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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Basem Abuarab is the manager of Almoharek, a music booking agency focused on the Arab region. Since 2009, Almoharek has represented more than 35 artists regionally and internationally, and helped shed early light on many of today's most popular Arab artists and bands. Almoharek is part of eka3, an independent organisation dedicated to creating and empowering the market infrastructure necessary for quality Arabic music to grow. Basem has been involved in the local music scene since 2006 as a performer, writer and professional
Ali Al Saeed is an award-winning author and music entrepenuer from Bahrain who founded indie label Museland Records in 2013. Ali also launched Museland Festival – an event featuring international and regional independent artists – in Bahrain in 2014. Under the label, bands including Belly of Paris and The Relocators have released records and toured the region and Museland has issued four compilations. Apart from his music-related interests, Ali has also written four books, established a grassroots arts movement in Bahrain titled Elham (which ran from 2006-2014), and currently works in Dubai as Associate Creative Director at Digital Ape, an online branded content creation company that also works with creative artists and social media influencers.
Elia Mssawir is a bassist, developer and booker from Beirut, Lebanon. He has worked with several major names in the music industry – including Snoop Dogg, Serj Tankian, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Tiny Tempah – and has helped develop many regional artists; he is currently the manager of Dubai-based funk-pop band Carl & The Reda Mafia. In 2009, Elia established the underground music platform ‘LebaneseMetal.com’, which became one of the main references – and champions – for underground music in the Middle East. In 2014, Elia he co-founded the UK-based Omerta Management, where he booked tours and festivals for bands from around the Middle East.
Dania Ismail is the Founder of Third Eye Agency, a music events production and consulting agency based in Dubai and the creator of Electric Days and The Other Side, both alternative music event concepts that showcase local and regional musical talents in electronic, live, and various alternative music genres. She is also the Co-Founder of Jusoor, an NGO created to harness the potential of Syria’s youth through Education, Career Development, Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement, and the Founder and Director of the Jusoor Entrepreneurship Program.
Previously, Dania served as Strategy and Business Development Manager for nine years with MBC Group, the largest Broadcast/Media company in the Middle East, where she launched MBC Ventures, the corporate venture capital fund for MBC Group, and managed the fund’s investments and portfolio companies.
Adam is a journalist based in Dubai. For the past seven years, he has been heavily involved in covering the music scene in the Middle East. From its launch in 2010 until it closed in 2014, Adam was editor of Rolling Stone Middle East. There, he interviewed many alternative and mainstream artists from the Arab world, including Mashrou’ Leila, Kadim Al Sahir, Zeid Hamdan, Cairokee, Ramy Ayach, Nawal Al Zoghbi, The Wanton Bishops, Autostrad, Cairokee, and more. From 2014 until October 2016, Adam was editor of triplew.me – a website dedicated to independent and alternative pop culture in the Arab world, heavily focused on music – from almost-unknown bedroom artists to the biggest names in the Middle East’s alternative music scene. Currently, Adam is freelancing. He writes regularly for Red Bull’s website about alternative musicians from the Arab world. He also helped to curate STEP Music.
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