Society & Culture
Ep 16: Dubai Hip Hop, ft. Big Hass & Jamil Jabbour
The Dubai Wave Podcast’s influential Season 3 continues with a riveting conversation with two of Dubai's ultimate music industry insiders! Thrilled to present our world exclusive with Big Hass and Jamil Jabbour Big Hass is a UAE based Radio Host and Blogger. While Jamil Jabbour is a Dubai based musician. And both of them are rocking the industry with musical talent and passion for the Dubai music industry. In this Dubai Wave exclusive, hear their unique insights on the Dubai hip hop scene, and culture around it.
Produced by Dr. Spencer Striker, Digital Media Professor at the American University in Dubai, the show is created with the help of a talented student production team at AUD
About Big Hass:
He hosted Saudi's FIRST FM Hip-Hop radio show & he is also a well-known Blogger. He usually likes to conduct interviews with dope people and loves supporting local talent. The first on-air message Big Hass received, during his first radio show, was short but hardly sweet. “You’re an infidel.” Starting the debut FM hip-hop programme in the conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was always going to ruffle feathers – but such a stark message brought the fresh-faced presenter face-to-face with the gravity of his opposition.
“I saw straight away I had a choice: I could either give up there and then, or fight it and carry on,” says Hass, whose real name is Hassan Ahmad Dennaoui. “For one second, I panicked – and then I went with fighting it. Reading that message sparked a huge fire in me to prove everybody wrong.” His groundbreaking show Laish Hip-Hop celebrated its fifth anniversary in June. It remains an unrivalled voice focusing on the region’s underground music scene. Such is its influence that Hass has been elevated to the unlikely status of a regional musical ambassador, invited to public-speaking gigs and exchange opportunities in Europe and the United States.
Broadcast on Saudi’s Mix FM and streamed online, the show (which translates literally as Why Hip-hop?) has regular listeners around the globe. Since Hass moved to the UAE, Laish Hip-Hop has been broadcast from Dubai Media City. One of the programme’s biggest milestones was an interview with Kool Herc, the DJ considered one of the “founding fathers of hip-hop”. “He said: ‘You’re calling me from Saudi Arabia?’,” says Hass, adding that the pioneer was dumbfounded that “hip-hop reached that far”. It did – in part because of the hard work and bountiful on-air enthusiasm of Hass.
When Mix FM started broadcasting in Saudi Arabia – one of the Kingdom’s first commercial stations – Hass embarked on a six-month campaign to earn his own show, which eventually aired for the first time in June 2011. It started out as a weekly one-hour slot, but after a Twitter campaign from listeners, station chiefs expanded the show to a two-hour format. “I became a voice for this music, so now I have to educate even myself,” says Hass. “So many people know hip-hop music better than me. My job is to support local talent. I don’t care about how many followers you have – I care about how much talent you have.” These days, he says, the greatest and largest variety of regional hip-hop talent is found in Saudi Arabia – a country where live musical performances remain a rarity.
“The main challenge that is always discussed is the lack of support. There is a lot of amazing talent here and I can name ten people that can really make it internationally from the top of my head. But there is no specific eco-system here to support that” Dennaoui says. “Now, there is some support here and there, but it is not consistent. It is kind of done from the side. Now that’s not an attack on the mainstream media, it may just mean that these artists have to produce bigger and stronger things to get noticed. He states that some struggling or frustrated musicians have to think more critically about their careers if they want to progress. He points to successful Egyptian indie bands such as Cairokee and Sharmoofers or Jordan’s Aziz Maraqa as examples of artists who, through their studious efforts, built a strong and sustainable fan-base.
About Jamil Jabbour:
Dubai-based musician Jamil Jabbour has a voice like warm butter sliding over a freshly-plucked piece of toast: It’s deep, silken, rich and comforting all at once, and the kind of flavor that seems deceptively simple at first but that you’ll never forget. This Lebanese musician was born and raised in Dubai - he considers it home - and this is where his career as one of the city’s most well-respected musicians (he's even opened for Coldplay during one of their UAE-based performances) began: It’s not uncommon for fans to approach him in public and ask if he is indeed “that musician,” and his fans are a loyal following, with his performances from long-term or resident gigs to more one-off shows inevitably selling out to an impressed crowd. His voice is indeed impressive - despite being a rather quiet and almost shy, deeply thoughtful individual, put a guitar in his hands and he’ll disappear even further into his own world. And when he begins to sing, you’ll understand why this is his calling.
Jamil says one of his main inspirations is a singer/songwriter by the name of Myles Richard Kennedy. “He managed to blow my mind at the first encounter of his music,” he said, explaining he’s “fortunate enough to do what I love and hence I don’t work a day.” When he’s not performing at one of his regular venues, such as Stereo Arcade, Beats on the Beach, Du Arena, or Wasla - Jamil is usually practicing his vocal range, always striving to get better.
Hosted by: Spencer Striker, PhD, Digital Media Professor at the American University in Dubai
& Digital Media Student at AUD, Nada Ichtay
Special Guests: Big Hass and Jamil Jabbour
Official Website and Social Media Links:
About the Dubai Wave Podcast
The concept with Dubai Wave is to look at big picture Dubai. Each episode focuses on a unique topic, such as Dubai Fitness; Dubai Social Media; Dubai Food Scene; Dubai Music, etc., with the goal to illuminate a 360-degree viewpoint of all the exciting things happening here, the gem of the Middle East. The impressive guest list to date includes the founder of Dubai’s most influential MMA gym, Tam Khan (Dubai MMA); successful entrepreneur, Anas Bukhash (Dubai Entrepreneurship); the editor of What’s On Dubai, Laura Coughlin (Dubai Magazines); the host of Virgin Radio Dubai, Brent Black, (Dubai Radio); and the first Emirati filmmaker to achieve International acclaim and standing, Ali F. Mostafa, (Dubai Film). Previously, Dr. Striker, with help from talented Digital Media and MBRSC students, launched a successful podcast called Digital Media & Tech in Dubai, focused on the Dubai tech industry, with eight episodes to date, featuring some of Dubai’s most exciting digital thought leaders.
Production Managed by: Carma Al Younes, AUD Digital Media student
Edited by: Aminur Rahman, Podcast Editor & Producer
On-Site Recording Support by: AUD Digital Media’s own Anil Mathew James
Executive Producer: Spencer Striker, PhD
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