Star DJ/Producer and former architect, Aeli recently moved to pursue a full-time music career in one of the world’s toughest yet prosperous music destinations – Los Angeles, California. The Tunisian artist has forged a name for himself as one of the UAE’s most original and recognizable DJ’s, depriving none of his signature bass-aggressive rhythms.
We spoke to the artist to learn more about his tales of the two sunny cities and – pandemic aside – how they compare.
As a musician, what was your first impression of LA?
It’s heaven! Any day of the week you can think about a type of night you wish to attend and you can find the right thing for you. Weather it’s Trap, EDM, open mics, Jazz, Rock... There’s so much talent and so much productivity that you can get easily lost. This is great for inspiration. It also put things into perspective like how many great musicians are in this city. It’s the right place to grow because there is a real scene with real infrastructure.
It’s very humbling to see “big” names from the industry struggling the same way we did in Dubai to market their events and to attract people. Some names that I look up to and then see that we’re actually going through the same struggles, but just on a different scale.
How would you describe the UAE music scene as you left it?
I like its spirit. I like the unity between some artists, I like the fact that they support each other no matter what. It’s a perfect place to start because the scene is small and there’s not that much going on. People are hungry for new events to go to and new artists to follow their journey.
The fact that there arent so many artists, makes the brands, sponsors, venues very accessible. Most of the artists in Dubai (including myself) get support from big companies, we do not have that oppotunity to approach the same here brands in LA for example. So that is something artists need to realize, Dubai is the best place in the world to start. You need to take advantage of everything you have access to and capitalize on that growth.
There’s undeniable talent. Now the problem is, if you aren’t a corporate or a wedding artist, it’s almost impossible to make a living off your music, there are some exceptions of course. The main reason being the size of the city and the crowds: As the audience, the artists and the venues are limited in number, you can’t perform regularly and have a full event. People get bored quickly listening to the same artists or same venues, so there’s a constant need for something new and that’s not great for the artists in that position. Artists need to come up with innovative ideas to keep the audience engaged. Also, I feel like it’s lacking diversity, most of the events sound and look the same.
What are the holes in the UAE music scene now that you've stepped away and can see it from the outside?
I guess we should combine this question with the previous one.
In America, what are you learning from them and what do they have to learn from you?
So far what I’m learning from them is efficiency and excellence. The competition is so tough here that you’ll have only one chance to convince somebody to work with you. You have to make sure to deliver and to deliver excellent quality always. This is present everywhere in the world I guess, but here, it’s much more competitive: The average level is very high. People give you a chance and you have to take it. Teamwork is very present here that’s something I really enjoy. I’ve been working with some high profile artists (You’ll soon know who) and I’ve been impressed by how humble they are, how open they are to criticisms and suggestions. Creation becomes almost a discussion.
For now my added value to the projects I’ve been involved in is a more human approach to business and also my attention to detail and organization. The fact that I’m an Architect contributed to having stronger communication, a sense of coordination, and reliability that they might not be used to.
Would you say it's necessary for original musicians to leave the UAE in order to pursue a career in music?
I don’t think so. Depends on your own situation. If you can afford to travel constantly, go to studio sessions, collaborate, perform internationally... You can very well be based in Dubai. Either way, you need to be ready before leaving Dubai, you need to reach the point where you feel like there’s not much more you can achieve there, that’s what happened to me.
What aspect of the LA music scene or industry would you bring to the UAE if you could?
Diversity and open-mindedness. I think that’s a key element to having a music scene that will never ever be boring and that keeps innovating. Being open for experimentation is what creates new trends and makes a city a leader on pathing the way for the next thing.
Have you had a chance to explore the music scene in other parts of the States?
Unfortunately not. As much as I went out in LA before Covid-19 lockdown, I would say that I haven’t even seen 10% of what the city has to offer. Can’t wait for this pandemic to be over, I believe the scene will be insane once things get back to normal.
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