Revealed: The best selling UAE acts

There is a lot of noise in the music world, but when the chips are counted and the dirhams rolled to the bank, who comes out on top?

The UAE has no official body for counting record sales, but the vast majority of CDs are sold through a single retailer, Virgin Megastore. So to find out which UAE acts are clocking the highest sales, we just went to the source, and asked – simple.

Using these stats we’ve compiled a list of the best-selling UAE album releases of the past 12 months (June 2015 to now).

1. Svengali

Theory of Mind (Metal East Records)

There are few places in the world where a heavy metal band could be crowned the best-selling local act, so immense respect goes out to scary sounding Svengali, who matched pneumatic riffs with a smart marketing campaign, propelling Theory of Mind to number two in Virgin’s international charts upon its May 2015 release.

2. Pasha Cazan

Back from the Souq (Daxar)

Moldavian violin virtuoso Cazan has clocked incredible recognition for a solo instrumentalist on this assured crossover package, which places her soaring string workouts with electro beats and Middle Eastern melodies.

3. Jawdat Outree

Strings from the Past (MBI)

Another impressive instrumental outing from Syrian guitarist and composer Outree, who channels regional traditions old and new on this atmospheric oriental-tinged collection, released in March.

4. Pierre Ravan

KaRavan, Vol. 9 – With Love from Dubai to Ibiza (Clubstar)

Globetrotting, internationally renowned, Dubai-based spiritual house DJ Ravan still causes a stir with the ninth edition of his ongoing KaRavan mix concept.

5. DJ Bliss

Made in Dubai (Universal)

Calling on a raft of local faces – including Hamdan Al-Abri, Juliana Down’s Dia Hassan and Clarita de Quiroz – and five years in the making, this homegrown compilation from Emirati DJ Bliss was a smart snapshot of the local scene, packing some notable radio-friendly hits.

6. Anuryzm

All Is Not For All (Melodic Revolution Records)

A high placing for this strong second LP from longstanding metal sextet Anuryzm, whose members are spread across Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Their progressive/thrash stylings may be anything but commercial, but do the business anyway.

7. Dr Anas vs Kale

House Therapy (MBI)

Something of a curiosity here, with this double-disc, mix CD packs all the dance trends of precisely five years ago, when it was originally released. We can only presume this exclusive UAE release has some hidden gems that keep folk coming back for more.

8. Kamal Musallam

Lulu (K&G Records)

Recorded back in 2009 and then finally released in 2012, Jordanian fusionist Musallam’s tribute to his adopted homeland continues to endure. An ambitious and beguiling set pitting an Emirati folk group alongside jazz and funk musicians, Lulu remains a unique, highly personal tribute to the nation.

9. Naser Mestarihi

Praed Street (MBI)

Dividing time between his homeland and the UAE, where his band is based, we’re happy to call established Qatari rocker Mestarihi one of our own, especially in light of his second album, a strong set of Brit-influenced classic rock which has clocked high sales since an April release.

10. Benevolent

The Covenant (MBI)

The strength of the UAE’s thriving metal scene is laid bare with this final, growl-and-squeal entry from extreme experimentalists Benevolent. Formed in Kuwait in 2007 but now based in the UAE, last year’s The Covenant marked the group’s long-awaited full-length debut.


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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”