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Living Like a Local: Music and Entertainment

My rant against modern, global music

My musical taste is old school.  I don’t mean “old school hip hop”; I mean old school as in “people still play instruments that require musical talent”.  If you’re a pretty face pressing play on a turntable that does all the work for you (i.e. a DJ), you and your fans can go sit right down. A five year old can do the same thing with an iPhone.

I love original music made by singer-songwriters. That takes effort and skill. If you need 70 writers and producers to make an album of corporate pop, I’m far less impressed; doubly so if you need auto-tune.

That’s not to say I’m inflexible! If you have a great cover band and can channel or modify the great groups of history, I’ll listen all day and sing and dance along. Again, that takes skill and musical talent. See the thread running through here? Talent and passion performing live music, just the way God intended.

The Dubai local music scene experience

Music scene

I live in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), which has a global reputation of being superficial and money-obsessed. This is largely the face that the world sees, and pretty much what every tourist encounters when they come here.  This is a tragedy, because not only are people missing a crucial and emerging part of the local culture, they are overpaying for mediocre entertainment. There is so much more here, if you scratch the shiny surface.

Did you know that you can go to open mics almost every night of the week around the city? You’ll see local musicians, sharing their love and music with the world. It’s free to enter, and there’s usually deals to be had to eat and drink for less. Impromptu groups will form throughout the evening as musicians sit in with their friends to make something new and unique. A lot of musicians get their start here that way. I know I did!

Getting my start in local music

My start in music
Yep, that’s me!

I’ve been in two bands here now, and we both started out by going to open mics. From open mics, you can make the connections you need to start booking gigs, if you have the hustle and business acumen. For the record, I don’t have those skills, but other people in the bands do (Hi Carla and Jessica, you ladies rock!).

From there, the next step up is still very cheap or free for the audience. Local organizations book local musicians for festivals and events around the city, from Food Truck festivals to store openings, to more regular gigs at bars and public spaces. If you’re a music lover, these events happen all the time, and are usually free. You can find them in publications like “Time Out” or “What’s On” or whatever the local equivalent is in your neck of the woods.

So what’s your local entertainment scene?

Your mileage may vary. One of the reasons I love Dubai and have stayed here 4 years is that it does have a great local music scene that has brought me incredible friends and memories. These same structures may not be in place where you are.

But I bet, if you look around and ask people who have been there a bit, you can find some sort of local equivalent. It may just be a good cover band in a bar. It may be a niche that you can start yourself! But if you stick with local musicians in smaller venues, odds are you can get your entertainment fix for free or nearly free.

Sure, you can spend hundreds of dollars to see global acts that come to your city or a country close to yours. But wouldn’t you rather support local acts of people in your community who are sharing their love of music and making the world a more beautiful place? Just like you should source your food locally for best environmental impact, you should source your music and entertainment similarly, and for pretty much the same reasons.

This post was written by Zach Holz, author, blogger, and teacher. You can follow him at his blog, The Happiest Teacher, or via his Facebook group.

Zach Holz

Zach Holz

I've been teaching internationally for 14 years. I'm currently teaching in my 5th country, (Thailand, USA, Bahrain, China, United Arab Emirates) and I have no plans to stop any time soon. I am obsessed with Personal Finance and making sure I have enough money to not be forced to stay in a bad situation just because I need the paycheck.