A new chapter has begun for the UAE's entertainment industry.
The live music scene came roaring back to life this month with the advent of Breakout DXB. Running on Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7, at Dubai hotel Rove Downtown, the festival was the first major UAE music event held physically amid the pandemic.
Spread across the hotel grounds, the festival was home to more than a dozen live music acts, film screenings, art and fashion stalls, food trucks and in-house industry conference, the Emirates Music Summit.
Featuring a range of UAE independent musicians such as soul singers Layla Kardan and Hamdan Al Abri, singer-songwriter Ghaliaa and fusion group Noon, the event was held in accordance with government-approved safety precautions.
These included paperless entry tickets, numerous and separate entry and exit points, and clear floor and wall signage ensuring a one-way flow of human traffic.
'It feels like a reunion'
Even with these important measures in place, Breakout DXB managed to conjure up some of that communal spirit associated with festivals. While everyone was safely spread apart – seats and couches were two metres apart and numerous sanitisation stations were on site – the joy of seeing live performances again was palpable among the crowd.
“It does feel like a reunion,” says Sarah Gojer, who performed on November 7 as DJ Sara G. “A lot of us have been away from each other for so long and it has really been tough. Just to be back, in touch and experiencing culture again, it really is a beautiful feeling.”
Such comments are music to the ears of festival co-founder Lobito Brigante. A veteran artist and event organiser in the UAE, he tells The National that the festival was created to rally the spirits of UAE creatives, many of whom suffered professionally in the wake of the pandemic.
"It had an impact on people. We saw them connect with others they didn't see for eight months," he says. "For me, personally, it was an opportunity to be with people who I love for various reasons and join them and see what happens when we can finally get together."
A blueprint for the future
While discussions are already under way surrounding future iterations of the festival, Brigante states it could return in various formats and in other emirates.
"Breakout is a launch pad. You can create these brands and identities, but it is really the substance that matters. What we are doing is really a way to reach out and create other cultural platforms that we can develop," he says.
"The DXB part of the name is only in this instance, because we plan to take Breakout into other places and we already have interest from other locations. We will definitely explore how we can grow.”
Until then, Brigante hopes the successful staging of the festival can act as a blueprint for organisers to create safe and entertaining events.
"As a festival we wanted to take that first step that people can replicate," he says. "Even if people do copycat events, I believe the benefit will be to the artists and culture and to set the template for more things in the future."