Now United and Louvre Abu Dhabi are collaborating on a vibrant concert experience.
Streaming on Thursday from Now United's YouTube channel, Now Love – Live From Abu Dhabi will feature the 18-piece collective performing within the stunning surroundings and artworks of the Saadiyat Island venue.
Putting the show together meant three weeks of preparation, during which the group and their army of choreographers, stylists and technical crew essentially decamped to Louvre Abu Dhabi to create a concert where the museum and its collection play a starring role.
Louvre Abu Dhabi director Manuel Rabate is excited for what's in store. Speaking to The National amid one of Now United's daily rehearsals, he describes the upcoming concert as a fruitful collaboration.
"There is no interference in the artistic direction because the group is working with some of the best people professionally," he says.
"The group and their team came here, discovered the museum and the collection, and found their own source of excitement from that.
“Now, how will that translate? I don't know, but as a partner it is very important for the Louvre's identity to resonate with what they are doing."
Sharing the lead
Chances are it will. After all, the group's members know every inch of the museum by now, with its four wings, 12 galleries and open space containing tidal pools and a glimmering steel dome.
While further details are under wraps, Now United member Nour Ardakani promises the concert will be eye-catching.
"After spending a couple of weeks here, we are now very comfortable with the space," she says. "We feel just excited and honoured to deliver the show."
The Abu Dhabi show holds personal and professional resonance for Ardakani, 18. With Now United comprised of members from various cultures and regions – including Africa, South America, Australia, China and South-East Asia – the Lebanese singer and dancer is the sole representative from the Middle East.
The teenager was picked by group creator Simon Fuller – the music mogul behind The Spice Girls – as Now United's 16th member after an extensive regional talent search last year.
With Abu Dhabi marking Ardakani’s first full concert as an official band member, her ties to the region mean a leading role in Thursday’s show. Her roots will also be proudly displayed, with the Lebanese flag emblazoned on her all-white tracksuit.
"It is an honour to represent not only Lebanon but the wider Mena region and particularly its youth," she says. "I hope I can be in some small way an inspiration to the audience."
If Ardakani faces any jitters, she knows her fellow bandmates have got her back. Filipino-English singer Bailey May, 18, remembers being in similar shoes when undergoing a 2018 tour of the Philippines only months after joining Now United.
"When we go to each of our countries or regions, the person from there tends to take the lead,” he says. "So when I was in the Philippines, it was me speaking to people on stage and doing the interviews. It was an amazing experience."
In tune with diversity
It is these insights that make Now United anything but your usual pop group. The group’s eclectic member base and sheer size means work can be shared and a lot of musical ground covered.
This is how Now United managed to release a staggering 48 singles and 47 music videos all within four years, in languages including Tagalog, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and, most recently, in Arabic with 2020's Habibi.
Now United's focus on diversity gives the relentless workload meaning, says May.
After gaining recognition with his YouTube covers of songs by Filipino singer Daniel Padilla, and then coming third place in the 2015 season of Pinoy Big Brother: 737, May relishes the fact he can live out his pop star dreams without diluting his identity.
“Social media is such an important platform now and particularly in the Philippines. You can just use that to start your career.”
A worthy collaboration
Now United's ethos of celebrating culture is also what ultimately convinced Louvre Abu Dhabi to host their concert.
Rabate says the move does not represent an open invitation to any group to use the venue for concerts or music videos. Like in all rich collaborations, values need to align to make it work.
"This is why the partnership with Now United is so strong," he says. "We have similar values in that we want to outreach to the community and communicate.
"Each collaboration is about this exchange of values and stimulation. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is not here as decor; when we do something like this, it is because it makes absolute sense."
Now Love – Live From Abu Dhabi will be streamed on Now United's YouTube channel on Thursday, July 1 from 10pm GST