Carl & The Red Mafia a.k.a CNR is one of UAE’s best know original bands, and the group are now signed with Universal Music MENA. We had the chance to speak with bands frontman Carl to tell us a bit about CNR’s journey both past and present.
How did CNR start off?
Five years ago we started off in a battle of the bands competition where we competed with about 60 bands. We played funk jazz music, with rich breakdowns and ended up winning the event. We then released our debut album with a label in Abu Dhabi called White Cube (which has since been shut down). Lastly, about a year ago we signed with Universal music and it’s been amazing.
Tell us about any upcoming projects you got
We released our second album with Universal, this was a more radio-friendly record, which did pretty well and it was a one-off, and with its success, we said we are gonna stick to our roots and now we have a song coming out called "What about you" It’s about how the world is obsessed with everyone around them, yet if we focus on being better people ourselves we can make a change.
Now you’re signed to Universal, tell us about being a signed artist in the UAE. What are your views on how to get signed?
When we started off there were very few original bands. We toured Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. That’s the key, this opens more avenues for you. Also, focus on your music, make original music! Try and tour to spread your horizon as much as possible. We were also the first recipients of the What's On original bands award, so if you work on blowing up outside, it will help in UAE.
How is it competing with international artists that come here and take centre stage?
I would say it gives us a lot more opportunities, we opened for Bon Jovi, Sting and Bastille. Getting on that stage helps promote the local scene and that way UAE is in a really nice place, where you get to perform to an international audience. The best part of UAE is it’s a mixed culture with different people, with different tastes in music. So whenever you perform you get to perform to a mixed audience. It’s literally like touring, so if you make sure your music is quality enough for them to like you and follow you.
Do you think that musicians here are more authentic than say somewhere like L.A, where perhaps some people pursue the artistry path only with stars in their eyes?
Eventually, lots of artists want to break into the international scene. If you look at India which has a very rich music scene, only recently in the last 1 or 2 years we have seen Indian artists blow up on the International scene. Eventually from the UAE, we just need one or two artists or one or two songs that will be international hits, to break into the International scene. Maybe it won’t be us because we’re not radio-friendly at all. But I think there is enough talent here.
We want to know your observations as a UAE artist, in terms of have you seen a change in the music landscape here?
Absolutely, there are a number of open mic nights now, where I see a lot of young school and college students performing. The problem is a lot of them are doing cover songs, but eventually, that will change and they will start making original music, that’s when we will see a new wave, and eventually will someone breakthrough internationally.
What’s your advice for up and coming artists?
Definitely focus on making original music!
To learn more about the artist on facebook here cnrmafia