Expo 2020 Dubai is just around the corner and it has already been announced that a number of global and regional music maestros will descend to the emirate for the star-studded opening ceremony.
The show will draw inspiration from the Expo’s theme of "connecting minds, creating the future," and its sub-themes of opportunity, mobility and sustainability. It will present the values of the UAE to the watching world.
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It will be staged at Al Wasl Plaza, in a vast, circular theatre that will house the largest immersive sound installation in the world and the world’s largest blended video projection installation. The 90-minute performance will set the scene for the six-month world fair, with the show to be broadcast live on Expo TV, Virtual Expo and TV stations around the world.
So for those who can't wait any longer, here’s a look at the stars announced for the opening ceremony so far:
The famed Italian tenor is no stranger to the UAE, having performed in the country numerous times over the years. He is known as one of the most successful crossover performers, helping to bring classical music to the top of the charts. He’s recorded 15 solo albums since 1982, selling more than 75 million records worldwide. Bocelli’s classics include The Prayer, Ave Maria and Time to Say Goodbye.
The British electropop singer broke on to the scene with her 2009 debut single Under the Sheets, and her debut album Lights was released the next year, topping the UK Albums Chart. A single of the same name also reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. She followed that up with her second album, Halcyon, with its lead, Anything Could Happen, topping Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Other notable hits for Goulding include Burn, Love Me Like You Do and Starry Eyed. The hitmaker was due to perform in Dubai last year but it got postponed.
The American singer is most known for her 2015 hit single Rise Up from her debut album Cheers to the Fall, which was nominated for the Best R&B Album at the 2016 Grammys. However, she has also found success in acting, taking on the role of singer Billie Holiday in the biopic The United States vs Billie Holiday, for which she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
The Chinese classical pianist has toured the world performing with leading orchestras such as the Berlin, Vienna and Moscow Philharmonics, as well as other top ensembles in the US. Dubbed a “classical rock star”, Lang Lang is known for his theatrical pieces and showmanship while on stage. He has also performed in the UAE in the past, most recently at Emirates Palace as part of the 2016 Abu Dhabi Festival.
The four-time Grammy winner is no stranger to opening ceremonies, having sung during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony in July. The Beninese singer-songwriter released her first album, Pretty, in 1981, but it would be her 1991 album Logozo that would earn her acclaim, with it topping the Billboard World Albums chart. Over her career, she’s collaborated with artists in myriad genres, including Alicia Keys, Yo-Yo Ma, Josh Groban and Burna Boy. Kidjo's hit songs include Agolo, We We, Batonga, and her version of Miriam Makeba's 1969 song Malaika.
The Saudi singer has had a music career that’s spanned four decades. He was discovered on the Baba Abbas radio show in 1960, and has since released thousands of songs and more than 30 albums. Dubbed “the artist of the Arabs”, Abdu is most celebrated for his preservation of mawrouth (heritage songs), doing so without changing much of their musical arrangements and build-up.
The Emirati songstress, who goes by the mononym Ahlam, has released 14 albums and numerous singles since her first album in 1995. In January, she released her latest album, Fedwat Oyounak – Part 1, after a five-year absence. Known as one of the biggest names in Khaleeji pop, her hits include Malhofa Le Sotek and Ana Hoby Rekadah. In addition to singing, she’s also known for being a judge on Arab Idol and The Voice: Ahla Sawt.
Hussain Al Jassmi
The Emirati singer is an Expo 2020 Dubai ambassador and one of the Middle East’s top-selling artists. He released his first single Bawada'ak in 2002, followed by Wallah Mayiswa and Bassbour Al Fourgakom. However, it was 2014’s Egyptian Shaabi tune Boshret Kheir that he is most known for. Al Jassmi also has the honour of being the first Arab artist to perform at the Vatican’s annual Christmas concert, in 2018, and took part in a collaborative effort for the 2019 Special Olympics theme song Right Where I’m Supposed To Be.
The Lebanese-American singer, who simply goes by Mayssa, was nominated for a Grammy in 2015 for Best Compilation Soundtrack as the featured vocalist for the Arabic version of White Rabbit from the film American Hustle. She also scored a No 1 hit on Apple Music in India with her song Hayati, which was produced by Oscar-winner AR Rahman. In 2019, her first single Call Me a Stanger was released, followed shortly by her full-length English debut Simple Cure. She’s also currently the artistic director of Berklee Abu Dhabi.
The rising Emirati talent started her career at aged 15 with a song called Shousaawi Bih, which reached 29 million views on YouTube. She collaborated with fellow Emirati singer Fayez Al Saeed for the song Allah ma yirdaha. She sings in Arabic and English and was a part of the Spotify initiative Sawtik, which aimed to help promote young talented women from the Middle East by putting their music in the spotlight.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at preparation for Expo 2020 Dubai's opening ceremony: