“We want to help people in Saudi Arabia by bringing in our expertise, because music is different here and might need a different shape than what we would do in Germany,” he said.
The 68-year-old musician added: “Music is actually an art form that really connects people through their spirits and feelings and gives a very positive aspect to life. This all adds up to something that can help to develop society.”
Dahmen said there were many parallels between the two countries that stemmed from pop culture.
“When we talk of urban culture these days, we find a lot of similarities between nations. If you look at Jeddah, you will find a music scene which is pretty similar to what you can find in Berlin, New York or any other place in the world. It’s basically built on pop culture, which is electronic music and maybe hip-hop or rock music, and these are all parts of the urban culture.”
He praised Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan for creating opportunities for youth to pursue careers in their fields of interest. He said he was very impressed by the transformation that was taking place in the Kingdom, and the energy and enthusiasm he had witnessed in just a few days since arriving in the country.
“I started my career as a musician when I was 15 as a drummer and that became my professional career for 25 years. I played in different bands and in an orchestra for four years.”
Dahmen started a drum school in the port city of Hamburg in northern Germany which later became a music school where he was invited to teach drumming.
In 2000, he started to plan the Popakademie, established three years later in Mannheim, and has been director there for 16 years.
It was the first institution of higher education in Germany to offer academic degree programs focusing on popular music and music business and it now boasts a number of well-known alumni from around the world, including singer and songwriter Alice Merton.
The former Popakademie student found fame with her 2016 single release “No Roots,” which became N0. 1 hit on the US alternative charts, and her band and manager also attended the German academy.
“We have producers in hip-hop and electronic, including Crada (Christian Kalla) who produced and composed “Fireworks” in 2012, which was a hit for Drake (Canadian rapper) and Alicia Keys (American singer) internationally,” Dahmen added.
Dahmen’s interest in the local sound of Saudi prompted his meeting with electronic music duo, Hats & Klaps, in Jeddah. Hamza Ali and Amin Akil began performing in 2012, playing at international festivals such as the Amsterdam Dance Event, in which they were the first Saudi act.
They have also been performing in the Kingdom since 2018.
The Middle Eastern artists met three months before traveling to Ibiza. “We experienced the music scene there, so when we came back, we knew we shared the same taste in music, which isn’t mainstream. It’s more deep house, techno and house in general, and we decided to create our own studio here in Jeddah to make music,” Ali told Arab News.
The duo also participates in local workshops to support upcoming artists.
“We are self-taught. When we started, we didn’t have the proper tutorials and had to learn by ourselves,” said Akil. “We want to make the process easier for the next artists stepping in.”
Akil described the Saudi music scene as a collective community with many hidden gems, including top DJs with their own unique sounds and other musicians with 10 to 15 years of experience.
The pair are excited about the opportunities offered by Vision 2030. “Prior to the vision, many musicians performed outside of the Kingdom; Vision 2030 helped a lot of us to focus more internally and give more to the community where we belong,” said Akil.