Watch Flamingods uncover a secret wrestling society in Dubai

The London via Bahrain set are back with a psychedelic offering that lets us glimpse at the unknown Pakistani subculture in the deserts surrounding the city

Behind the slick metal exterior of Dubai enjoyed by its rich residents and suncream-slathered gaggles of tourists, there lies an intriguing, ancient subculture. In their latest video for “Rhama”, Flamingods, the London/Bahrain mind-altering music-makers, capture the mysterious society of Pakistani wrestlers that use the desert and old city as their arena.

Kamal Rasool, the band’s founding member, explains their venture into what, for many, is little more than an urban myth. He says: “Over the past few months we have attended fights, got to know the wrestlers through our Urdu translator and lived among the wrestlers in their apartment in rural Al Ain (just outside Dubai), exploring not only the wrestling itself, but the mysticism and ritual behind it and flashes of everyday Pakistani culture and life in and around the UAE.”

“Rhama” is a psychedelic, percussive offering that radiates with the heat of the Persian Gulf. Its thoughtful tendrils are grasping at glimpses of the Kushti wrestling league and its enigmatic culture, as Flamingods' radical sound opens up the thrillingly unknown. Lyrically, Flamingods trace their own personal struggles with displacement, when they’ve straddled their roots in the east and cultural immersion in the west; something that resonates heavily with what the wrestlers themselves experience.

Rasool observes: “The wrestlers leave their cultural homes behind in search for a better financial future in Dubai. The idea of breaking down Dubai’s clichéd image of being a glossy metropolis was also very important to us. Those who don’t live in Dubai have a fixed perception of the city, and though aspects of what they imagine are true, there is another side of the city that is massively overlooked.”

Despite Pakistani people making up 30 per cent of the population in the city, Kushti is a practice that’s kept relatively hushed. Friends of the band recalled vague nuggets of knowledge or local gossip, but the five-piece knew little else. “Determined to track them down, we kept asking around, until one day a Pakistani taxi driver gave us the information we needed: the Kushti league’s current match location,” says Rasool. Bringing along a translator, the set experienced the mystical tradition in reality, learning about the ceremonial pre-fight dances, the tossing of dirt as a mutual blessing, and the workings of the fight. Alongside Barbu TV, they approached Tota, a local wrestler, and his trainer after a match to ask if they could document their lifestyle. The group spent three days at his home in Al Ain, sharing meals, discussing life and politics and witnessing the action.

The video is an honest homage not just to the wrestling league, but to the roots of Pakistani culture and life in old Duabi. Rasool says: “The communities who built this city, who came here to find a better future and provide for their families back home – they have all brought their culture, their food, their music and traditions, and are an integral part of the city. This is the part of the city we live in and are proud to be a part of. Though some might find beauty in the glamorous face of Dubai, we find it in the older side: reeking with culture, history and stories from communities all around the world.”

Flamingods release their album Majesty on June 10 via Soundway Records