Meet the first all-Emirati, all-girl rock band

Five students from HCT in Al Ain formed Random Stars only a year ago, but already they’re wowing their fans at college events

Members of the Al Ain-based rock band Random Stars are, left to right: Bushra Hassan Al Hashimi, 22, rhythm guitar,  Aysha Abdullah Almaskari, 21, drums, and Hamda Al Ghaithi, 22, lead guitar. Photo courtesy Patreshia Tkach
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AL AIN // The opening riff of the Deep Purple classic Smoke on the Water pounds out across a college hall.

It's a common enough scene, as the song has been a standard entry on the playlists of countless heavy rock bands for decades.

However there is nothing ordinary about the five musicians pumping out those familiar chords. They are Random Stars: the first Emirati all-girl rock band.

"Playing rock 'n' roll is awesome," says IT security student Bushra Hassan Al Hashimi, 22, who plays rhythm guitar. "We are the first girls from the UAE who play electric guitars as a band.

"It takes us away from the stress of homework and other college stuff - we play some music and we work on our songs. I've always liked rock 'n' roll."

The young women are all students at the Higher Colleges of Technology at Al Ain, and were brought together by English teacher Jackie Small from the UK. Remarkably, given the standard of their performance during an art exhibition at the college yesterday, only one of them had played an instrument before the band formed last year.

"I've always started bands wherever I've gone. I used to do that in the UK," said Ms Small. "When I started teaching here there were clubs so I thought I'd start a music club, but there was already one.

"So I decided to do a guitar club and there were a few people interested. I had in my mind a band so I got a drum kit and taught someone to play the drums, and I got a bass and taught them to play that.

"So we had the basis of a band, and last year they really got together and played a few songs."

Initially Ms Small was the driving force behind the project, but she was determined from the start to hand it over to the members.

"My idea was to let them own it, I had to step back so that they could take over so it's their band. They get together, they organise rehearsals, they do the hard work."

Initially the musicians, who all live in Al Ain, adapted classics such as Smoke on the Water and less rocky material such as the Jack Jones' 60s classic Baby, I'm Yours. However Ms Small added: "When they come back in September they're going to work on their own songs."

The band performs at a variety of college events such as graduation ceremonies and National Day celebrations.

"Generally the reaction here among the students has been great," said Ms Small.

Ms Al Hashimi said her family had backed her involvement in the band, adding: "My mother encourages us, they're supporting us."

Lead guitarist Hamda Al Ghaithi, 22, who is studying business and human resources, is the only band member who had previous musical experience. She took lessons at the House of Arts, a music centre in Al Ain, and hopes to take her interest in music much further - though not playing rock.

"I played piano and guitar for two years and studied in an academic way," she said. "I met Ms Small and she told me about how the girls wanted to play and make a band. At first I didn't like rock because I was studying classical guitar, but I prefer rock guitar now. I hope after I finish studying here that I will study music and play classical piano."

The other members are bass player Aysha Salem Al Kaabi, 20, who is studying IT and multimedia, drummer Aysha Abdullah Al Maskari, 21, who is taking the same subjects, and keyboard player Almayasa Al Kaabi, 22, who is studying IT.

“When I first played the keyboard I didn't know how to play it but I learned it by myself and also I added the guitar and now I enjoy it a lot,” she said.

Ms Al Maskari said: "It's very exciting being on stage. Drumming is hard work, but when I started doing the hard stuff I started to enjoy it because I didn't know I could do it."

Bassist Aysha Al Kaabi feels the same way: “I've always dreamed of playing an instrument and now that I joined the college I can actually play the bass easily.”