Saturday, March 10, 2007

Cultural Overload

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm feeling swamped by culture, right here in Dubai. After a decade and a bit of believing the place to be a cultural wasteland*, suddenly it's not any more. There is so much stuff going on right now that it is impossible to decide what to go to. Or you could just be sensible, stay home, and save your money for the Departure Fund. And now that the stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road between Jebel Ali and Mall of the Emirates has assumed some kind of normality, at least early on a Friday evening, we can actually get to Media City or DUCTAC without too many problems.

Two weeks ago: Roger Waters.

One week ago: DDG Romeo and Juliet at DUCTAC.

Yesterday: Desert Rock at the Country Club, International Jazz Festival at Media City and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana at DUCTAC.

Ongoing: Art Fair at DIFC.

We opted for Carmina Burana last night, and it was wonderful. It was a joint effort by the Dubai Chamber Orchestra and the long-established Dubai Singers. Both are amateur groups but their standards are very high. The first half comprised Mozart's 'Abduction of the Seraglio', followed by the world premiere of 'At Last They Rest' by Barnaby Priest. It was a wonderful piece, and I really hope there's a CD or DVD of the gig that we can get our hands on. The second half was all Carmina Burana, performed by about 68 Singers, 24 Dubai American Academy students, and the orchestra of about 26. Without any amplification, the wall of sound they produced was breathtaking.

And today DUCTAC is hosting a Palestinian Children's Orchestra. BetterArf has gone to that this afternoon: I have to get some work done!

*For certain ethnic groups: the BBC actually made a documentary on this topic about 8 years ago - it was heavily biased and ignored efforts by groups like The Singers, Dubai Drama Group, The Harmony Chorus and embryonic Orchestras. I cannot speak for Asian cultural groups, but they are plentiful and productive. And now both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have realised that people need more than just work to sustain them, and that there is money in art, they are both hurling funds at projects to build theatres, galleries, entire Cultural Districts.

It's a good thing.

UPDATE: BetterArf just got back from the gig. It was performed by students of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, which has branches in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Guess what? Three of the students were not allowed into the UAE because they had Israeli passports. No real surprise there, but can somebody please explain to me what is the point? Everybody knows you can go to Israel if you want to, and they'll stamp a visa on a separate piece of paper rather than in your actual passport. Some governments will even give you a second passport if you need to move between Israel and Arab countries frequently.

But how does stopping three students from entering our country help further the cause of peace?

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