Dubai-based rapper Perfect Storm, pictured in his regular studio. “People don’t really expect me to rap. When  I tell them I rap, they’re like, ‘Yeah, sure,’” says the British born, half-Chinese MC. “I’m a quiet person, but when  I get behind the mic, I’m different.”
Dubai-based rapper Perfect Storm, pictured in his regular studio. “People don’t really expect me to rap. When I tell them I rap, they’re like, ‘Yeah, sure,’” says the British born, half-Chinese MC. “Show more

Make it rain

Here's how it used to be: you'd hear a new tune on the radio; you'd watch the video on MTV; then you'd buy the album from the record store and see the band live. Now, here's how it is today: you open your friend's iTunes playlist and hear something interesting; you Google the group, get the link to their YouTube channel and social networking groups; then, finally, you download their music.

It's a brave new world, and no one understands this better than hip-hop artists. While record-label executives complain about the demise of the music industry, rappers and DJs - especially those who have yet to sign record deals - have embraced the changing times, and taken the opportunity to forge stronger, more intimate bonds with their fans.

One such artist is the Dubai-based MC Perfect Storm, although you won't find his new mixtape, The Calm Before, in shops. It is available only online, as a free download.

As for the rapper himself, the chances are that unless you are a diehard fan of hip-hop in the region, you will probably never have heard of him. Nevertheless, his mailing list includes thousands of people from around the world, including a DJ billed by the US-edition of Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 10 most influential in the world.

"I'm the first artist from the region to have my mixtape hosted by DJ Warrior," explains 26-year old Aaron Leung, alias Perfect Storm. As a result, it is now possible to hear verses by Leung in the Los Angeles-based DJ's international shows and live broadcasts. "For him to approve my product and put his name on it proved that I'm on the right path."

The Calm Before features 24 of Leung's strongest tracks to date. As a result of Leung's involvement in the Dubai hip-hop collective The Recipe, it also includes guest appearances by the cream of local rap talent, such as the rappers Swerte, Young Vaughn and Deen. The release was recorded in a number of home studios, then mixed and mastered by friends from the local scene and overseas.

On first listen, it is easy to mistake its crisp beats and flawless performances for a new album from America's West Coast. "Though I recorded my performance here in Dubai, a number of my tracks feature beats made by online hip-hop producers from Europe and the US," Leung says. "They've sampled tracks from the 1970s and 1980s. They understood that urban feel I had in mind." Adding to the collection's LA hip-hop sound is a tribute to Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg's Under Cover, reinterpreted by Leung and Young Vaughn.

While Leung is happy to pay homage to his Stateside influences, the bulk of his inspiration can be found much closer to home.

"I came to the UAE from Hong Kong when I was four years old," the British-born, half-Chinese performer explains. "While studying, I moved around different schools - from Choueifat in Lebanon to Oxford in England; from Emirates International to Dubai College. My parents kept moving around a lot. I even had to study in Australia for a while. But the UAE is home to me, so the majority of the stuff you hear [in my music] is influenced by the things I see around me here. The amazing thing about this place is that there are so many nationalities and so many backgrounds. So when I rap about their stories, it appeals to listeners in other countries too."

Leung's early years in the Emirates form the lyrical foundations of one of The Calm Before's standout tracks. Poignant and refreshingly honest, Believe addresses the ups and downs of adolescence, the occasionally rootless nature of expatriate experience and the struggle to make a better life for one's family. The lines "Bootleg kicks, bootleg gear/ It's funny though, to me you know / Those were the realest years," may be simple, but they are also touchingly honest.

As with most hip-hop tracks, the subject matter isn't always upbeat. "Some friends of mine took the wrong path in life and there were consequences," Leung says. "Hip-hop to me is therapy. It's my on-the-couch moment. So my feelings and thoughts about those things always make their way into my music."

Such sobering themes are a trademark of global hip-hop. Stories about gang violence and life at the bottom rung of the social ladder feature prominently in the music, but are less relevant to life in The Gulf. On the other side of the coin, however, is a love of glamour and conspicuous consumption - both of which Dubai offers in abundance.

On tracks such as Take Away the Pain, Leung contrasts the big-city glitz of Dubai with an altogether grittier picture of life in the Emirates, detailing the hardships faced by many of the region's migrant workers in a stream of thoughtful rhymes.

After hearing this track, it comes as no surprise that he is quick to distance himself from the rap world's most ostentatious excesses. For him, sincerity and a commitment to quality are key. "I take this seriously," he says. "I study the game. The history of it. The business side of it. The craft of it. I find out the latest means to reach new audiences. I'm a genuine fan of the music. I do this because I really do feel that this is what I'm meant to do and because I love doing it."

This sentiment that is certainly appreciated by his fans. It is also finding favour in unexpected and well-connected quarters.

"I even got a call from DC Shoes - they're one of the biggest brands in skateboarding," Leung says. "They want to feature my music in their upcoming skate videos. I have no clue how they got hold of my music. The internet is great!"

Michael Fillon is a long-term resident of the UAE and is the lead singer of Sandwash, a Dubai-based band who recently released Master Blaster Hole, their debut album.


Director: Sally El-Hosaini

Stars: Nathalie Issa, Manal Issa, Ahmed Malek and Ali Suliman 

Rating: 4/5

UAE v Gibraltar

What: International friendly

When: 7pm kick off

Where: Rugby Park, Dubai Sports City

Admission: Free

Online: The match will be broadcast live on Dubai Exiles’ Facebook page

UAE squad: Lucas Waddington (Dubai Exiles), Gio Fourie (Exiles), Craig Nutt (Abu Dhabi Harlequins), Phil Brady (Harlequins), Daniel Perry (Dubai Hurricanes), Esekaia Dranibota (Harlequins), Matt Mills (Exiles), Jaen Botes (Exiles), Kristian Stinson (Exiles), Murray Reason (Abu Dhabi Saracens), Dave Knight (Hurricanes), Ross Samson (Jebel Ali Dragons), DuRandt Gerber (Exiles), Saki Naisau (Dragons), Andrew Powell (Hurricanes), Emosi Vacanau (Harlequins), Niko Volavola (Dragons), Matt Richards (Dragons), Luke Stevenson (Harlequins), Josh Ives (Dubai Sports City Eagles), Sean Stevens (Saracens), Thinus Steyn (Exiles)


Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 235hp
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Price: From Dh167,500 ($45,000)
On sale: Now

In Praise of Zayed

A thousand grains of Sand whirl in the sky
To mark the journey of one passer-by
If then a Cavalcade disturbs the scene,
Shall such grains sing before they start to fly?

What man of Honour, and to Honour bred
Will fear to go wherever Truth has led?
For though a Thousand urge him to retreat
He'll laugh, until such counsellors have fled.

Stands always One, defiant and alone
Against the Many, when all Hope has flown.
Then comes the Test; and only then the time
Of reckoning what each can call his own.

History will not forget: that one small Seed
Sufficed to tip the Scales in time of need.
More than a debt, the Emirates owe to Zayed
Their very Souls, from outside influence freed.
No praise from Roderic can increase his Fame.
Steadfastness was the Essence of his name.
The changing years grow Gardens in the Sand
And build new Roads to Sand which stays the same.
But Hearts are not rebuilt, nor Seed resown.
What was, remains, essentially Alone.
Until the Golden Messenger, all-wise,
Calls out: "Come now, my Friend!" - and All is known

- Roderic Fenwick Owen

New Zealand T20 squad

New Zealand T20 squad: Tim Southee (captain), Finn Allen, Todd Astle, Hamish Bennett, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway (wicketkeeper), Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Ish Sodhi, Will Young 

Company profile

Name: Tabby
Founded: August 2019; platform went live in February 2020
Founder/CEO: Hosam Arab, co-founder: Daniil Barkalov
Based: Dubai, UAE
Sector: Payments
Size: 40-50 employees
Stage: Series A
Investors: Arbor Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Wamda Capital, STV, Raed Ventures, Global Founders Capital, JIMCO, Global Ventures, Venture Souq, Outliers VC, MSA Capital, HOF and AB Accelerator.

School counsellors on mental well-being

Schools counsellors in Abu Dhabi have put a number of provisions in place to help support pupils returning to the classroom next week.

Many children will resume in-person lessons for the first time in 10 months and parents previously raised concerns about the long-term effects of distance learning.

Schools leaders and counsellors said extra support will be offered to anyone that needs it. Additionally, heads of years will be on hand to offer advice or coping mechanisms to ease any concerns.

“Anxiety this time round has really spiralled, more so than from the first lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Priya Mitchell, counsellor at The British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi.

“Some have got used to being at home don’t want to go back, while others are desperate to get back.

“We have seen an increase in depressive symptoms, especially with older pupils, and self-harm is starting younger.

“It is worrying and has taught us how important it is that we prioritise mental well-being.”

Ms Mitchell said she was liaising more with heads of year so they can support and offer advice to pupils if the demand is there.

The school will also carry out mental well-being checks so they can pick up on any behavioural patterns and put interventions in place to help pupils.

At Raha International School, the well-being team has provided parents with assessment surveys to see how they can support students at home to transition back to school.

“They have created a Well-being Resource Bank that parents have access to on information on various domains of mental health for students and families,” a team member said.

“Our pastoral team have been working with students to help ease the transition and reduce anxiety that [pupils] may experience after some have been nearly a year off campus.

"Special secondary tutorial classes have also focused on preparing students for their return; going over new guidelines, expectations and daily schedules.”

Mia Man’s tips for fermentation

- Start with a simple recipe such as yogurt or sauerkraut

- Keep your hands and kitchen tools clean. Sanitize knives, cutting boards, tongs and storage jars with boiling water before you start.

- Mold is bad: the colour pink is a sign of mold. If yogurt turns pink as it ferments, you need to discard it and start again. For kraut, if you remove the top leaves and see any sign of mold, you should discard the batch.

- Always use clean, closed, airtight lids and containers such as mason jars when fermenting yogurt and kraut. Keep the lid closed to prevent insects and contaminants from getting in.



Men's finals

45kg:Duc Le Hoang (VIE) beat Zolfi Amirhossein (IRI) points 29-28. 48kg: Naruephon Chittra (THA) beat Joseph Vanlalhruaia (IND) TKO round 2.

51kg: Sakchai Chamchit (THA) beat Salam Al Suwaid (IRQ) TKO round 1. ​​​​​​​54kg: Veerasak Senanue (THA) beat Huynh Hoang Phi (VIE) 30-25.

57kg: Almaz Sarsembekov (KAZ) beat Tak Chuen Suen (MAC) RSC round 3. 60kg: Yerkanat Ospan (KAZ) beat Ibrahim Bilal (UAE) 30-27.

63.5kg: Abil Galiyev (KAZ) beat Nouredine Samir (UAE) 29-28. 67kg: Narin Wonglakhon (THA) beat Mohammed Mardi (UAE) 29-28.

71kg: Amine El Moatassime (UAE) w/o Shaker Al Tekreeti (IRQ). 75kg:​​​​​​​ Youssef Abboud (LBN) w/o Ayoob Saki (IRI).

81kg: Ilyass Habibali (UAE) beat Khaled Tarraf (LBN) 29-28. 86kg: Ali Takaloo (IRI) beat Emil Umayev (KAZ) 30-27.

91kg: Hamid Reza Kordabadi (IRI) beat Mohamad Osaily (LBN) RSC round 1. 91-plus kg: Mohammadrezapoor Shirmohammad (IRI) beat Abdulla Hasan (IRQ) 30-27.

Women's finals

45kg: Somruethai Siripathum (THA) beat Ha Huu Huynh (VIE) 30-27. 48kg: Thanawan Thongduang (THA) beat Colleen Saddi (PHI) 30-27.

51kg: Wansawang Srila Or (THA) beat Thuy Phuong Trieu (VIE) 29-28. 54kg: Ruchira Wongsriwo (THA) beat Zeinab Khatoun (LBN) 30-26.

57kg: Sara Idriss (LBN) beat Zahra Nasiri Bargh (IRI) 30-27. 60kg: Kaewrudee Kamtakrapoom (THA) beat Sedigheh Hajivand (IRI) TKO round 2.

63.5kg: Nadiya Moghaddam (IRI) w/o Reem Al Issa (JOR).

What is a black hole?

1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed

Crazy Rich Asians

Director: Jon M Chu

Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeon, Gemma Chan

Four stars