Dubai Metro's music causes disharmony


Eugene Harnan and Leah Oatway

DUBAI // News of the Metro’s launch was music to most people’s ears. But many of those who use it every day are finding the experience far from harmonious.

A contented passenger on the Dubai Metro listens to his own tunes. Randi Sokoloff / The National
A contented passenger on the Dubai Metro listens to his own tunes. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Many commuters say they have had enough of the repetitive, electronic music track piped-in while they make their way to and from work.

“I never heard background music before on public transport and this one is very futuristic. It is very annoying and repetitive so I am glad I have my iPod,” said Ashley Paragas, 29, from the Philippines, whose headphones never leave his ears during his daily 25-minute commute from Union Station in Deira to Mall of the Emirates, where he works as a sales manager.

He is one of the growing number of passengers who, in an attempt to block out the music, are arming themselves with personal music players before boarding the driverless train every day.

Mohammad Ali, 36, a Lebanese businessman, said he splashed out on an iPhone specifically to make his journey on the Metro more bearable.

“I said I would use the Metro for meetings in Deira and Bur Dubai and leave the car at Mall of the Emirates but the first day I got on the Metro, I knew I needed some music. That tune is so bad, it just keeps going on and on and on.”

Some commuters are so appalled by the Roads and Transport Authority’s choice of soundtrack they have considered abandoning the Metro altogether.

“The music is so bad, I sometimes believe I should be taking the bus,” said Rajesh Amit, 27, a restaurant supervisor from India. “The seats are better on the bus and it doesn’t have that music.”

David Regan, 38, an engineering consultant from the United States, said: “It’s unreal. I know it [the Metro] is brand new and the music does sound very new age, but I couldn’t imagine that being on a New York subway for very long because people would be complaining from day one. They could put live bands in the stations or art shows or be more interactive with the passengers instead of blaring this trash out at us.”

The RTA would not comment on its choice music, nor would it identify the track.

Apart from being irritating, constant exposure to monotonous soundtracks can lead to antisocial behaviour, some clinical psychologists say.

“What has been known through research is that music that is psychedelic, music that is techno, music that has little melody or harmony, may have an adverse reaction on the human system,” said Dr Raymond Hamden of the Human Relations Institute, Dubai. Dr Hamden studied the effects of music on the human psyche for his doctoral dissertation.

Research on human beings and animals, he said, had found that when they are exposed to such music for a long time their behaviour had become “very irritated, agitated, sometimes to the point of being aggressive and violent”.

“Music that is melodic with a harmony, that corresponds with traditional music therapy like classical music or ballads, are much more soothing to the human ear and the human response,” said Dr Hamden.

He declined to comment specifically on the RTA’s choice of music, but Dr Hamden said his choice for the morning metro commute would be “fast-paced pop”, minus the lyrics, which he said could distract passengers and cause them to miss their stops.

As for the return journey in the evening, his suggestion was “80s-style pop, not so fast paced but at an unwinding pace that would not distract”.

He added: “Music should be for background purposes not concert purposes, never so loud that it is distracting.”

“When a person is coming home from work they are still unwinding from their day, so they are not going to play opera or classical music. They want something that is a nice-paced pop that matches their stress level.”