Dubai Metro Music Festival
The second Dubai Metro Music Festival, which commenced last Wednesday, is bringing together a unique group of innovative musicians from around the world. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The second Dubai Metro Music Festival, which commenced last Wednesday, is bringing together a unique group of innovative musicians from across the world to perform at Metro stations in Dubai.

More than 20 musicians from the UAE, the region and across the world are performing at Dubai Metro Music Festival. Performances are being held at five Dubai Metro stations — Expo 2020 Dubai, Jebel Ali, Mall of the Emirates, Burjuman and Union — from 4pm to 10pm daily. All the performances are rotated across the week-long festival to cover these five Metro stations.

Celebrating the diversity and openness that make Dubai one of the world’s most culturally dynamic metropolises, the musicians hail from a wide array of nationalities including Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, France, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and Syria, apart from the UAE.

Creating a vibrant environment

“Dubai is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities and it provides a great environment for musicians to thrive. Its cultural dynamism gives artists a space to create and present their work to an appreciative audience,” says Yuri Martinnez, a Dubai-based artist from Cuba performing at the Festival.

Organised by Brand Dubai, the creative arm of the Government of Dubai Media Office, in partnership with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), from March 16-22, the Dubai Metro Music Festival is aligned with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to create a vibrant environment in the emirate for art, music and culture to flourish. The Festival forms part of the ongoing #DubaiDestinations campaign focused on highlighting the exceptional experiences, events and activities of #DubaiArtSeason.

‘Creating unique musical experiences’

Rowdah Al Mehrizi, Director of Marketing and Corporate Communication, Corporate Administrative Support Services Sector, RTA, said: “The Festival has been curated to create unique musical experiences that enrich the creative environment of the city and add a new vitality to its urban spaces. Public transport, and especially Dubai Metro, represents the city’s pulse and is a reflection of its culturally diverse community. Metro stations provide a truly unique stage for the festival’s global music that highlights Dubai’s pluralistic character and its efforts to promote cultural understanding. We are delighted with the overwhelming public response to the festival and will work to sustain it as a platform for cultural exchange and understanding.”

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Commuters enjoy live performances during Dubai Metro Music Festival. Image Credit: Supplied

‘The sheer variety of talent’

“Building on the success of the inaugural Dubai Metro Music Festival, the second edition this year aims to add a new dimension to the development of Dubai’s music scene and its cultural landscape. The sheer variety of talent and creative accomplishment featured in the Metro Music Festival makes a unique statement about Dubai’s ethos of diversity and its profile as one of the world’s most inclusive and culturally dynamic cities. Whether it is music or other fields of performing arts, artists from across the world are increasingly seeking out platforms in Dubai to express themselves,” notes Shaima Al Suwaidi, City Branding Manager, Brand Dubai.

‘One-man band’

“Dubai’s multiculturalism and its good and respectful people encourage us musicians to go and give a little bit of ourselves to the city,” said Jose Torres, an Ecuadorian musician who is presenting a ‘one-man band’ at the festival. “Dubai’s music scene has grown in a very positive way and thanks to its development as a cultural hub, it has created opportunities that cross borders,” he noted. His unique Andean musical performances, using different instruments attached to his body — including a drum, which he carries on his back, a guitar, wind instruments, a charango and the chajchas, a bell-like instrument that surrounds his legs — are a big draw at the festival. Accompanying him during the performance are two puppets and a stuffed animal that move along with his beats, and an alpaca fur toy that serves as his companion.

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Jose Torres, an Ecuadorian musician, presents a ‘one-man band’ at the festival. Image Credit: Supplied

Self-taught musician

Another unusual artist attracting large crowds at the festival is the French musician Christophe Servas, who performs on instruments made from recycled material. The actor and self-taught musician from Nice, who was featured in the semifinals of the French reality TV show ‘La France’ in 2020, sends an important environmental message with his performances. Servas’ instruments are made from various bric-a-brac like the handle of a gardening shovel, PVC tubes, gas cans, chairs and bicycles. Mexican musician Leo Traeger, another innovative artist featured in the Festival, has been wowing commuters with his solo recitals using three guitars.

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French musician Christophe Servas performs at Dubai Metro Music Festival. Image Credit: Supplied

For many musicians, the performances in Dubai are an opportunity to present the culture and music of their country to an appreciative audience. “I feel really blessed to contribute with my culture to entertain the Dubai Metro audience,” says Costa Rican trombonist Jorge Chinchilla whose scintillating performances have set large crowds grooving.

‘A diverse repertoire’

“It always fills me with a sense of pride to perform on the steelpan, my national instrument, representing my country and culture in an international event. It is one of my main sources of motivation,” says Trinidadian Justin Homer. “I take a lot of pride in being the only steelpan musician residing in the UAE.” The artist is particularly delighted to play soca, an upbeat style of music that is native to Trinidad and Tobago. “Often when I play, people enjoy dancing or tapping their feet to the beat even if they don’t know the songs, which is often the case. I always prepare a diverse repertoire which offers something for everyone,” he says. His performances, which also feature pop, latin and reggae, have been a huge hit with audiences at Dubai Metro stations.

Human beatbox

Manshur Praditya represents the best of Indonesian music with his performances on the traditional instrument angklung. The artist has pioneered a new version of the instrument called the Angklung Toel in collaboration with electronic musicians. His collaborations with many well-known artists and musicians in Indonesia have earned him huge popularity in his country. A true ambassador for his country’s music, he has enthralled audiences in cities across the world.

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Manshur Praditya represents the best of Indonesian music with his performances on the traditional instrument angklung. Image Credit: Supplied

Filipino musician Neil Rey Garcia Llanes, a third-place winner in ‘Asia’s Got Talent Season 2’ has been drawing impressive crowds across metro stations with his astonishing performances as a human beatbox that blur the line between humans and musical instruments.

The participating artists are delighted to use the platform provided by Dubai Metro Music Festival to connect with the city’s cosmopolitan audience using the universal language of music. “Dubai Metro Music Festival is a great opportunity for artists based in Dubai and from across the world to perform in front of thousands of people who take the Metro daily,” says Martinnez. “We offer commuters the possibility of enjoying a couple of minutes of their journey by filling their souls and hearts with good music,” says the artist whose Latin fusion music featuring electronic rhythms and percussion has attracted large crowds.

The constantly changing audience for his music at the festival excites steelpan artist Homer. “There are hundreds of thousands of people taking the Dubai Metro each day. This means there will always be new eyes and ears to witness my performances. More importantly, these people are all very diverse from so many different countries, cultures and backgrounds, which is one of the most beautiful aspects of Dubai and the UAE,” he says.

The tabla treat

Indian classical musician Sandeepan Sankarankutty, who is enthralling crowds with his recitals on the tabla, a traditional percussion instrument, said performing at Dubai Metro stations is an experience like no other. “Playing music in a place thronged by large numbers of people amidst other urban sounds adds dynamic elements of the faster world to the compositions. It keeps both the music and musicians grounded and connected to the audience,” says the young musician who believes music has the power to evoke bliss.

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Indian classical musician Sandeepan Sankarankutty plays the tabla at Dubai Metro Music Festival. Image Credit: Supplied

Concurring with Sankarankutty, Martinnez says: “It is fantastic to create these unexpected performances in metro stations for busy commuters. It has been proven that music is relaxing, energising and relieves stress. I think that commuters appreciate that.”

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‘Dubai values creative performers’

Participants in the festival are excited by the growing opportunities that Dubai’s creative landscape offers musicians. Homer says Dubai offers several unique opportunities for musical performers from different styles and genres. “As a musician, I have performed at many different events and venues including shopping festivals, food festivals, weddings, fashion shows, schools ... the list goes on,” he says. “The Metro Music Festival is another event that shows that Dubai values creative performers and I am thankful for that,” says Martinnez.

Echoing these sentiments, Sankarankutty, whose tabla performances at the Festival have opened new creative horizons for him, said: “The city is a wonderful place for artists. The sky is the limit in Dubai.”