The heavy metal Emirati: meet Abdul Mannan Al Awar
He’s only 21 years old, but as a kid in the ’90s (his words, not ours), Abdul Mannan Al Awar’s first interest in music peeked from an arcade game he used to play with his brother. “I used to listen to those Michael Jackson tracks featuring Eddie Van Halen (Beat It) and Slash (Give In To Me) and used to hear those crazy solos but didn’t even know what instrument made those sounds,” says the Emirati.
“My brother and I would go for hours playing the Guitar Freaks and Drum Mania [games], with me on the guitar and him on the drums and I just fell in love with it. So I decided that I wanted to learn how to play the guitar and I started learning how to read guitar tabs from the internet and how to play my favourite songs.”
Today, Al Awar is guitarist who plays for three bands — Osprey, Mannan Al Awar and Echoes With Laughter — and a music producer. Last week, his band Echoes of Laughter opened for Dubai metal heavyweights Nervecell in the city.
Soundbites meets the talented youngster to talk music, culture and being an Emirati with a guitar.
Q. How does being Emirati affect the music you make?
A. I didn’t really think about it when I first started making music, I was just in love with the guitar and being on stage. I later started thinking about how I can differentiate myself as a musician and express my culture and where I come from in my music.
Q. Can we expect to see you playing in your kandora?
A. I decided not to wear a kandora on the UAE National Anthem video I did because I thought people would get offended or would not want to see that. But surprisingly, a lot of people came to me afterwards and said I should have worn a kandora. So I guess it depends on the project I’m involved in and how it portrays my background.
Q. What do your parents think of what you do? Are they musical at all?
A. I thank God for blessing me with very loving parents and I feel really lucky to be able to share that love back.
Q. Does you being an Emirati influence the music you make?
A. I don’t see the relevance. For as long as I remember, music has been how I express my self or my thoughts. To me, personally, music is something you live. Every song has a story behind it, conceived from all the experiences and memories within me. It tells a story of who you were, are, or want to be. But every now and then an idea or a song would reach out to you, and you would be merely the medium that it passes through; sort of like a little ghost that is running in front of you and you have to catch it before it gets away.
Q. Is music is something Emiratis are encouraged to pursue from a young age?
A. I don’t know about now, but it sure wasn’t when I was younger [laughs]. It’s always seen as a hobby.
Q. Who are your musical heroes?
A. Too many to list, but the main ones are Michael Jackson, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Angus Young and Brian Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, BB King, Dimebag Darrell, Zakk Wylde, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, and many, many more.
Q. What would be your ultimate goal when it comes to music?
A. It’s fairly far fetched, but I dream of a day where my ability as a musician and my music would influence and encourage the music scene here in the UAE. I want to be able to improve opportunities for aspiring artists to share what they do with the rest of us, starting with either Dubai or Abu Dhabi. I want to be able to influence sponsors and with a lot of hope at heart, the government, to bring music alive in this country. There are so many talented people here, and my dream is to see my country as a strong music and arts centre with performers that are its own, playing locally and internationally.