Everything you need to know about the Cuban-Khaleeji project

The world premiere of a locally commissioned music project celebrates Emirati heritage and its global influence.

Music is a powerful tool – and when it comes to understanding our past and celebrating heritage, it’s a unique way of sharing our history with others.

It’s just one of the concepts that inspired the commissioning of The Cuban-Khaleeji Project, a collaboration featuring a multi-award winning artist, big band and special guests from the GCC, North Africa and Latin America. 

Taking place on 20th February at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, the initiative was created as a way of exploring the traditions and music from seafaring countries, celebrating the differences as well as the similarities that connect global cultures and finding ways to explore the relationship between the Khaleeji music of pearl divers
and Cuban seafaring music. 

For The Arts Center, it’s a special project that not only fits in perfectly with the Year of Tolerance but essentially represents what the university strives to do ever year: bring together the city’s diverse community, celebrate culture and use the performing arts to inspire meaningful conversation.

“One of the things that’s important for NYU Abu Dhabi, when we talk about ourselves as an institution, is that we’re a liberal arts college and a research university; within the idea of a research university is that idea of knowledge production,” begins Bill Bragin, executive artistic director of The Arts Center. 

“In the case of a scientist, it’s the work they do in a lab and coming up with research that will hopefully impact the world. For us [at The Arts Center], we look at the commissioning of new work as our version of that same process of creating something new that wouldn’t have existed without us – in this case, a story that really needs to be told from the Gulf; it’s a story of connectedness that people aren’t aware of.”

With Afro-Latin jazz musician and six-time Grammy Award-winner Arturo O’Farrill at the helm, the project brings together Arturo’s 18-piece Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra as well as Yazz Ahmed, a British-Bahraini trumpet player and composer; Moroccan singer, composer and producer Malika Zarra; Boom.Diwan, a world-jazz ensemble that combines Kuwaiti pearl diving rhythms with improvisational jazz; and Emirati oudist Ali Obaid.

As each artist brings their own flavour to the mix, the night is set to be what Arturo describes as “part mad scientist and part inspired music making” as artists collaborate and celebrate the roots of jazz music and its connection to the sounds of the Gulf.

“I think there’s so much conversation in the UAE about the importance of heritage and tradition, but looking at it not in a way that it’s frozen but to understand that culture constantly changes,” Bill explains. “This is a way for us to play a role in that goal of the UAE, to really hold on to the heritage and traditions but, in a place that is as forward looking and fast-changing as the UAE, to also contribute to that evolution in a way that feels culturally appropriate.”

What: Cuban-Khaleeji Project

When: 20th Feb, 8pm

Where: The Arts Center, NYU Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island

Tickets: AED 157.50 for adults, AED 78.75
for youth aged 13 to 22

Visit: nyuad-artscenter.org

WORDS Rachael Perrett

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