We’re willing to bet that you’ve never listened to or even heard of a rock or metal band – or any music for that matter – from United Arab Emirates before. But, we’re expanding the GigRadar compass into a 45th country with Dubai-based Wake Up Karma.
The ‘band’ is the musical project of Russia-born multi-instrumentalist and producer Vladimir Fominykh, who has lived in Dubai all of his life. Wake Up Karma takes a load of disparate musical influences and sounds and fuses them together in a concoction of rock, metal, punk, drum’n’bass, EDM and trap. And, somehow, it works.
The first offering of this is debut EP Flashbacks and Echoes, from which we were sent opening track Seed, which features Dubai-born vocalist Nick Zaleski. It opens up with light twinkling synth sounds, then building background noise drops into a big synth, drums and guitars fusion.
Stabbing synths continue as Nick’s light vocals take over, then big guitar chords jump in as the intensity builds. That drops into more atmospheric drawn-out guitar chords under a plodding synth sound, which give way to a big singalong chorus that continues as heavier drums kick in. Repeats of “We should count on no-one” give way to a calming little instrumental section then electronic noises randomly jump in as the song winds to a close. Give it a listen below:
A personal favourite track from the EP is closing track Fears Parade, which opens up slowly but soon dives into some awesome stabbing synth sounds over heavy guitars and backing synths in a huge atmospheric intro. That suddenly drops out and gives way to light vocals of Belarussian singer Emphavoice, which feeds into repeats “Your fears parade” over the returning synth and guitars.
Another light verse feeds into the chorus vocals, but give way to a really cool section of high-pitched vocals over booming guitars. That drops into light guitar and drums under eerie light vocals “Memories of yesterday erased, Eyes are covered with the scars of fear,” then a big key change sees big high-pitched vocals come in over heavier, darker guitars. Check out this intriguing track below:
We had a chat with Vladimir, the man behind the music, to find out more about his musical background and music in the UAE. Read on below…
GR: Who is Wake Up Karma?
VF: “Wake Up Karma is a ‘one-man band’ that could be better labelled as a ‘musical project.’ I am originally from Russia, but for most of my life (since 4, and I’m 27 now) I was living in Dubai, UAE, I have studied here, and I’m working here now.
“The backstory of Wake Up Karma is that since childhood I was always into music, but after attending a Linkin Park gig in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in 2010 I decided to pickup the guitar. I eventually got into producing music on a laptop in DAWs and, after years of playing around with music and genres, I decided that it is time now to focus on something specific, and try to release it. That’s how the debut EP came through.
“The name itself, Wake Up Karma, doesn’t have any ‘cool’ backstory or special meaning to it. When I was thinking on what to call my project, I decided that I’m not going to use my real name, and I will create one. I thought about incorporating the street name where I grew up, Karama, and so I was playing around with Karma and Karama being somehow similar words. I had tons of versions of ‘(insert 2 word) Karma,’ but decided to stop on Wake Up Karma – it sounded cool to me.”
GR: You just released Seed. What should people be expecting from the song?
“Seed is the first song (not counting the intro track) from my debut EP called Flashbacks & Echoes. It is really an energetic mixture of different styles, it has some emotional sounding hooks, it has some ‘drum & bass vs. metal’ drop, It has some punk-ish verses, and a few bits of EDM / Trap in the outro.
“Lyrically, this song is about fighting and pushing yourself to get something big, to get the result, about the fact that you need to do something to get an outcome, you can’t just sit back and relax.
“Nick Zaleski is first vocalist that I found and worked with over the internet, and I really like his performance on this track, and the way he introduced some ideas to the song. Initially, I had only lyrics written, and vocal melody that consisted with just one note. Nick, being a vocalist, has contributed by adding more musicality to the vocal melody. An interesting fact is that Nick was residing in Dubai few years ago, but we only came to know each other after he left UAE.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
VF: “Talking about Seed, this is really a mixture of sounds, so it may be a bit hard to describe it, but ‘Alternative’ should be the word that can cover it all. Talking about the rest of the album, I would say it is Alternative Rock with mix of Electronic elements, sometimes with Ambient Sounds, Orchestral Elements.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
VF: “Listening to new music everyday is of course the #1 influence to write music. It happens that I usually listen to artists that either are much heavier or much lighter than what I write. Lyrically, I usually write about major life events, and what those events may bring to someone’s life, and I either have encountered those events myself or seen someone encounter them and the consequences. I also enjoy writing some fictional stories in my lyrics, I find this process interesting. As an example, Depths of Despair, track #3 from my EP, is a fictional story about an addicted person who is trying to overcome his obsession.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
VF: “Linkin Park would be the band that got me into music, and got me in to music production. Sound wise, I always bring the following artists as my strongest influence: Enter Shikari, Celldweller, Don Broco, Bring Me the Horizon, Massive Attack, Underoath.”
GR: You’re the first band/musical project we’ve covered from UAE. What’s the music scene like over there?
VF: “To me, the dominance of pop, EDM, rap/hip hop over rock and metal is even more significant here than you have it in Europe or in America. If we talk about the artists and gigs that are done here, its either big names that are playing in large arenas, for example Linkin Park, Muse, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns n’ Roses, Metallica had gigs in UAE in last 10 years.
“On the other side, you will have small to medium popularity artist that are mainly doing club shows with small attendances – most recent gigs were Sepultura, Hail!, Monolithe, Jinjer. So, in short, the metal/rock scene is very scarce, and is clustered in a few venues where rock artists are welcomed.”
GR: What have you got coming up in 2020? New music, new gigs, recording etc…?
VF: “I’m planning on releasing one song every 1-2 months moving forward, as this process is more effective than sitting for a month on songs waiting for others to be completed. Often, by the time you finish the next song, you tend to look back at the previous song and start tweaking it, and this process is never ending. I think that pushing the songs as they are ready would be the new way. Also, I’m planning to find a drummer in Dubai and maybe to start rehearsing tracks in the live environment, potentially playing few small venues in Dubai.”