Lefto presents: 24 Hours in Dubai

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Tag along Lefto’s adventurous day in the world’s shiniest city, uncovering as much local music and culture in just 24 hours.

After Beirut last year, Belgium’s favourite globetrotting DJ takes us to another enigmatic city in the Middle East. Lefto was supposed to play a gig in Dubai right when the world was going into lockdown, so the trip had to be cut short. In just 24 hours, we connected with locals to learn more about the Emirati music scene these people have created under challenging circumstances.

Can you give us more details about what happened exactly? Did you have a booking in Dubai? When did you learn you only had 24 hours to spend over there?

"I had a booking in Dubai and thought it was a great opportunity to document this city. The desert city is known for its huge skyscrapers and luxury, but that's not what I wanted to show the viewers. I wanted to shine a light on their small Emirati music scene with a strong DIY culture. Upon arrival, I got a text message that the country would go into lockdown. Belgium was about to do the same, so I had to shorten our stay from three days to just 24 (although 16 hours would be more precise). Immediately I called up everyone I had an appointment with, and I tried to fit everything in that little timeframe. Not everything worked out the way I had hoped, but I'm happy we still got to do what we could".

If you can make it in Dubai, you can truly make it anywhere.

Have you been before? What have your experiences been over there?

"I've been booked in Dubai before; I love the young generation of creatives and music lovers and their initiatives. Anywhere in the world I go, I end up finding likeminded people. We talk about the struggles of expressing yourself, creating art and promoting events. It's exciting to talk with locals while touring, as every scene has different rules they need to live by and struggles they need to overcome".

Dubai often gets criticized for its sterility. Do you think that's fair?

“If you don’t dive into the real Dubai, you might find that sterility, but I find that being the case in a lot of cities. It helps if locals surround you to understand a city truly. You need to experience their hospitality, even if they're not from there originally, which is often the case in Dubai. So, to state Dubai is sterile is pretty unfair, in my opinion. As they say, never judge a book by its cover".

What are the biggest hurdles for the electronic music scene over there?

"There are probably many hurdles in Dubai. There aren't that many independent nightclubs; they're often a part of a hotel, tucked away in the basement, and management dictates the direction of music. Media is a problem too, and I had a feeling that there are many regulations to deal with".

What surprised you the most during your short visit?

"There are so many surprising things in this city! One that struck me most is the number of expats who actively contribute to the city's evolution, which you can see as soon as you leave the airport. I'm not saying that this is a good thing or a bad thing. Many people work hard to send money to their families abroad. The expats I've talked to told me that they hadn't seen their families for over two years, so it's a tough lifestyle, and I have a lot of respect for that".

Who are the artists, crews and clubs you want to give a shout-out to? Why do they deserve more attention?

“Definitely Max from the Satwa3000 art collective, Mehdi Ansari, who tries to bring some diversity to Dubai’s nightlife with Analog Room, and all the great street artists who give colour to this city. Rami is one of those artists, and his art is recognized all over the world. I want to shout-out to all the locals and expats who try to make Dubai more vibrant: from musicians to promoters, if you can make it in Dubai, you can truly make it anywhere".

Last year, Red Bull Elektropedia and Lefto travelled to Lebanon to discover the local music scene. Watch Buzzin’ Beirut below: