Biography of Ra’ed Miqdadi
by Erika War
Ra’ed Miqdadi is a Jordanian heavy metal guitarist for the band Dragonrider. Dragonrider consists of Rod Arias on vocals, Ra’ed on guitars and drums, Waleed Mughrabi on guitars and Ala’a Hamdan on session keyboards and bass guitars. Being a metal musician in the Middle East is extremely difficult. There is no good musical equipment to be found, the society is steeped in tradition, and where many people are close-minded. Says Ra’ed, “Heavy Metal is seen as evil, that breeds evil people and musicians” and people wearing metal shirts are called “heathens or Devil Worshipers or other irreligious related names.” It is a place where concerts are often dismantled before they can even begin.
Ra’ed got into music at a very young age, feeling the music “touching my soul.” His father and brother had a collection of metal and rock music ranging from Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Sweet, and RUSH, to heavier stuff such as the Scorpions and Black Sabbath. His earliest influences also include Iron Maiden, Helloween, Riot, MSG, Judas Priest, Saxon and more. Ra’ed started playing drums at the age of ten, and picked up his first guitar at eleven. At twelve he joined his first band, a young man eager to experience playing with other musicians and hone his talents.
At the age of fourteen he started a band called Iron Knuckle, (taking the ‘Iron’ from his heroes, Iron Maiden). This group did not last long, so he then moved onto a death metal band called Anatomy. They managed to record a demo, but back then there were no means of sharing the music. But Ra’ed was grateful for the experience of recording in a studio and seeing all the pressures involved with that process. After this came the extreme Black Metal band Requiem but he did not stay with this band for too long, realizing extreme metal was not the direction in which he wanted to go.
After this he formed his first Power Metal band, Overture, with long time friend and current Dragonrider session keyboard/bass player Ala’a Hamdan, covering songs by Stratovarius, Helloween and others, as well as writing original material. Ra’ed left when Hamdan changed the musical direction of the band to something more melodic, which was not what Ra’ed wanted. With his next band, a tribute band to the Scorpions called Virgin Killer (named after the famous Scorpions album), he played many local gigs and became well-known. After three years, Ra’ed decided he wanted to play all original music. The other band members were not interested in this, so Ra’ed branched out on his own and Dragonrider was born.
The name Dragonrider represents Ra’ed’s love of these mighty and powerful beasts, and he likens them to the power and might of Heavy Metal music. A dragonrider would be someone who tames these wild beasts, and to Ra’ed the name Dragonrider also represents courage, strength and friendship.
Unfortunately for Ra’ed and other Heavy Metal musicians in Jordan, the situation is dire. Good instruments are unavailable in Jordan. There are no good brands and no good options. Buying from the internet costs a fortune; taxes will raise the price of the instrument to triple its original cost.
Another huge problem is that the people in his society are very closed-minded when it comes to music that is not traditional and does not come from the Middle Eastern culture. Heavy Metal is seen as evil, and the people who play it or listen to it are also seen as evil. The society’s expectations also play a huge rule in making it difficult to become a musician. In Jordan, a person is expected to get a good education and go to college. Then the religion requires the individual to get married. After that comes finding a good job, “Which isn’t a musician of course”, and work like a machine for long hours for very little pay. An individual has no freedom to object unless he or she want to starve to death. Unfortunately it isn’t just about Heavy Metal music—this goes for all types of arts or sports. There is no support at all of any kind.
The police in Jordan are another problem with which metal fans have to deal. They harass the musicians, seeing the band members and their fans wearing dark metal shirts, jackets with patches on them, or the men sporting long hair, and these individuals are seen as completely unacceptable members of society. They are called names such as heathens and devil worshippers. And metal fans go through this every day. Their music is banned. The police dismantle concerts as they are being set up, and torment the musicians relentlessly. The biggest crowd Ra’ed was ever able to play in front of was about 300 people in a local pub.
But Ra’ed refuses to be discouraged. “I learned to always look on the bright side of things, and always believed the saying ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, so we never gave in to all of that.” His knowledge that although there are many people who condemn him, there are many others all over the world who love what he is doing, and that is what keeps him positive. The internet has changed the face of music forever, and it is through this that Ra’ed gets to spread his music He takes full advantage of the social media for advertising and sharing his music.
It is also through the internet that he met his lead vocalist, Rod Arias. Rod is an American singer living in California and singing for a band called New Eden. Ra’ed became friends with Rod over Facebook, and when Dragonrider lost their lead singer, Ra’ed asked Rod if he would sing for them. Rod gladly accepted. It is very strange for Ra’ed having a lead singer of his band that he has never met in person, but this is just another example of how the internet is shaping the music world and helping out musicians in the same situation in which Ra’ed finds himself. He states, “yet it is very interesting, because it sets up a great example of how Heavy Metal unites people.” Waleed and Ra’ed met years ago, and Ala’a and Ra’ed are very old friends who formed and played with many bands together.
Dragonrider’s future plans include releasing their first EP at the end of this year. Although they have no manager and do everything themselves, they plan to start touring, with plans to record a second, full-length album shortly after touring. Ra’ed’s positivity is something to admire given his situation. “[We will] never give in [with] what we do, because, simply, this is who we are and what we love to do. Without our friends’ and fans’ support this would have never been possible. so I take this chance and say thanks.”