Abu Dhabi Week turns the microphone and camera on Sadiece Holland, someone who is helping to shine a spotlight on the capital’s musical subculture…
Some people claim to be music fans. But what does that really mean? Sure they sit in their living room for hours on end soaking up the nuances of emotive lyrics and beloved bass lines – on vinyl of course, because it just ‘sounds more authentic’.
But how many can claim to have really put their money where their mouth is when it comes to their love of all things musical? Sadiece Holland, a 28-year-old Abu Dhabi freethinker, has done more than that – she’s put her microphone, and pointed her camera, where her mouth is.
Sadiece is the creator of The Flex, a pioneering grassroots music and poetry web channel. To say it is a passion project for her is like saying that Spinal Tap are content turning it up to 10 (one for the rock musos).
So what is The Flex?
The Flex is a hugely popular YouTube channel, which has thousands of subscribers and over half a million views plus TV spots on Fox Arabia. It was a simple idea that has taken root and talks to a sub culture of hip hop fans across Middle East and North Africa.
In both Arabic and English, The Flex gives a platform to the region’s growing music scene, urban music performers and poets – providing exposure to everyone from megastars to undiscovered musicians. Sadiece, who makes use of street scenes in Abu Dhabi to film interviews has managed to net some major international stars for the show, including Akon and T-Pain.
“I come from a very musical family,” she explains. “I was writing little songs from a very young age and grew up wanting to be a performer. I used to sing, rap, record music and put together demo tapes on my cassette player, playing beats from my Casio keyboard on loop trying to sing and rap over it.
“Music has always been my life. The journey has mostly been deciding what sector of music to work in because the industry is so vast. My passion has just evolved over the years,” she smiles.
Sadiece certainly needed that passion when she was trying to get The Flex off the ground.
“I was working seven days a week and my whole life revolved around The Flex, and it still does. When you’re an entrepreneur there’s no such thing as a nine-to-five, its 24/7 and 365 days a year,” she says.
“When we launched I was still doing my day job and freelancing, so I was doing all these things to fund it, just to keep content coming out. Here I was, working two jobs to keep this project going, and it was advancing so quickly.”
When Sadiece and her family moved to Abu Dhabi in 1997, when she was 10 years old, she remembers being frustrated with the lack of avenues to allow her to express herself musically.
“Growing up here and trying to do music was difficult; there were no platforms,” she recalls.
“I was lucky to be chosen as my high school president. I was always putting on talent shows and musical stuff at school but it was really limited. Rapping and singing in the playground, that was as much as a platform as there was ever going to be.
“Then living in the UK and the States you see what’s out there. I thought to myself, well some day I’ve got to go back (to Abu Dhabi) and do something.”
After graduating from her Music Industry Management and Studio Production course at Buckinghamshire New University, and spending time working in America, Sadiece took a job at a local TV company in the UAE. She pitched the concept of The Flex to her bosses, but it didn’t go according to plan.
“Once I had a solid idea I presented it to them but they rejected it. So I thought, well, if you’re not going to do it, I’ll do it for myself.
“However the concept for The Flex evolved because the original idea was to do event reports on cultural events. There was a lot of cultural stuff happening in the city and it just naturally evolved, for me, to focus on music and poetry.
“We didn’t make many episodes in our first year. But in the second year, I wanted to get more exposure so I started approaching TV channels.
“Fox were interested and we started giving them content to air on their channel. That move almost made us blow up over night to an audience that we probably wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise.”
With the Abu Dhabi musical scene showing signs of growing, a range of new channels and outlets have come out of the woodwork. Sadiece welcomes the evolution.
“There’s no industry unless there’s competition or somebody else who thinks ‘I want to do that too’.
“My objective was to grow an industry, not to have a monopoly on any type of market. I definitely feel like The Flex has inspired people to come up with a similar platform and we encourage it because that’s what we want to create.”
So how will Sadiece flex her creative and entrepreneurial muscles next?
“We have some very exciting projects coming up but for now people will have to stay tuned and wait to see.”
To connect with The Flex visit howweflex.com, or search for HowWeFlex on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.