A Qatar-based rock musician has launched his latest album in an international collaboration that spans three continents.
Singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Naser Mestarihi’s second album Praed Street is named after the central London street where he wrote most of the lyrics.
The album launched in Dubai last month and is on sale at Virgin Megastore in Qatar, the UAE and on iTunes. Its first single, Prevail, was released on YouTube a week ago and has already attracted more than 86,000 views, making it his most popular single so far.
For this album, vocalist and guitar player Mestarihi teamed up with Los Angeles-based drummer Cobus Potgieter. The tracks were recorded separately – in Doha and more than 13,000km away in LA – before they were sent to Poland for mixing and final production.
“It’s quite incredible what you can do with technology today. We worked in three different countries and the process was really smooth and efficient. I’m proud to say that the result is some of my best playing,” Mestarihi said.
‘Homage to London’
Born and raised in Qatar to a Pakistani mother and Jordanian father, 28-year-old Mestarihi has been writing and performing his own music for more than 10 years and is self-taught.
He released his first record, the eponymous Naser Mestarihi EP, in 2010, claiming at the time to be the first rock musician to release a rock album out of Qatar. His second record, and first full-length album 1987 came in 2013.
Mestarihi describes Praed Street as having a “hard rock feel” to much of it, influenced by the British band Black Sabbath and his time in the UK.
“It’s a homage to London – England is very dear to my heart,” he told Doha News.
After returning to Doha, Mestarihi recorded the vocal and guitar tracks in a temporary studio he has set up in his majlis, while Potgieter wrote and recorded the drums in LA.
Without a record label, Mestarihi financed the project himself, although he was able to raise some funds by performing gigs in Dubai, where his bandmates are based.
Qatar rock scene
Developing the rock music scene in Qatar, particularly in recent years, has not been easy, Mestarihi said.
“When I grew up here (in Qatar) as a teenager, (rock) was pretty big among some expats and some Qataris were deeply into rock music. The rock scene has always been underground – it was never mainstream.
“Now the record industry has changed, and that has had an impact on rock music everywhere.
“In Qatar, I think a lot of people feel fatalistic and demotivated about being a rock musician as a career. They don’t feel it is a lucrative career, and culturally there is a question about whether rock music is really accepted in Qatar.
But 300km away in Dubai, it’s different. There are a lot of festivals, events and promoters – you can make a career out of it there. In Qatar, we still need time for it to be culturally acceptable,” Mestarihi said.
As an Arab and practising Muslim, Mestarihi admitted he has had some “interesting criticism” about what he does.
“(Rock music) has a negative perception. People ask why my album has a reaper on the front. They might misconstrue what that means. It’s just a rock and roll thing,” he adds.
Nevertheless, Mestarihi remains optimistic that having a career will become more accepted, culturally and socially, in Qatar.
“I was born in Doha, I lived here and now I am making a living out of what I do, working with my heroes. I have a record in Virgin. If I can do it, anybody can. There is always hope – there’s no point being fatalistic, thinking it’s never going to happen. You should grab every opportunity. If you can make money out of it, then do it,” he said.