Global Fusion concert in Dubai brings world music into harmony

The Middle Eastern music concert Global Fusion happens this Saturday in Dubai.

Anurahda Pal playing the tabla during the Global Fusion event in Doha. Photo Courtesy Bank Sarasin & Alpen Capital.
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The eighth Global Fusion concert in Dubai on Saturday aims to blend seamlessly Middle Eastern music with international genres and for the first time offers a powerful and diverse all-female lineup.

Established in 2005 by Bank Sarasin-Alpen and Alpen Capital, and previously hosted in other Gulf countries including Qatar and Oman, this year's festival presents 12 artists, including the Turkish nai (pan flute) player Burcu Karadag and the award-winning UK cellist Elizabeth May.

Also guaranteed to attract a large crowd is India's highly acclaimed tabla (hand-drum) virtuoso and percussionist, Anuradha Pal.

"Dubai is a melting pot of so many musical influences and cultures that I think it's appropriate this type of festival be held here in the UAE," says Pal. "I've been requested to do a couple of short tabla songs and I'll also be collaborating with the other artists at the festival."

They include the flamenco dancer Concepcíon Jareno and Sharel Cassity, a woodwind specialist.

Considered something of a musical national treasure and described by India Today in 2006 as one of the country's 30 leading women, during her two-decade long career Pal has performed at events including the hugely popular global Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival.

"At this event, I especially look forward to seeing how I can embellish and enhance the musical experience by bringing in aspects of global and Indian rhythms," she says. "It's going to be a lot of discovery of each other's music, styles and temperaments."

Pal, who has also founded the fusion bands Stree Shakti and Recharge, which combine Indian, African, Latin and jazz music, will be playing one of her own compositions, A Prayer for World Peace, on stage in Dubai.

"There's a part of the piece inspired by Arabic music," she says. "Turkish and belly-dancing music, too - it basically travels from India to Arabia and incorporates many elements."

Representing Arab talent are two rising stars, the youngest being eight-year-old Emirati Khawla Al Rayhy who will play violin in front of the 500-strong audience. She is also planning to attend an exclusive summer camp in Prague later this year to develop further her talent.

Also flying the flag for the UAE is pianist Fatima Al Hashemi, 25, who is studying at Abu Dhabi's Music Centre under the remit of the Ministry of Culture Youth and Community Development, in the hope of fulfilling her dreams of becoming a music teacher.

Having mastered the violin and accordion at a young age, Al Hashemi is proud to be one of a growing number of Emiratis giving recitals to the exacting standards of this month's international festival.

"I have done many concerts before, but this is a really important one because there are so many global musicians attending - I am looking forward to it," she says. "I will be performing a solo piece, one of Chopin's Nocturnes, and then accompanying Khawla playing a piece by Telemann."

Al Hashemi hopes the philosophy of Global Fusion will rub off on the institution where she is honing her skills.

"In our centre, we only play classical music, but it would be really great if we could also play our traditional music, too," she says. "For example, playing Emirati and traditional songs with western instruments - adapting them for orchestras, pianos and strings - this is something we are developing."

Cultural crossover is the top priority for the event's organisers and the inclusion of the electric string quartet Bond in the lineup provides a good bridge between Eastern and Western musical styles. Having sold more than four million albums and worked with international stars such as Paul McCartney, Sting and Bryan Adams, the young musicians, from Australia and England, will be collaborating with Pal onstage.

Pal, who arrives in time for rehearsals on Friday, says she can't wait to team-up with like-minded musicians.

"I look forward to the entire process, the joy of creation, the struggle of discovery and the end result," she says. "The ultimate reward is something far beyond the material. For me, music is more than just a profession, it is total dedication and commitment - something integral to my very being. I breathe, eat and sleep music. My husband often says there is one thing I love more than him and that's music - I think that's probably true. I could probably live without food but not music. It is a deep and spiritual relationship and I really do need it to stay alive."

  • Global Fusion is by invitation only and will be staged on Saturday at 7.30pm in the Convention Centre of Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai

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