Dubai: As soon as José Luis Torres started playing, a crowd of commuters — young and old, expats, tourists and locals — gathered in a half circle around him, captivated by his one-man band performance.
It was 4pm on Wednesday at Expo 2020 Metro Station and the scene was repeated in four other metro stations (Jabal Ali, Mall of the Emirates, Burjuman and Union metro stations). It signalled the start of the week-long second edition of Dubai Metro Music Festival, organised by Brand Dubai, the creative arm of the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), in collaboration with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
An eclectic line-up of 20 musicians from across the world — representing a wide range of musical genres from pop to hip-hop, contemporary to classical, reggae to beatbox, electric to country music; jazz, ska, funk; sound and beats from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and more — are performing until March 22, from 4pm-10pm, at these five metro stations across Dubai.
Shaima Al Suwaidi, City Branding Manager at Brand Dubai, said: “The music festival is a celebration of the creativity, cosmopolitanism and openness that makes Dubai one of the world’s most culturally dynamic metropolises.”
“It represents the quintessential spirit of cultural diversity and inclusiveness that is at the heart of Dubai’s ethos, 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 make Dubai one of the world’s best cities to live and visit.”
First launched in 2019, the event is also part of the ongoing #DubaiDestinations campaign that focuses on highlighting the exceptional experiences, events and activities of #DubaiArtSeason.
Playing to the crowd
Torres, who is from Ecuador, captivated the crowd at the Expo 2020 Station as they wondered how a man can play simultaneously 12 musical instruments attached to his body, from head to foot.
He played ‘Lambada’ and ‘La Cucaracha’ with a double guitar hanging from his shoulder, while the pan flute was in front of his mouth and cymbals plus a small drum — decorated with colourful Ecuadorian patterns — were mounted on his head, with bells on top. On his legs were traditional instruments made of sheep hooves and seeds, while stuffed llamas and colourful dancing dolls, attached to his arms, served as his backup dancers.
Torres told Gulf News he has played in almost all countries in Europe and he has also travelled to China but it was his first time to play in Dubai. “In all my performances I always give 100 per cent of myself because I want people to also to feel the happy and vibrant culture in Ecuador,” he said.
When asked why we chose to become a one-man band, he replied: “I love music, which I learnt from my parents, and why play only one instrument when you can play at least a dozen at the same time?”
The right beat
Another performer at Expo 2020 station was Al Taj who played flute beatbox. The 21-year old Egyptian national with around 800,000 followers on TikTok, who is also a software engineering student at Al Zaytoona University in Jordan, said it was likewise his first time to play in Dubai and he was amazed by the cultural mix of the city.
He played an eclectic mix of American top hits, Arabian contemporary music and a fusion of Arabian-Western beat. He said: ‘At first I was nervous performing, but after seeing people smile and dance, it was an absolutely wonderful feeling.”
The 2nd Dubai Metro Music Festival has hit the right note with commuters. Jeena Tamanga, 28, from Sikkim, India, told Gulf News: “It was a refreshing sound, hearing talented musicians play at the metro station.”
“After a day’s work, it was nice to hear wonderful music as you go down the metro and head home. The musicians were really great and nice-looking too,” she added.
Music continued at Jabal Ali Station and Gulf News caught up professional pannist, Justin Homer from Trinidad and Tobago, showcasing his talent in playing a steel pan, a musical instrument that originated from his home country.
Homer has played at various events in Dubai and his dynamic music includes Calypso, Soca, Reggae, Jazz and Pop, to name a few.
Versatile violinists Jeeda and Meera Hallak also wowed the crowd at Jabal Ali Station as the identical 17-year old twins played ‘Bella Ciao’ and ‘Despacitio’ with gusto.
The twins were born in Syria but grew up in Dubai where they are now studying in Year 12. They said it was their first time to play “street-style music” and they loved it. They have previously performed with the National Youth Orchestra at Dubai Opera.
Gulf News also caught up with Christophe Servas, who prefers to be called ‘Fils de Flute’. He showcased his musical instruments made from recycled items. He said his message is about environmental protection, delivered with his eclectic music.
Where to go
Music continues at five Metro stations - Expo 2020, Jabal Ali, Mall of the Emirates, Burjuman and Union metro stations - until March 22, Tuesday, from 4pm until 10 pm