The Emirati Music Mogul

Haneef Al Raisi is getting to be a big deal on Abu Dhabi’s nightlife scene

The Emirati Music Mogul
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If you haven’t already heard of UAE label Raisani Records, chances are you soon will. There are a number of familiar faces in the 100-strong army of producers who have signed with the label, including Grammy-nominated Jay-J, so it's likely you’ve already heard something from Raisani while venturing out in clubland – particularly if you’ve experienced one of the label’s lively Wednesday night parties at Sho Cho.

It all began in 2005 when founder and CEO Haneef Al Raisi, then aged just 24, signed globally renowned house music producer and vocalist Roland Clark for a track. ‘I felt the best way to get the label a lot of attention globally was to get a big artist, so we signed one of Clark’s records and it was number one on Traxsource [a download site exclusively for house music] for weeks,’ he explains. Clark, whose producing credits include tracks for Prince and Fatboy Slim, proved to be the credibility boost Raisani needed – the label soon gained the respect of international DJs Alix Alvarez and DJ Spin, who began working on remixes for Al Raisi.

But it’s not all about the big shots. Al Raisi knows very well the struggles faced by artists who are just starting out. Raisani Records was born as he searched for a way to produce his own music, so it’s no surprise he has also launched a sister label, Deeper Sounds of Raisani, which he says is ‘all about supporting artists who don’t get the opportunity to release their music’. While both labels are dedicated to house, their sounds are distinct, with Raisani Records focusing on soulful, vocal and funky house, and Deeper Sounds of Raisani working with deep, deep tech, minimal and ambient styles.

The relative success of the label just seven years after its launch has defied a long line of Middle Eastern stereotypes, from the ludicrous to the laughable, which Al Raisi has railed against. ‘A lot of people stereotype Emiratis and Arabs – they think these guys live on their rich fathers’ money, drive Ferraris and they’re good for nothing. But let’s be honest. Look at the businesses here: look at Al Futtaim or Al Tayer. You can’t say that guy [Ahmad Al Tayer] is lazy. He owns a multi-billion-dollar business. I don’t want people to look at me and think I’m just another lazy guy.’

To date, the Raisani business includes not only Raisani Records and Deeper Sounds of Raisani, but also events business Raisani Entertainment & Events, which hosts parties around the world. There’s also Raisani Web Design Agency, and Raisani Photography, which touches on everything from celebrity shoots with stars such as Madonna to award-nominated advertising campaigns. And let’s not overlook the fact that Al Raisi hosted an average of eight parties a month from May 2009 to May 2010, while also completing his third masters degree.

Yet he is adamant this is not the ultimate extent of his empire. ‘Music is the main thing, and that helps us expose the brand,’ he explains. ‘The next is events, because we do them all over the world, and that has boosted our company. Photography promotes the name, because when people see that we work with 50 Cent and Madonna they recognise these aren’t ordinary people,’ he continues. ‘We’re trying to build trust in our brand. The idea of Raisani is to be one of the first Emirati businesses to make a name for itself on a global scale.’

With clothing, boutique hotels, sports cars and airlines all on the cards in the next 10 years, it seems Al Raisi is set for the kind of world domination even Walmart can only fantasise about. ‘You can only be successful if you have the will to do it,’ he concludes. ‘You need the passion and the drive.’
Haneef Al Raisi hosts a weekly house night every Wednesday from 10pm at Sho Cho, Souk Qaryat Al Beri (02 558 1117).

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