INTERVIEW: WADEEAH AL-MESHKHAS
Updated: Jul 24, 2019
Guitarist Wadeeah Al Meshkhas breaks every stereotype you might have about Arab women, and she does it with style and a big slice of humble pie. Ali Al Saeed caught up with Bahrain's baddest and sweetest rock star.
SWITCHED: Hi Wadz. Been a while. We’ve known each other for sometime - we first met in 2009 and as I remember correctly, you were in a different place back then, personally and creatively?
WADZ: Yup that’s right. I remember at that time there was not much art exposure happening, Elham arts collective was one of a kind. Coming to its sessions and seeing artists showcase their work was so inspiring. It made me discover that Bahrain got so much talent in it, you know I was a fresh graduate from high school, just got my driving license and can go to places and explore! The Elham music festival that happened in the cultural hall, that was the shift that made me believe that art, exhibitions and music festival of locals can happen in this region.
In university, I started a 2-girl band that we played a few shows in women’s only events – that was me exploring music, I also DJ’d a bit in that same period, and I helped in the Girl Rock Camp.
Dubai happened right after graduating. I’ve played with a few bands and artists which obviously led to a lot of musical developments, picked up the bass guitar too for a few gigs, all of that made me look at music more seriously.
I’d say I’m really a free spirit when it comes to style and fashion. It’s a different yes, but I am defiantly comfortable, and I definitely feel good in what I wear.
SW: What was the first thing you noticed when you picked up the guitar, and what you remember of people reactions when you first got up on stage to play?
WAD: Trying to figure out notes and strings and how it works! I remember I was listening extra carefully to songs I like, over and over, just to figure the “high and low” notes and then find them on the guitar.
The first time I went live on stage was at high school at 11thgrade in morning assembly… I’m not a morning person by nature, but that morning was different. I was not an A student, but after that morning I played a cover song in front of my teachers and fellow students, their look to me was different, I felt like I was finally getting to be understood (a bit).
SW: It’s safe to say, that, in Bahrain - and possibly the region - there aren’t many women like you. A badass guitarist, a badass motorcyclist and a badass at wearing the sickest bandanas…
WAD: For a long time, I was looking at my friends, how they dress, trying to fit in in.
Around the same time, I got into music, I wanted to try something a bit daring, something on wheel. I wanted a scooter, which back home you must have a motorcycle license to be able to ride those.
But once I got the license, I changed my mind and wanted a proper motorbike! I did feel I was more like myself once that happened, I had confidence to have my own style!
The bandana goes with the motorbike, it’s more like a stylish and modest cover to go with the look… so yeah. I’d say I’m really a free spirit when it comes to style and fashion. It’s different yes, but I am defiantly comfortable, and I definitely feel good in what I wear.
SW: You’ve been active as a biker even when you were in Bahrain, but do you feel now that you’re based in Dubai, you get more “roads” to explore?
WAD: Oh yeah, I remember there was a world-wide challenge of riding for 12 hours straight with very short breaks. In Bahrain, we were going in the same circle around the country for about 6-8 times that day, love my little island!! But when I came to Dubai, the roads were definitely wider, bigger country to explore. We’d go far for a staycation somewhere out of Dubai on our bikes, or camping in a different Emirate, or to Oman. Oman was gorgeous! The roads are made for motorbikes!
SW: You’ve had quite the journey since moving to Dubai. Did that push you to get more involved in your music scene? How was it different than back home?
WAD: I moved to Dubai in the right time when all the exciting music gigs were happening, I think I was in the right place at the right time. And yes, that definitely made me decide that I would love to be more involved in music and take it more seriously. I think in Dubai the crowd is different, and because it’s a big city, you have more stuff going on… but still, I think the crowd in Bahrain is the best! Haha.
SW: You played with the Dubai-based band As Per Casper for a while, performing regularly at a bunch of gigs, from small concerts to big festivals - what did that experience teach you musically and personally?
WAD: It was a great experience getting to play with a band in Dubai. I’ve played As Per Casper for 3 years, in a time where I think the music scene in Dubai was at its peak. We played quite a lot of gigs. It was a great experience being a part of a band in Dubai, rehearsals, meeting people, getting to invite friends to come and watch was my favorite part of it.
My ultimate dream is to take our traditional sounds, beats and songs and take them to the next level, I would love to form a band that is original from Bahrain performing that music.
SW: What would be the ideal situation for you? To enjoy your music, and be more expressive/creative?
WAD: Being around the people who will support and inspire me to do that. Ideally, I’d love to work full-time for a music platform, or music content curator. Anything that involves music. A roadie for a band perhaps? That of course, beside making music and have a band.
SW: You mentioned to me once that you are disappointed/frustrated by lack of local Khaleeji (GCC-based) alternative/indie bands that perform in Arabic (local dialect).. why do you think that? What do you think is the obstacle or hesitation?
WAD: With the revolution of Arabic music and the bands coming singing Arabic lyrics on western instruments, unfortunately there are only 1 or 2 bands from Bahrain or the gulf that falls under that genre. Other regions, Levant, North Africa, for example, have always taken their culture and merged it with creative music, to create this unique sound. My ultimate dream is to take our traditional sounds, beats and songs and take them to the next level, I would love to form a band that is original from Bahrain performing that music.
Why don’t have have a similar approach? I think we in this region are influenced too much by Western music. If we create original music, it must be in English. I wish to see some originals that come from our roots. My own personal struggle is finding the right people who would love to play such music and be committed to the band, I understand we all have to make our bread and butter, but this is when you know how passionate you are!
SW: Lastly… where’s your next road trip to?
WAD: I’m a last-minute planner, perhaps a tour on the 7-emirates… or drive to Muscat again. Who knows? I'll just keep moving.