Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has been officially designated as a ‘City of Music’ by the UNESCO Creative City Network.
The designation was announced on Monday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Creative City Network, an initiative launched in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities that recognise creativity as a major factor in their sustainable urban development plans.
Abu Dhabi has long prioritised culture and creativity as essential drivers of social development and economic diversification, constantly fostering meaningful forms of expression and identity that embody and shape people-centred, sustainable development. Music is one of the culture and creative industries domains that has seen significant levels of support. Abu Dhabi has always been at the crossroads of the Arab world, Asia, Africa and Europe and this legacy of openness and cultural exchange supports the vision to grow a music sector fostering inclusion and identity across communities and generations.
Growing music ecosystem
The ‘City of Music’ designation will reinforce Abu Dhabi’s position as the home of a resilient and growing music ecosystem that is built on innovation, collaboration and shared governance. The emirate now sits alongside cities such as Liverpool in the United Kingdom, Auckland in New Zealand, Sevilla in Spain and Chennai in India as focal points for music creativity as drivers of sustainable development plans.
Abu Dhabi has a rich heritage in traditional music and performance, and a thriving contemporary music scene. Today, the emirate is home to some 200 nationalities, each with their own culture and diverse forms of musical expression. Abu Dhabi’s five-year cultural strategy, implemented by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), aims to draw more attention to this musical diversity, to utilise music in public spaces to enhance liveability and sense of place, as well as to find ways of leveraging music as a tool for connecting older and younger generations.
‘Open to new sources’
“From traditional sung poetry performances and ancient instruments to our modern music scene, Abu Dhabi has a unique musical legacy. We celebrate our past while remaining open to new sources and genres of musical expression, fusing the traditional and the contemporary to bridge cultures and generations. By highlighting and nurturing the incredible depth of music diversity and talent in the emirate today, we are ensuring that music remains a fundamental element in the cultural life of the Abu Dhabi community,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi.
Torchbearers of the Abu Dhabi music scene include Bait Al Oud, a homegrown academy that plays an essential role in documenting and promoting Arab music heritage, and Abu Dhabi Classics, the annual concert series paying tribute to classical music. Alongside the important music programmes of the Cultural Foundation are those of Abu Dhabi’s many cultural organisations such as the long-standing Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), which among its many activities supports aspiring talents and musicians and hosts a renowned yearly music festival, a mainstay of the emirate’s cultural calendar.
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Rising popularity of local and regional music
Berklee Abu Dhabi, the Middle East’s preeminent institute of contemporary music and performing arts, and New York University Abu Dhabi’s Arts Center and Music Programme, have both been leveraging the rising popularity of local and regional music — the fastest-growing segment of the global music industry — through the production and commissioning of new talent.
With the UNESCO Creative City Network designation, Abu Dhabi joins the nearly 250 cities around the globe that currently work together towards a common objective: Placing creativity, culture and creative industries at the heart of their development plans and cooperating actively with key players from the music industry across the world.