In the previous year, an explosion of indie groups in Bahrain have appeared on the music scene. From those emerging talents comes a band that has controversially stirred the pot. Doyoureallylikeit? (DYRLI) is a four piece psych-pop funk band based in Bahrain, and have gained most of their recognition through social media for breaking taboos and showcasing their surreal skills to entertain audiences. The band is led by Saudi singer, Deema Turkomani. Leading by example, Deema is showing Arab women that there are an array of career opportunities for them across the GCC’s creative scene.
Abdulla Mahmood sits with Deema over a cup of coffee as the enticing conversation commences with the influential young indie-musician.
Abdulla Mahmood: How long did it take for this interest to become a reality?
Deema Turkomani: It didn’t take too long. I don’t have much of a sob story because I’ve always had the support of my parents. My brother Sayf Turkomani (former drummer of DYRLI) and I were raised in a liberal household, and always talked about making our own music.That became a reality when our parents encouraged us to learn music theory, theatre history, and our own instruments. During a family dinner a few years back, I was asked what I was considering to pursue my studies in. I hesitantly said, ‘Psychology, and minor in music.’ That’s when my dad responded with, ‘Nah, you’ll do Musical Theatre. You’ve already committed to it, why stop?’ From there, I focused on getting whatever gigs, jobs, and opportunities I could in music and theatre. Soon enough, I found myself deep within Bahrain's music scene. I was busy with productions, projects, and surrounded by and working with talented performers.
AM: Has the band attracted any interest from other countries?
DT: Yes! We’ve actually had people drive down from Saudi to see some of our shows. Besides the GCC, we’ve had listeners and followers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Malaysia and more. It’s so crazy! Getting comments and direct messages from foreigners gives me goosebumps. It’s so cool to see our music has gone beyond our little island.
AM: Will you perform in any other gulf countries? Maybe tour?
DT: That would be the ultimate dream. To be able to perform around the GCC with my bandmates sounds way too good to be true. Although we have thought about it for this summer's plan, hopefully playing UAE, KSA, Bahrain and Kuwait.
AM: How have audiences reacted to DYRLI?
DT: The reactions have been mind-blowing. It was crazy to see a long line of people waiting outside the venue of our first two shows. Unfortunately, due to congestion, some of the places we played at had to turn back audiences due to venue capacity. Selling out all our merchandise in one Comic Con weekend literally brought me to tears. We really are so very thankful for the amazing response that we got—from the quick Instagram direct messages to the verbal feedback. It really does warm my heart.
AM: How did you guys all meet?
DT: I met Deborah Francisco (drummer) through Malja’s open mic (sponsored by Red Bull, Bahrain, Malja is a stage open to all kinds of performers). From there, Debbi and I became best friends. We wrote and worked amazingly together, but wanted more and that’s where Whatsmahmood (Guitarist), comes into play. He heard one of our performances and insisted that we work together. In December 2017, Whatsmahmood and I started DYRLI. Debbi played the drums, Gustavo Elias, our Brazilian bassist who we met in high school was the final addition to the band.
AM: What does it mean to be a woman in the entertainment business in the ME?
DT: (sigh) It’s a challenge. There’s a lot of talk when it comes to being a Saudi woman in the entertainment business. I’ve gotten a few glares and stares, a few people have actually questioned my choices and tried to talk me out of the performing arts. It’s sad to see that some people are still stuck in this conservative bubble. I was over the moon when I was stopped and thanked for doing what I do and for breaking the glass ceiling. I wouldn’t say I’m tokenized for being a Saudi woman in the entertainment business, but hearing other Arab girls telling me that I had inspired and encouraged them brings me to tears (of joy). It made me realize that there’s a slight stigma attached to being an Arab woman artist. But I’m glad to see that things are changing. Haifaa Al Mansour is someone I really look up to. She’s really opened my eyes to this topic. For me, moving to America to study Musical Theatre has shed light on how other people view the Middle East. Despite those views, we’ve progressed so much. Saudi women can drive now! Some day, I would be honored to represent Arab women on a larger, international platform.
AM: Has there been progress in the Bahraini music scene in your opinion? Do you believe it is competitive?
DT: The progress is minimal. People want the arts and music community to grow, but the opportunities are sparse. It’s not even a matter of competition because other musicians and artists are extremely supportive! It’s competition between the musicians and the clients. For some reason, artists aren’t given the same respect as other professionals. The community will not grow if artists aren’t paid for putting their energy and time into their work.
AM: What's so different about the latest DYRLI album?
DT: What makes our album unique is its range and diversity. Every song explores a different genre—from funk to indie art-pop. Our latest EP covers these genres through four songs. We took on the modern approach of releasing a 4-track EP rather than an entire 10-track album. A piece of each of our personalities is suggested through each song—four members, four songs. The DYRLI sequel will continue progressively while maintaining the overall brand feel.
AM: What can we expect from DYRLI? in the future?
DT: Hopefully a new EP, and more gigs are coming in December. Distance is nothing when it comes to my family, stay tuned.
A version of this article was featured in Khaleejesque’s Tenth Anniversary, March 2019 issue.
Words: Abdulla Mahmood
Images: Abdullah Minhas, Deema Turkomani