Rooftop Rhythms: Poetry series to hold virtual open-mic night to mark anniversary

The Abu Dhabi spoken-word series will stream performances to mark its eight years in business

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates- Jude Alqubaisi performing at the Rooftop Rhythms Spoken Word at NYUAD Arts Centre Lobby, Saadiyat.  Ruel Pableo for The National

The popular Abu Dhabi poetry performance series Rooftop Rhythms will go online this week.

Originally intended to be held as a celebration at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre, the long-running event will mark its eight-year anniversary with a virtual open-mic night, streamed live on Facebook on Friday, March 27, from 8pm.

Established in 2012 by US teacher Dorian Rodgers, Rooftop Rhythms has gone on to become one of the premier open-night events in the country, where amateur poets and spoken-word artists can showcase their talent.

With the event growing in popularity, Rooftop Rhythms – which began in the intimate setting of Cafe Arabia – changed various venues before finding a permanent home in 2015 at the NYUAD Arts Centre.

“Now that everyone is practising physical distancing, it seems like most people are craving the social contact of community, and the inspiration of live events,” said the centre’s artistic director, Bill Bragin.

“And there’s no institution I can think of that’s done more to build a community around the arts in the UAE than Rooftop Rhythms.”

Bragin doesn’t view the online format as a case of second best. Instead, it means an international audience can now sample the talent in the local spoken-word scene.

“I’m excited that we can invite a worldwide audience to discover how amazingly vibrant and diverse the artist community Dorian has been cultivating, in partnership with the arts centre, is," he said.

The event’s move online is part of the centre’s evolving Off the Stage initiative, which includes streaming a range of content, from music to cultural discussions.

With more online events to be announced soon, one talk you can experience is Arts Chat: The Business of Being an Artist, in which music artist manager Vickie Starr (who counts guitar virtuoso Kaki King among her clients) and Greg Kastleman from music booking agency Unbound Artist discuss the various jobs available in the music industry.

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