Meet Austin Mourina: An Unknown Star Voice in Qatar
In the recent years, Qatar has been witnessing a growing music scene. Although Qatar isn’t home to a thriving music industry, locals and residents alike have begun to create home-grown music for the first time in the country, resulting in the birth of a large number of local bands and solo artists who sing everything from their native music to the world-dominating Western music.
This year, Qatar witnessed the first rock musician to ever officially release a rock album out of Qatar. This musician is 26-year-old Naser Mestarihi who is a multi-instrumentalist – guitars, bass guitars, vocals and drums – and singer-songwriter. Born and raised in Qatar, Mestarihi is a Jordanian-Pakistani is a self-taught musician who has been in the Qatar’s music scene since the age of 15. Mestarihi’s album, 1987, is the first rock album to be officially released out of Qatar, which is available for purchase at Virgin Megastore at Villaggio and Landmark or on iTunes. (Stay tuned for Marhaba’s interview with Naser Mestarihi).
Qatar is also home to 30-year-old Indonesian singer, Austin Mourina, who first came to Qatar at the age of 12 with her family. Although Mourina is an intelligence officer at Tadmur Trading, she’s actually a professional singer in Qatar who has recorded with Syrian singer and producer Hussam Taha, American musician Dwan Gibson, QBS Radio’s Joe Mitri and many other Qatar-based musicians. Though Mourina is known for performing covers of other songs, she has begun to write her own songs in the recent years such as My Underworld and You Made A Woman, which are available on iTunes and Amazon.com. At the age of 16, Mourina began to perform professionally at malls and restaurants in Qatar as well as at festivals at the Corniche. She was also a performer at the now-closed Oasis Club and QUBE at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha. ‘It was time consuming. At that age, I was pretty active. I would get off school at 4 pm then had my soccer practice till 6 pm then I would practice with my band,’ she said.
Like many musicians in Qatar, Mourina is a self-taught singer and songwriter who hasn’t had any professional training and schooling in music – due to the lack of music education centres in Qatar. In fact, she received her Bachelor’s degree in electronic commerce from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia in 2006. However, Mourina comes from a musical family whom she attributes her exposure to music too. ‘When I was a kid, my mum was a singer and my dad is also a singer and musician. But they never really pursued anything so when I was a kid my mum always wanted me to go perform on stage but I was shy a kid. But then I started to sing professionally when I was 16. That’s when I started playing instruments,’ she said.
Throughout her teenage life in Qatar, Mourina has been part of three bands. She was the lead singer in the all-male Asian Brown and Synchronized music bands. Later, when she was a student at American School of Doha (ASD), Mourina joined an all-girl music band called The Smuggling Monkeys but as a drummer. During her time at ASD, Mourina was a pioneer, taking part to the kick-off of ASD’s Battle of the Bands, which was once one of the most popular music events in Qatar. Recently, she has performed at LAS Fashion’s Charity Fashion Show and at the opening of the IWED Exhibition 2013. ‘It was easier back then because there weren’t many musicians. It has changed a lot but the thing is, I was a bit disappointed because they don’t let the local talents aren’t taking over…they bring musicians from outside and give them contracts. It’s pretty tough for the local talents. So what I’m doing right now, if anyone has a private party or a fashion show, they would call me and I would sing,’ she said. Commenting on whether one can become a full-time musician in Qatar, Mourina said, ‘No, I don’t think so. Maybe if you get a gig somewhere, you can do it night time once a week or something like that. I don’t think it can be done full-time here.’ Mourina aspires to be a full-time singer but believes it’s difficult to do so in Qatar due to sponsorship issues and other factors such as the lack of marketing, difficult in finding the right sources and ‘because marketing is not there, it’s very hard to make the money. They don’t know who you are. You can be a great singer but I’m going to just pay this much because we don’t know you. But I’ve been here a long time. A lot of my friends and other people know I’m a singer but it’s just by word of mouth,’ she said.
Hussam Taha, who was a contestant on the Arab singing competition show, Star Academy, is currently Mourina’s agent, under Taha’s production company, HT Production. Mourina and Taha are working on making their own music together in both English and Arabic. ‘I’m writing songs with him as well. And he is an Arabic singer and I’m an English singer but then sometimes we do both Arabic and English. He is a composer as well so he taught me how to compose music from guitar and everything. We did a song in English and one in Arabic and English. So far, we came out with two songs,’ she said. In addition, Mourina, who sings mostly Rock and RnB music, is also working with Qatar-based Italian and Swiss artists, who are signed with a UK label, on a trans and electro dance song.
For more information on Austin Mourina or if you would like to hear her music, visit her SoundCloud page or her YouTube page. Austin Mourina is also being featured on Marhaba Information Guide’s issue 58, which will come out in December 2013.
Author: Ola Diab