Gigs galore: Your guide to the music at the Gulf’s biggest weekend of the year

There are many international megastars playing the after-race concerts at du Arena during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 November 2018

Gigs galore: Your guide to the music at the Gulf’s biggest weekend of the year

  • The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is taking place from Nov.22 - Nov. 25
  • There is a line up of artists performing throughout the weekend

The international megastars playing the after-race concerts at du Arena during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2018.

The Weeknd
Friday, November 23
Who? Canadian singer-songwriter and producer Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. He’s widely credited as one of the creators of ‘alternative R&B,’ experimenting with electronic sounds and introducing a downbeat, indie vibe (his latest EP, released in March, is called “My Dear Melancholy”), heightened by his falsetto singing (he’s often compared to Michael Jackson) and sampling of alternative artists’ work. His lyrics, while focusing on partying and sex, twist the more-common self-aggrandizing tone of the genre to paint slightly surreal, often-unsettling pictures of post-party confusion.

Worth watching if you like: Drake, Frank Ocean, Portishead, JMSN

Apart from his hits, best known for: On-again, off-again romance with US-Palestinian model Bella Hadid, interrupted by his romance with Selena Gomez. Also, punching a policeman.

Top karaoke tracks: “Can’t Feel My Face,” “The Hills”

Sam Smith
Saturday, November 24
Who? Soulful English singer-songwriter who first hit the headlines with a guest vocal on electronic duo Disclosure’s “Latch” in 2012. Six years on, he’s won a bunch of awards, including four Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Oscar (the last two for “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Bond movie “Spectre”). Vocally, Smith’s a belter, and cites divas including Adele, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and Amy Winehouse as influences. He’s big on ballads about love gone wrong, and famously thanked an ex-partner in his Grammy acceptance speech “for breaking my heart, because you got me four Grammys.”

Worth watching if you like: Adele, John Legend, James Morrison, Emeli Sandé

Apart from his hits, best known for: Unwittingly ripping off Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” for his megahit “Stay With Me.” Negotiated an out-of-court settlement in which Petty and co-composer Jeff Lynne were reportedly awarded 12.5 percent of royalties from the track and received writing credits for it.

Top karaoke tracks: “Stay With Me,” “Too Good at Goodbyes”

Guns N’Roses
Sunday, November 25
Who? Hugely successful purveyors of classic hard rock from a time when big hair — perm or mullet, take your pick — ‘wife-beater’ t-shirts and air guitar skills were all a young man needed to enjoy himself. The fact that their lyrics and music were last relevant around 30 years ago hasn’t stopped the ‘original’ lineup (guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan, along with ever-present vocalist Axl Rose from selling out stadiums around the world since their reunion in 2016. And to be fair, outdated as their sound may be, few bands create it better than GnR — Rose’s extraordinary vocal range and Slash’s knack for earworm guitar riffs make sure of that.

Worth watching if you like: Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith

Apart from their hits, best known for: Hard partying and equally hard in-fighting. When the original band fell apart in the Nineties, Rose and Slash didn’t speak for decades, but threw plenty of barbs in the press. Rose once called Slash “a cancer … better removed.” In 2014, Slash told Rolling Stone that Rose “hates my guts.” Also, headgear. They like it.

Top karaoke tracks: “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “November Rain”

There also will be regional artists performing at A’l Bahar Corniche

AJ & The Gang
Friday, November 23
Expect old-school soul, funk and R&B from this UAE-based group, led by Sudanese singer-songwriter Abdelrahman Aljndi (AJ). They’re best-known as a covers outfit, but will also be performing some original material as part of “Live Across The City.”

Sons of Yusuf
Friday, November 23
Multitalented brothers Ya’koob and Abdulrahman Al-Refaie are a hip-hop duo from Kuwait who have formed their own production company and designed their own clothing line (The Base). Their debut album is set for release before the end of the year, Their multi-lingual remake of Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz” has racked up more than 5 million views on YouTube. Arabizing rap hits has proved a successful tactic for the duo, but they’re skilled music makers in their own right too.
Key track: “One Time”

Aman Sheriff
Saturday, November 24
This 21-year-old singer-songwriter has been making waves in the UAE and beyond and is definitely one to watch. Sheriff’s smart lyrics, singular vocal style, and guitar-loop skills make it hard to believe he’s as young as he is. His debut EP “Piece of My Mind,” did well on iTunes Middle East and he was featured on Apple Music as a “Favorite New Artist.” His latest single “Where Do We Go” has over 700,000 streams on regional streaming platform Anghami.
Key track: “Where Do We Go”

Chinua Hawk
Saturday, November 24
Dubai-based US singer-songwriter who has already released five albums and is currently working on his sixth. Most of his work in the UAE is as a cover artist — he’s a big fan of Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder — but he’ll be performing some of his own soulful material on Saturday. Hawk has recorded with Kanye West, written with Wyclef Jean, and performed with Celine Dion, so he knows what he’s doing.
Key track: “Sunflower”

Sunday, November 25
UAE-based Iraqi singer-songwriter who started out as a folk-y guitarist and vocalist (“I wanted to be the next Ed Sheeran, but a girl,” she told Red Bull in April) before shifting direction to soulful R&B. Since then, she’s built a reputation as one of the best pop vocalists in the region, and her background as a singer-songwriter gives her originals a lyrical edge over many R&B performers.
Key track: “I Wanna Know”

As Per Casper
Sunday, November 25
A UAE-based pop-rock project led by Syrian singer-songwriter Carla Saad who quit a successful career in finance to pursue a career in music. She collaborates with various Arab musicians from across the region to create a sound that is clearly influenced by Western popular music, but incorporates hints of Oriental sounds too. Their debut album, 2016’s “Hit The Ground,” hit Number One on the iTunes Middle East music charts on its release.
Key track: “Go Go”

Sunday, November 25
Young trio comprised of twins Thomas and Lucas McCone and vocalist Scott Attew. Vandalye are one of the leading lights of the UAE’s ever-growing alt-folk scene — Attew’s powerful vocals and fairly traditional songwriting skills balanced well by the twin’s more subtle, atmospheric approach to making music. Vandalye’s 2016 EP “From The Beginning” topped the charts on iTunes Middle East, and they’re currently working on their debut full-length album, recorded in Hamburg.
Key track: “Don’t Lie To Me”


Stolen Picasso unearthed by ‘Indiana Jones of art’

Updated 26 March 2019

Stolen Picasso unearthed by ‘Indiana Jones of art’

  • The 1938 masterpiece entitled ‘Portrait of Dora Maar’, also known as ‘Buste de Femme (Dora Maar)’, was handed to an insurance company earlier this month
  • Arthur Brand won world fame in 2015 after finding ‘Hitler’s Horses’

THE HAGUE: A Dutch art detective dubbed the “Indiana Jones of the Art World” has struck again, finding a Picasso painting worth €25 million stolen from a Saudi sheikh’s yacht on the French Riviera in 1999.
Arthur Brand said he had handed back the 1938 masterpiece entitled “Portrait of Dora Maar,” also known as “Buste de Femme (Dora Maar)” to an insurance company earlier this month.
The discovery of the rare portrait of Maar, one of Pablo Picasso’s most influential mistresses, is the culmination of a four-year investigation into the burglary on the luxury yacht Coral Island, as she lay anchored in Antibes.
Two decades after its theft and with no clues to its whereabouts, the French police were stumped — and the portrait, which once hung in the Spanish master’s home until his death in 1973, was feared lost forever.
But after a four-year trail which led through the Dutch criminal underworld, two intermediaries turned up on Brand’s Amsterdam doorstep 10 days ago with the missing picture.
“They had the Picasso, now valued at €25 million wrapped in a sheet and black rubbish bags with them,” Brand said.
It was yet another success for Brand, who hit the headlines last year for returning a stolen 1,600-year-old mosaic to Cyprus.
He won world fame in 2015 after finding “Hitler’s Horses,” two bronze statues made by Nazi sculptor Joseph Thorak — a discovery about which he had a book out earlier this month.
The theft of the Picasso, valued at around seven million dollars at the time, baffled French police, sent the super-rich scurrying to update boat security and prompted the offer of a big reward.
In 2015, Brand first got wind that a “Picasso stolen from a ship” was doing the rounds in the Netherlands, although “at that stage I didn’t know which one exactly.”
It turned out that the painting had entered the criminal circuit, where it circled for many years “often being used as collateral, popping up in a drug deal here, four years later in an arms deal there,” said.
It took several years and a few dead ends before pinning down that it was actually the Picasso stolen from a Saudi billionaire’s yacht as the mega-cruiser was being refurbished, Brand said.
Brand put out word on the street that he was looking for “Buste de Femme (Dora Maar)” and in early March he struck gold.
“Two representatives of a Dutch businessman contacted me, saying their client had the painting. He was at his wits’ end,” said Brand.
“He thought the Picasso was part of a legitimate deal. It turns out the deal was legitimate — the method of payment was not,” Brand laughed.
Brand called the Dutch and French police — who had since closed the case — and who said they would not prosecute the current owner.
“Since the original theft, the painting must have changed hands at least 10 times,” said Brand.
Brand said he had to act quickly, otherwise the painting may have disappeared back into the underworld.
“I told the intermediaries, it’s now or never, because the painting is probably in a very bad state... We have to act as soon as we can.”
Then, just over a week ago, Brand’s doorbell rang at his modest apartment in Amsterdam, and the intermediaries were there with the painting.
After unwrapping it, “I hung the Picasso on my wall for a night, thereby making my apartment one of the most expensive in Amsterdam for a day,” Brand laughed.
The following day, a Picasso expert from New York’s Pace Gallery flew in to verify its authenticity at a high-security warehouse in Amsterdam.
Also present was retired British detective Dick Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s art and antiquities squad, representing an unnamed insurance company.
“There is no doubt that this is the stolen Picasso,” Ellis, who now runs a London-based art risk consultancy business, said.
Ellis is famous for recovering many stolen artworks including Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” lifted from the National Gallery of Norway in 1994.
“It’s not only the public interest to recover stolen works of art,” he said. “You are also reducing the amount of collateral that is circling the black market and funds criminality.”
“Buste de Femme” is back in possession of the insurance company, which now had to decide the next steps, Brand and Ellis said.