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...
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.