Reminiscent of Deadmau5 with his giant cartoon mouse bonce, or maybe Daft Punk’s shiny robot helmets, the drummer for Carl & The Reda Mafia wears a cloth rat’s head on stage to represent the band’s mascot of freedom and humanity, Vito the Rat.
But masked musician Abimbola Durojaiye can wave goodbye to anonymity once he has opened for the superlative rock legend Jon Bon Jovi at du Arena on October 1 to a sell-out crowd of undying hard core fans.
It’s no mean feat what four-piece unit, Carl & the Reda Mafia have achieved in just 11 months of working together, culminating in a soon-to-be-released debut studio album, What The that ‘appeals to the rocker, the raver and the pop lover’, a record deal with White Cube UAE and an opening set for the world’s bestselling band of all time.
The first single, ‘Moo Point of View’ featuring New York hip-hop artist Inphinix, will be released just before the gig, and it’s a sound certain to amp up a crowd awaiting Jon Bon’s soaring power ballads, guitar rifts and well-crafted melodies in du Arena. It's a sound they liken to The John Mayer Trio and Jamiroquai.
Theirs is a story that certainly smacks of Virtual Insanity, and it’s astonishing that the band have earned their place on West Asia’s largest stage with relatively little time to devote to songwriting and rehearsal.
All members hold down other demanding jobs. Tarek works as a digital marketing executive for Dubizzle, Christos is a construction project manager, Carl a construction marketer and Abimbola a student at SAE University.
One thing is for sure, they can step away from the traditional rat race once they’ve played the gig of their lives on October 1.
Download 'Moo Point Of View' at www.cdbaby.com/cd/carltheredamafia. Follow Carl & the Reda Mafia on www.facebook.com/CnRmafia and Instagram and Twitter @cnrmafia.
We talk to 25-year-old frontman Carl (who by the way is Bruno Mars’ doppelganger) to find out how they’re holding up for their make or break gig...
First of all, congrats on being selected to open for Bon Jovi… you guys must be super stoked. How are you feeling?
I grew up listening to Bon Jovi and my mum says the first song I ever sang was ‘Bed Of Roses’ so I think it’s safe to say I’m over the moon. All that was on my mind when I heard the news was “Damn, they say dreams come true but this one was too big to even dream of”.
Will this be the biggest gig you have done in the UAE so far?
This would be the biggest gig we’ve ever done. We’re not even a year old as a band so it’s just unbelievable to not only be opening for one of the best bands on the planet but also to play on the biggest stage in the region.
For those who are not familiar with your sound, how would you describe it? Which international acts have you been likened to?
Our sound is primarily called ‘funk jam’ which is a mix of funk with elements of rock ‘n’ roll, blues and pop. The sound would relate to the rocker, the raver and the pop lover. We’ve often been compared to the Extremes, the John Mayer Trio and the Dave Matthews band [who are also coming to rock Abu Dhabi].
How did you get together, and how did it all start out?
I met Reda through a friend and Chris our bassist was Reda’s band mate at the time. Bims our drummer, I found on LinkedIn. We got together, we jammed and we knew there was a connection and a good vibe. Three weeks after forming the band we entered into a local battle of the bands competition called AGC Bandjam, which had 60 local bands with more than 6,000 people at the venue. We won it and that was the official launch of the band.
We’re curious… who’s the Mafia?
Back in the Motown era most of the bands had ‘and the’ added to their names, such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Kool and the Gang, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. So we thought of bringing that style back and since I wrote all the songs and Reda composed them, it fit perfectly. The mafia was added just because it sounded catchy and also because our bassist looked like a retired hitman.
What do you make of the local music scene in the region – what are the good points and what do you think needs improving?
Over the past year-and-a-half things have begun to move quite a bit. Red Bull alone have taken the initiative to launch so many indie acts onto the international scene. More festivals and platforms started opening doors to local original acts. As soon as radio stations start playing indie music it would help propel local artists and bands and ‘give them wings’ (see what I did there!).
Which other local acts (Middle East, not necessarily UAE) are you fans of? Who do you think is really killing it right now, for instance?
We had the pleasure to support The Wanton Bishops and we thoroughly enjoyed their sound. It was nice to hear a similar formula to ours. Mixing Blue grass and blues with Rock worked really well for them. We also enjoy UAE’s very own Abri and the funk radius.
If you could choose one stage to play anywhere in the world (not in the Middle East) where would it be and why?
Wembley Stadium in London, of course. That’s the dream isn’t it? Legends such as Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Freddie Mercury have graced that arena. So it has to be sacred ground now. Play there and you’ll leave a superhuman.
So we’re attending and want to sing along – which of your tracks should we memorise ahead of the show?
We have the reputation of being the band with the catchy chorus lines. One listen to the chorus and you’ll be singing along the second time. Songs like ‘Live Today’, ‘Crazy Town’ and ‘Moo Point of View’ would definitely get the crowd singing along.
And back to Bon Jovi – what songs are you looking forward to seeing them perform the most?
Just like most of the people coming to the gig, we’d love to hear the classics and big anthems such as ‘Always’, ‘Sleep When I’m dead’, or ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’. Of course we’re excited for ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, too. But we’re also excited to hear the tunes from the band’s new album Burning Bridges.
If you had 30 seconds with Jon Bon Jovi what would you love to ask him?
Mr. Bongiovi, the first song I sang even before nursery rhymes was ‘Bed Of Roses’. You think I could do the song with you on stage tonight? I promise I’ll nail the high parts.
What’s coming up next for you guys after your big day?
So the next day after the gig [October 2] marks one year for us as a band. So we’d definitely celebrate that with a bang. But most importantly we’ll be releasing our debut album titled What The and we really are looking forward to getting it out there. We’ve spent more than two months in the studio with White Cube working on this baby and the timing could not be better. Our first single will be out before the big gig actually. You can find ‘Moo Point of View’ on all major platforms and playing on White Cube Radio on Android and iPhone.
Tickets from Dhs395 general admission. Carl & the Reda Mafia open for Jon Bon Jovi on October 1 at du Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Doors open 6pm. Buy tickets at www.ticketmaster.ae.
Jon Bon Jovi in numbers
Keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres and iconic front man Jon Bon Jovi last visited the UAE in 2008, rocking Emirates Palace, and since then the New Jersey rockers have played more than 55 different countries to approximately 37 million fans.
• 13 studio albums
• 30-year recording career
• 130 million records sold
The making of an icon
John Francis Bongiovi was born in New Jersey to a marine father of Italian ancestry and Playbunny turned florist mother of German and Russian descent. John played truant for most of his high school career to play in local bands, met keyboardist David Bryan and played with him in a ten-piece blues band called Atlantic City Expressway. During a spell sweeping floors at his cousin Tony’s recording studio in 1980, John performed on ‘R2-D2: We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ for Meco’s Star Wars themed festive album which was his first recording. In 1982, he hounded several record companies who turned him down, before enjoying a local hit in NYC with ‘Runaway’ at his first label mercury Records, where he found his five founding members of Jon Bon Jovi. Their breakthrough album Slippery When Wet included hits such as ‘You Give Love a bad Name’, ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’, and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’.