HIT­TING THE HIGH NOTES

In the mid-90s, a group of mu­si­cians in­tro­duced us to the world of heavy metal rock in Oman, paving the way for as­pir­ing rock­ers-at -heart to this ag­gres­sive, adren­a­line-kick­ing sound. They formed a new band called ‘Drop-D’ and are all set to rock on...

HI Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - — salim@time­so­fo­man.com

Do you know that heavy metal rock­ers were present in town since the 90s? Yes, we had bands that would go crazy at lo­cal venues, un­leash­ing their in­ner Bon Jovi to the crowd. Re­cently I had the plea­sure of meet­ing the su­per tal­ented folks from ‘Drop-D’; drum­mer Ak­bar Al Balushi, bassist Adil Al Mahrooqi, gui­tarist Adil Habib, key­boardist Issa Salim, and gui­tarist cum lead vo­cal­ist Socrates Ioan­nou of Cyprus, and they slayed my en­tire ex­is­tence with their elec­tri­fy­ing per­for­mances, trans­port­ing me to an arena rock con­cert, here in the Sul­tanate.

The band is known in town for play­ing hard rock tunes and mix­ing pop mu­sic with their heavy metal aes­thet­ics. They re­cently joined to start a new band ded­i­cated to the rocker-at-heart. And if you’re won­der­ing what does ‘Drop-D’ means, it’s a mu­sic lingo that rep­re­sents a string in an elec­tric gui­tar.

The band ba­si­cally gath­ered the most tal­ented and ex­pe­ri­enced bunch of rock afi­ciona­dos and formed the ultimate band, bring­ing dif­fer­ent au­di­ences to­gether to cel­e­brate the genre. How did these Omani rock­stars end up in the heavy metal depart­ment?

Adil Al Mahrooqi (gui­tarist), who plays by ear, started his jour­ney way back in the 90s when he was in school. His pas­sion for mu­sic and per­form­ing came to life after play­ing key­board pi­ano ev­ery­day at school, tam­ing his fin­gers to the Na­tional An­them. The stu­dents and teach­ers were his cheer­ing au­di­ence. In 1996, he joined a lo­cal band called ‘Ni­bras’ that fo­cused on Ara­bian mu­sic, then he ex­per­i­mented with a va­ri­ety of in­stru­ments and ended up with an acous­tic gui­tar in which he mas­tered. His strum­ming ses­sions were full of gypsy King-in­spired, Span­ish mu­sic. In 1998, a new sound caught his at­ten­tion. He started play­ing the gui­tar. Soon after, he be­came a house­hold name in town, per­form­ing at venues in­clud­ing the Grand Hy­att, In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal, and Route 66. Dur­ing one of his per­for­mances, he crossed paths with his fel­low drum­mer Ak­bar.

Ak­bar al­ways had a pen­chant for mu­sic and his mu­si­cal fam­ily came with an artis­tic back­ground that loves and ap­pre­ci­ate per­for­mance art. His father used to play a tra­di­tional in­stru­ment known as ‘lewa’ that he passed on to his son. After in­her­it­ing the tra­di­tional talent, Ak­bar be­came a renowned per­former in his school.

In 1997, the drum­mer ex­per­i­mented with acous­tic gui­tar and then joined a band called ‘Al Mayasem’ un­til 2009. Ak­bar also played the conga, where he en­joyed bang­ing the drum to Latin mu­sic. He per­formed at a va­ri­ety of venues in­clud­ing Ma­jan Ho­tel. After rep­re­sent­ing a few bands, he met Adil Al Mahrooqi and joined his band at the time, called the ‘T Band’. To­day, he’s an ex­pe­ri­enced drum­mer with pas­sion for punchy sounds.

The third mem­ber is a Bahrain-born Adil Habib (bassist). He has a 27-years of fruit­ful mu­sic ca­reer as a singer and live per­former in the Gulf. He was in a band called ‘Al Aw­tar’ along­side his friend Ah­mad Al Na­jem. The band was one of the best six bands at Bahrain Fes­ti­val. They re­leased an al­bum ti­tled My Love and col­lab­o­rated with other renowned Bahraini bands. Adil Habib moved to the Sul­tanate in 1997 to join a lo­cal Latin-in­spired band ‘Al Ma­jan’ as a bassist and singer. In 1998, the artist and his band em­barked on a tour across the Gulf. He founded an­other band called ‘50-De­grees in 2007, which played a va­ri­ety of gen­res such as jazz, blues, rock, reg­gae, Latin, and funk. He also par­tic­i­pated in a num­ber of gigs in In­dia, China, and South Korea.

Given his un­con­di­tional love for all types of mu­sic, he be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with ori­en­tal sounds. “I al­ways felt that I wanted more and more in mu­sic . So I joined the Oud Hob­bies As­so­ci­a­tion to learn more about ori­en­tal mu­sic and find out how to pos­si­bly in­te­grate western in ori­en­tal mu­sic”. To­day, he’s be­come a pro­fes­sional gui­tarist and joined the ultimate band of ‘Drop-D’.

The fi­nal Omani mem­ber, Issa Salim (key­boardist) was a fan of mu­sic ever since he was lit­tle. “I re­ceived my first key­board when I was only five years old, and I was fas­ci­nated by the sound of mu­sic straight away,” said Issa.

The pi­anist started his mu­si­cal jour­ney at the age of 14, where he com­posed his very first mu­sic. At 17, he joined a band called ‘Al Amal’ in which he de­vel­oped him­self as an artist and pol­ished his skills with a va­ri­ety of in­stru­ments in­clud­ing acous­tic and elec­tric gui­tars, and per­fected his mu­si­cal taste in nu­mer­ous gen­res, es­pe­cially in jazz, fla­menco, and clas­si­cal mu­sic.

Later on, he dived into Latin mu­sic along­side ‘Sa­bor Latino’ band. To­day, he’s a proud mem­ber of the Omani rock group of ‘Drop-D’. “I am part of a band with some of the best mu­si­cians in Oman,” said Issa, adding that “we use our mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence to feed off each other, and to pro­duce a unique sound”.

As for Socrates (lead vo­cal­ist), he is a gui­tarist, song­writer, mix­ing en­gi­neer, and pro­ducer with more than 20-years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the field, es­pe­cially in rock and metal gen­res. His a found­ing mem­ber of Cyprus metal band ‘SoulSteal’, which per­formed a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional shows in­clud­ing in the UK and Malta, as well as head­lined nu­mer­ous fes­ti­vals along­side A-lis­ters. His in­flu­ences are drawn from heavy at­mo­spheric metal and mod­ern rock. Now, he is fronting the lo­cal band in Oman.

After the band was formed ear­lier this year, the au­di­ence went berserk. “It was a shock to ev­ery­one, be­cause they’ve seen us in dif­fer­ent bands be­fore, but now we’re all in one” said Adil Al Mahrooqi. Even though there’s lack of sup­port for lo­cal mu­si­cians, and the fact that all mem­bers have ex­haust­ing day jobs, they are de­ter­mined to take ‘Drop-D’ to the fore­front of mu­sic scene of Oman, giv­ing the au­di­ence a new taste of hard­core rock.

I at­tended one of their shows at Route 66 and my jaw dropped to the floor. I’ve never been a metal fa­natic but see­ing it live is a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. It was in­tense, vi­brant, and quite en­ter­tain­ing. “The au­di­ence makes you feel spe­cial,” said Adil Al Mahrooqi.

The fu­ture looks su­per bright for these game chang­ers, they have al­ready per­formed in Dubai, and are set to hit the stage in Bahrain. And this is just the be­gin­ning of their new era, the era of rock, and a lot of roll.

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