When it comes to nightlife, Dubai’s offerings are as varied as they are generous.
Thanks to a thriving international community and a drive to be the best at everything, the city’s live music scene, though nascent, is evolving into a delightful melting pot of its various cultural influences. From garage bands and soulful jazz tunes in local bars to music festivals boasting lineups of emerging Middle Eastern hip-hop artists, you’ll find a taste of everything here.
Looking for a place to tune into Dubai’s vibrant entertainment scene? Follow your ears to one of these must-visit spots around the city.
Q’s Bar and Lounge
It doesn’t get more star-studded than this living-room-style lounge from music icon Quincy Jones. The first and only jazz club from the living legend, the exclusive space is appropriately tucked within the regal Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Palazzo Versace Dubai.
The posh, dark leather interior is both sophisticated and relaxed. This one’s for serious music lovers. Conversations are kept to a minimum during shows to maintain the focus on performances by world-class artists (such as American Idol season 14 runner-up Clark Beckham), handpicked for a residency at the venue by Jones himself.
Here, it isn’t just the music that is influenced by the acclaimed producer; the extensive cocktail list is inspired by his musical career, too. Order a signature creation such as Off The Wall, named, of course, after the chart-topping 1979 Michael Jackson album.
While you might not necessarily equate pizza with live music, this Business Bay eatery has only strengthened its image since it debuted in early 2018 as an intimate music venue that encourages local talent across a variety of genres.
Whether or not you intend to tuck into the delicious thin-crust pies (and you absolutely must), it’s worth visiting on Friday evenings for the lively tunes from local band The Swing Revue and throwback dance moves from Lindy-hop Dubai.
A Wednesday open mic night provides a prime opportunity to hear some up-and-coming regional artists.
Lock, Stock & Barrel
These trendy spots (one in Barsha Heights, the other on the Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai-connected JBR The Walk promenade) stand out among other bars in the UAE for their effortlessly cool industrial edge (see: exposed beams and brickwork, a vintage speaker wall, retro lighting, wood finishes and wall panels that look like shipping containers).
There’s live music a couple of nights a week, and performances by the resident bands (13 Daze and Gorgeous George) usually draw a full house. Come here to rock or to chill out to acoustic renditions.
The bi-level bars stay open until 3 a.m., serving a solid set of cocktails (get in the mood with a Rockstar Collins made with vodka, Passoã passion fruit liqueur, vanilla and lemonade) and street-food-inspired bites to accompany those tunes.
If your idea of a fun night out involves lively Cuban music that you can’t help but dance to and fruit- and herb-infused tiki tipples, then look no further than this tropical staple at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Set along the romantic waterways that meander around the complex, Trader Vic’s promises an evening of salsa, both to groove to and to munch on.
The vibe here is easy and service is friendly. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the dance floor swaying to Latin beats performed by a live band every evening.
If you’re not keen on moving much, there are plenty of choices on the cocktail list to keep your feet tapping through the night, including no fewer than 10 mai tai variations.
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Ask any jazz-loving old-timer in Dubai about his favorite live music venue and he’ll likely point in the direction of this classic lounge at the Novotel World Trade Center.
This award-winning jazz-and-blues bar has been a go-to place for quality tunes performed by area talent in a laidback setting since 2003.
In a city where everything constantly changes and several new spots open every week, it’s no mean feat that Blue Bar has managed to retain its clientele with good music and the reasonably priced cocktails.
Other Music Events
If you’re keen on checking out Dubai’s festival scene, then February is a great month to visit as the city gears up for two major events.
On February 14 and 15, the sixth edition of the two-day RedFestDXB takes the stage at Dubai Media City Amphitheater with headliners like DJ Snake, Grammy winner Jess Glyne, and rapper Macklemore. Beyond the performances, be sure to check out the street food and interactive installations surrounding the venue.
The following week (February 20 to 22), the 17th edition of the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival takes over the Dubai Media City Amphitheater. This year’s lineup includes Alicia Keys, Jamiroquai and Snow Patrol, but the highlight of the 2019 installment is the addition of Ripe Market, an alfresco mart filled with local business selling, handicrafts, jewelry, tasty treats and more.