Coma festival organiser Ram Nath is a man on a mission. He wants to educate the people about dance music – doing so whilst they stand in a 1,000-person capacity swimming pool is just a bonus. But if you want to put on the first Middle East dance festival, you need a vision. The choice of location was a foregone conclusion. ‘If we’d done it in Dubai, in somewhere like Festival City, it would just be another event. We wanted somewhere special, and the beach on Al Maya Island was perfect,’ he explains.
The inspiration for Coma – taking place on November 14 – came with a visit to last year’s Global Gathering in London. Music label Daxar wanted to do something similar in the UAE, but under their own banner instead of taking on a franchise like God’s Kitchen. So they set about approaching artists that they’d either worked with or knew. The result is a 16-hour, non-stop dance music weekender featuring international DJs such as ATB, Sandy Riviera, Marco V, Nic Fanciulli and Cosmic Gate amongst others.
Its attraction was its novelty. ‘The words “Middle East” are new on the dance scene,’ Ram beleives, and what began with only one day in Abu Dhabi quickly spawned a second date in Beirut on November 15. Talks are already under way for Qatar to be added to the line-up in 2009, as are plans to make more use of Al Maya’s 20,000 capacity and feature live bands – Mark Ronson is already one name being touted for next year’s line-up.
This year, however, Coma Abu Dhabi is limited to 5,000 sun-drenched revellers, and in true festival style there is even a camping area. Those who buy all-day passes can spend the afternoon in the ocean-sized pool listening to preview sets from the likes of Wally Lopez, whilst from 7pm the focus switches to the main stage.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Global Gathering, Ram tells us that the festival is already set for its own DVD/CD release in the new year. All the DJ sets are being filmed and recorded, and DJs Marco V and Farrell have created the official soundtracks to both the Abu Dhabi and Beirut festivals.
The only issue was transport. An armada of boats will be provided to ship ticket holders to and from the island. To the casual observer it might resemble Dunkirk in sunglasses – even Abu Dhabi’s coastguard has been mobilised to prevent any accidents. But it’s all part of Ram’s plan. He wants the festival to feel like a weekend getaway. One thing is for certain, Coma is building a dance legacy stretching from Abu Dhabi right across the Middle East. It’s time for the UAE to wake up.
Coma Abu Dhabi takes place on November 14, 3pm-7am. An all-day pass costs Dhs425; evening pass (after 7pm) Dhs350. Tickets and more info at www.comafestival.com