaborations with John Legend and Julio Iglesias.

He is currently the musical director and producer of the Arabic edition of The Voice, rated the most popular TV show in the Arab world. Jean-Marie continues to produce dozens of best-selling albums and countless hits for the biggest Arabic pop singers. He has also branched out into more alternative music genres, developing grassroots musical concepts such as "Laylet Tarab" with a selection of The Voice finalists, and producing Lebanese indie band Adonis’s latest album.

Musician

Hamza Hawsawi

Hamza Hawsawi, also known as Ayzee, is a prolific singer-songwriter hailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is best known for winning The X Factor Arabia in 2015. Hamza’s work is inspired by R&B, soul and pop music. Hamza is currently working on his debut album – recorded and produced in London, Dubai and Los Angeles – and says he can't wait to share it all with his loving and supportive fans. Although he was signed to Sony Music after winning The X Factor Arabia, he is releasing his album independently. The first single from the album, “Love A Little”, was released in January.

The Wanton Bishops

Nader Mansour

Nader Mansour is the man behind Lebanese rock & roll outfit The Wanton Bishops. Born and raised somewhere between the Lebanese mountains and Beirut, Nader left his country in 2005 to pursue financial engineering studies in Paris, France. It wasn't long before music hijacked his soul, making everything else seem like a faint hint of life.

Nader first started playing harmonica in Parisian Jazz and Blues clubs, but it was his love of rock & roll, classical oriental music, and Beirut that sent him straight back home to form what has become the adventure of his life, The Wanton Bishops. A self-released debut EP, Bad Rhyme, in 2013, followed by a highly acclaimed full length album Sleep With The Lights On, established The Wanton Bishops as a leading force in Lebanon and the Middle East and opened the doors wide for the band to start touring.

A couple of years later, having toured from Europe to the US, Africa to India, headlining festivals, supporting prestigious names (The Who, Guns N' Roses, Lana Del Rey, Sting), Nader and his band have performed at Glastonbury, SXSW, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Rocking The Daisies and more, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the global musical spectrum. In 2016, the band released their second EP, Nowhere Everywhere, making a shift from raw blues rock to a mix of ethnic-electronic psychedelic rock & roll that Nader calls “Lebanese Rock & Roll”. Nader arrives in Dubai on a short detour from the band’s current intensive European tour.

Sony Music Entertainment

Arun Sajjan

Arun heads the Digital Business and Marketing for Sony Music Entertainment in the Middle East region. Arun has more than 14 years experience in the music and entertainment business. He joined Sony Music in 2011 and has since been part of the ever-growing business of digital music. Since moving to Dubai with Sony Music, Arun has seen digital music develop rapidly in the region with the launch of services like Anghami, Apple Music and Deezer. Arun has worked extensively in the Indian subcontinent and Middle East region, and being part of a global company like Sony Music he gets to experience learnings from all over the world. Apart from heading the Digital Business arm, Arun has also been active in A&R, having signed Dubai-based acts including Clarita De Quiroz and Two Tone, as well as Bollywood projects, to Sony Music’s local roster. Prior to working with Sony Music, Arun worked at two of the biggest mobile Value Added Services platform companies – OnMobile and Buongiorno – working on the entertainment side of the business. Arun holds a Management degree in International Business and Marketing.

OUTLAW Productions

DJ Outlaw

DJ Outlaw (Mohammed Al Mohri) was born and raised in Bahrain, and is the founding member of Outlaw Productions creative studio. His DJ career started in 1997, but it was 2009 before he released his debut studio album History in the Making, featuring many local and international artists. It was the first Bahraini hip-hop album to be distributed in musical outlets across the country as well as being sold on digital distribution platforms including iTunes and Amazon. His annual mixtape series “The Middle East Invasion” (which is currently on volume six) presents Arab artitsts handpicked by Outlaw so that the world can experience what Arabian hip-hop has to offer. Most recently Outlaw joined Radio Bahrain 96.5FM in October of 2016 and is now hosting his own Hiphop/RnB drive time show every Friday.

Outlaw has been producing music since 2003. “Bahrain Unite” and 2011’s “Arab World Unite” were two of his biggest projects so far – the latter, featuring seven artists from around the Arab world, was released on Saudi hip-hop artist Qusai’s album, and both tracks garnered international media attention. In 2014, the hit single “Samboosa” – produced by Outlaw and performed by Kuwaiti Outlaw Productions artist, Daffy – quickly went viral, bagging 100,000 views on YouTube within a week of the video release. In July 2016, 9ARAT, a collaborative album between Outlaw Productions artists Flipperachi and Daffy produced by DJ Outlaw, was released, claiming the Number One spot on the iTunes MENA charts. The video for one of the album’s singles “EE LAA” was released in July 2016, and now has over 10 million YouTube views. The single also reached Number One on the iTunes MENA general and hip-hop charts.

Outlaw has also worked with artists including G-unit, DJ Lord Sear, MC Lyte, Jaz O, The Outlawz, TQ, Ace Hood, Freeway, Mad Skillz, Fatman Scoop and actor Orlando Jones. He has shared a stage with DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Tony Touch, Junior Jack, Yves Larock, Fatman Scoop, DJ KOOL, Shortie Blitz, Just Blaze, Tabu of the Black Eyed Peas, and most recently, DMC of RUN DMC.

Nervecell

Rami H. Mustafa

Rami H. Mustafa is best known as the guitarist of the hugely successful Dubai-based extreme metal band, Nervecell – the Middle East’s biggest-selling metal act, hailed as one of the “50 Heroes of the New Metal Revolution” by Metal Hammer magazine. He is also an entrepreneur: He’s the owner of Shredder’s Planet Musical Instruments and Studio, and managing partner of coffee franchise Icons Coffee Couture. Being a passionate, self-taught musician and an MBA graduate, Rami has used his talent and skills in both music and in business. Rami and Nervecell have toured around the world and shared the stage with Metallica, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Decapitated, Suffocation and many more. Rami is sponsored by Ibanez Guitars, ENGL Amplifiers, EMG Pickups, GHS Strings and others.

Musician / Multimedia Artist

Zahed Sultan

Zahed Sultan is a multimedia artist, social entrepreneur, culture producer and filmmaker from Kuwait. He is the founder of El Boutique Creative Group (EBCG), a multi-disciplinary organization devoted to social impact and arts & culture. EBCG’s platforms serve to invigorate society with creative energy via conscious thought. His music has been licensed for television, film and music compilations. Zahed has been featured on renowned media platforms as an emerging artist and tours internationally with a live audio-visual experience.

BalaFeesh

Hana Malhas

Hana Malhas is a Jordanian singer-songwriter, and the founder and host of BalaFeesh, a concert series that promotes independent artists in the Arab world. Over the past three years BalaFeesh has grown to represent an intimate listening experience, and a platform that supports several online and offline initiatives in the Arab indie music scene. Hana combines a unique blend of music and business perspectives, with experiences ranging from performance to songwriting and composition; and from artist management to financial consulting and strategy planning within the entrepreneurial environment of the online media and music industries. On stage, Hana is a storyteller with an expressive vocal delivery; her voice is at times haunting, and hard-hitting at others. She performs with her band The Overthinkers, engaging audiences with an indie folk-pop sound. Her 2012 EP release Hana Malhas & The Overthinkers features the song “How We Love”, which was nominated for the 12th annual Independent Music Awards in the Folk/Singer-songwriter Song Category. JO Magazine’s Nick Seeley described Hana as “a songstress with a 10,000-watt voice… it’s as if the music is taking over her body, channeling through her lungs in a sort of velvet explosion…she has an infectious smile, and a playful way of grooving onstage, performing with either piano or guitar.” This year, Hana is working on multiple music projects, including producing new initiatives under the BalaFeesh umbrella, as well as spending time in the studio for 2017 releases.

Hollaphonic

Olly Wood

Oliver (Olly) Wood is widely known as one half of the multi-award-winning electronic music duo Hollaphonic, the first ever dance music duo to be signed to a major label (Universal) in the Middle East. His vast experience in the music industry has seen him work on promoter, label and artist sides, starting his growth from a business perspective working for EMI Records UK on high-profile releases from such artists as Kylie Minogue, Coldplay, Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams. During that time, Wood revolutionized the way many labels engage within universities and venues on-ground through playbacks and club launch nights. Finally back in his preferred position as a recording artist alongside best friend Greg Stainer, Hollaphonic have gone from strength to strength since their 2013 inception with a Number One debut album, multiple Number One singles across more than eight countries, cross-platform brand partnerships with the likes of adidas, Red Bull, Rolls Royce, Neff, Toyota, Emirates Airlines and Jumeirah, airplay on international radio and a Number Three globally trending Shazam track – the highly successful “Dangerous”. Things are looking good for a band and brand that epitomize the exciting evolution of the regional music industry.

Spoken Word Poet

Afra Atiq

Afra started talking at eight months old, and, as her mother puts it, she was never quiet again. She has performed her spoken-word poetry (and slammed) on local and international stages. She was named Best Performer for 2015-16 by Abu Dhabi-based open-mic event Rooftop Rhythms and, most recently, became the first Emirati to ever perform at the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe in New York. In addition, Afra is the only Emirati to perform at the Bowery Poetry Club and win the PoetNY poetry slam at the same venue.

She enjoys giving back to the community through workshops and mentorships. She has been a featured performer/speaker at platforms like the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, TedxAUS, NYUAD, Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival, and Sheraa Sharjah.

Afra holds a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy (specializing in Middle Eastern politics, gender policies, and power dynamics) and is currently pursuing her PhD at UAE University. Performing takes centre stage in her life, though. Afra performs both serious and comedic pieces in a contemporary fusion of English and Arabic.

Laish Hip-Hop

Big Hass

Hassane Dennaoui , a.k.a "Big Hass" is the host of Saudi’s first & only FM hip-hop radio show Laish Hip-Hop? and the founder of Re-Volt Blog which focuses on underground artists and Re-Volt Magazine which is a bi-monthly online magazine dedicated to hip-hop and Arab culture. He believes in music liberation and supporting local and regional artists. His passion is all about being true to hip-hop culture and its essence. In 2013, he founded "THE BEAT" – a series of events aimed at supporting local artists by having them perform live. Hass has interviewed the likes of LL Cool J, Russell Simmons, K'naan, DMC, Shadia Mansour, Lowkey, Dj Premier, Dj Kool Herc, Omar Offendum, The Narcicyst, Outlandish, el Seed and many other regional talents. Hass recently relocated from Jeddah to Dubai.

Music Producer

Ayham Homsi

Music producer and songwriter Ayham Homsi (aka A Y) is renowned for using his ambition to push the indie music scene forward while discovering and developing upcoming talent from the region, such as 2016 X Factor winner Hamza Hausawi.Refusing to conform, Ayham has always been motivated to break away from the region's mould and industry standards. He has encouraged all artists he has worked with to express themselves honestly, regardless of society’s norms and language barriers. Following his beliefs, he founded The Harmony (HRMNY) along with his brother, Moh Flow. HRMNY is a creative collective whose aim is to push the quality of independent music in the region to an international level. He executively produced Moh Flow’s debut album This is Yo(u) which earned them features on iTunes Middle East and France, in addition to securing their first Soundcloud worldwide Top 10. He is currently working on fellow HRMNY artist Majeed’s new project that is slated for release early in 2017. Internationally, Ayham has been working closely with songwriters in the UK and USA to place music with reputable artists and his first major song with an international artist is also scheduled for a 2017 release.

GoPlayTheWorld

Abbo

Since arriving in the UAE in 2011, award-winning English singer-songwriter Abbo has been at the forefront of Dubai's booming underground acoustic music scene. He’s a popular performer in his own right, reaching the finals of Rolling Stone Middle East's 'Street To Stage' competition and releasing his debut EP, 2013's The Lend, as well as being the frontman of DaVinci Park, whose debut album, 2016’s Overlooking Florence, reached Number One on the UAE iTunes chart. But he's also developed several open-mic nights, under his 'GoPlayTheWorld' brand, where many of the city's best young performers have honed their craft – something Abbo also helps with in one-to-one mentoring sessions for up-and-coming artists. In 2016, Abbo funded and oversaw the production of GoPlayTheWorld: Volume One, a collection of original tracks from UAE musicians which also reached Number One on iTunes UAE. He's currently making plans for Volume Two.

Music

What Goes On?

Panels, presentations, workshops and fireside chats from an array of speakers – from artists, record label executives, marketing and advertising experts, talent managers, brand managers and more.

Talks

Food trucks, vendors, street artists, gamers and skaters and more. As well as brands, artists, promoters, agencies, labels, and others showcasing their products and services.

Activities

With performances from some of the MENA region’s most exciting underground and up-and-coming talent, from alternative rock to indie-pop, electronic, hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk and fusion.

STEP Music Festival

Why Dubai

The hottest city in the Middle East

Find out Why

Buy Tickets

Participate