Rapper tries to bust local barriers

Music news An American rapper living in Dubai wants to shake up the music scene and give local talent a wider audience.

AJMAN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES- Sep 3: Jihad,  Nasir Akmal US rapper recently moved to UAE staying at Rashidiya Towers in Ajman. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PS001- US RAPPER.jpgPS001- US RAPPER.jpg
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DUBAI // An American rapper living here wants to shake up the music scene and give local talent a wider audience. Nasir Akmal, who performs under the name Jihad, aims to open a production company that would give local musicians and film-makers greater exposure. He also wants to bring American hip-hop stars to Dubai to increase the artistic conversation between the two countries.

"There is a huge passion for music here, especially hip-hop, so the problem is not creating a scene," he said. "It is about bringing people together and creating unity." Akmal has had some success in the US working with artists such as Cassius, a rapper signed to Eminem's label, Interscope, and Napoleon, is who featured on albums by the rapper Tupac. "The UAE, and particularly Dubai, is getting better known and having a more international presence in areas such as business and tourism. I think it's about time the music scene over here did the same thing."

Distribution deals and exposure in local media are the key areas for improvement, Mr Akmal says. Since moving to Dubai last year, he has found it difficult to get his music played. "I have made two mix tapes with American DJs but it's been a real struggle to get them heard anywhere other than on the internet. It made me want to do something about it." Akmal hopes to bring American hip-hop artists to Dubai for live performances. "I am on the verge of confirming a big name to play here before the year is out," he said. "I also hope to bring acts over who are huge in the US but completely unknown here. I think it will help musical communication."

Akmal also wants to get into film production and hopes to change stereotypes of Muslims and the Middle East through film. "I am a Muslim with Pakistani and Afghan roots so it is important to work in this area of the world and to embrace my community," he added. "I hope that my American links start to change the way people think and begin to open up the music scene here."