Danny Aridi is one to watch. That status is certified after the Canadian-Lebanese singer-songwriter won a string of talent competitions over the past two years, including Virgin Megastore’s Best Artist (from more than 160 artists across the Mena region) and the Emerging Talent competition in Abu Dhabi last year.
More than the industry kudos – which resulted in the 25-year-old Dubai resident landing a deal with Universal Music Mena – winning the latter talent quest landed him the opportunity to open for acts booked to perform on Yas Island. This meant warming up the stage for the likes of pop superstars Pink, Katy Perry and, most recently, last weekend's du Forum gig by Fifth Harmony.
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While all these gigs are tightly run and the supporting acts rarely get to meet the headliners, even Aridi knew something was up with the Fifth Harmony show when their management made a specific request.
"I was told not to play Havana by Camilla Cabello," he recalls. "I was like, 'OK', and thought that was a bit weird."
As it turned out, the order not to play the hit track by the former girl group member was part of the overall vibe of despondency within the camp in Abu Dhabi – it came to a head two days later when Fifth Harmony announced they were going “on hiatus”.
These are all instructive moments for Aridi, whose career is on the rise. He will perform several sets on the Abu Dhabi Corniche this week as part of the Mother of The Nation Festival and is looking forward to introducing himself to the masses.
“You know, these gigs – from supporting all these big-name artists to these festivals – where people don’t know you are all important,” he says.
“You learn a lot about the industry and are given a space to connect with the people. I always spend a little time to explain my story and how I got here. The aim is for them to be on your side by the end of the show.”
Born in Lebanon, Aridi and his family moved to the UAE as a teenager to complete his high school. After which, Aridi went solo to Canada for a seven-year stint to complete his university degree.
It was only upon returning to the UAE two years ago, with a fistful of songs, that he decided to focus on his music career. While acknowledging that the music scene in the UAE is nowhere near as developed as it is in North America, there are still ways to get things done here.
“Collaboration is a big thing here and you can get a lot of things if you all work together,” he says.
He points to his earlier single Home, which was given a broody professionally shot video for virtually no cost.
“That had a vintage location, a corn field and really high-end production,” he says. “Now that was done through a collaboration with a start-up music production company in Canada who were looking to shoot a music video to add to their portfolio. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, especially nowadays when you are competing with major artists who all have these crazy budgets.”
The next track destined to receive the visual treatment is Aridi's new single, Who, which is another solid addition to his folk-pop body of work.
Not only will it receive its live premiere in Abu Dhabi this weekend, it will be added to the set list when Aridi supports the Back Street Boys’ sold-out Dubai show at the Blended Festival on April 20.
“I was a fan of the group back in the day,” he says.
“I even had their T-shirt. I would wear it on stage ... that’s if I could find it”
Danny Aridi performs on Thursday and Friday at Mother of The Nation Festival at Abu Dhabi Corniche. For details, visit www.motn.ae