Switch on the radio and you are inundated with cheesy pop ballads coupled with catchy hip hop beats. Rock music is a fast dying on the UAE’s airwaves. And Makshoof Music, the music arm of online community Triplew.me , wants to change that. The portal has partnered with lighter-maker Zippo to give local rock bands a chance to win either time in a recording studio, a photo shoot or the chance to make their own music video.
Soundbites spoke to Paul Kelly, co-founder and creative director of Makshoof Music about Makshoof Music.
Q: Why are you targeting rock musicians in particular?
A: With independent, original music it is difficult to get heard, and I think rock musicians struggle more than most. This is mainly because it’s a genre that is sometimes misunderstood by society. It’s relatively simple to spot home-grown electronic or hip hop artists, but sometimes rock (and metal) is the ‘forgotten’ genre. So this time around we wanted to focus on those guys out there who are jamming away and finding it hard to get an audience – we want give them an opportunity to build that audience.
Q: What is the criteria for the selection of the winner?
A: The ultimate winner will need to impress the judges across three main categories  — musicianship and song writing [how well they can put together, and play a song], marketing [how they interact with their fan-base] and potential [not every band has a polished recording, so here we will look at the full ‘package’ the artists deliver — will it stand up elsewhere? Do they have what it takes?].
We’ve been lucky enough to work with A&R [artist and repertoire] executives from major labels through to booking agents for major festivals and all of them say those three things are paramount to success, so we thought, well if that’s what’s needed to be successful, the judges need to look closely at those areas.
Q: Tell us about the judging panel.
A: It’s a cool collection of people. Firstly there’s David Warfel, Zippo’s global marketing director. He is a huge music fan and I think that really shines through when you take a look at the Zippo Encore platform — any brand marketing that is that dedicated to music is being driven by a true music lover. He has seen so much music around the world as well, and that perspective is really important. James Piecowye is another judge – a radio personality, who I have the pleasure of co-hosting a show with where we play 100 per cent original, 100 per cent Middle East music - no matter what the genre . It’s a great outlet and we’ve played over 200 artists, since we started two years ago, who wouldn’t have otherwise got radio play. James genuinely is a believer in home-grown talent and that we have music that should be on high rotation on commercial radio, so he’s got the perfect perspective.
And then there’s me. With a few others, I started triplew.me in June 2010 with the sole purpose to give opportunities to regional talent across music, film and photography. After arriving in 2004 and finding it hard to get gigs for my originals band, I knew something better had to be out there, even if we had to help build it from the ground up which we did.
Q: Will there be more such competitions?
A: Definitely. This isn’t our first, and it won’t be our last. We prefer to think of them not as competitions, but opportunities — we truly are dedicated to getting original Middle Eastern talent out there and succeeding. Some prior winners, including Shady Ahmad (Cairo) and Lazzy Lung (Beirut) have gone on to do amazing things after getting a ‘leg up’ from Makshoof Music, and we certainly want that to continue.
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Bands need to sign up via triplew.me/zippo by March 17. Three winning bands will be announced on March 27 with fans given the chance to vote for what the winner’s prize should be.
By Yusra Farzan, Staff Reporter