Actor Idris Elba played a thematically smart selection of danceable music. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Actor Idris Elba played a thematically smart selection of danceable music. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Review: DXBeach returns with a busy yet musically lacklustre edition

It has been a year this month since Sandance called it a night.

In the meantime, the team behind the popular dance event at Atlantis The Palm, returned with DXBeach, the new and more boutique festival hosted at SkyDive Dubai’s Zero Gravity venue.

Launched in April, DXBeach announced itself with the hefty clout of a DJ set from Mark Ronson, who at the time was in the peak of his Uptown Funk fame (weirdly, Ronson was also in the UAE over the weekend with a performance in the capital's inaugural Green Grooves on Thursday).

But it was clear from the chatty, scattered – but busy – audience that Friday’s follow-up bill lacked the same sense of surprise or expectation.

You could blame the unimaginative booking. Headliners Clean Bandit played Sandance 12 months ago, while Jess Glynne – who sings the band’s two biggest hits – appeared at the DXBeach’s April event.

So when the set opened with Real Love, there were probably plenty of people in the audience who, like me, were hearing the song on a beach in Dubai for the third time in a year.

It was the same story when the musicians re-emerged for an encore no one really asked for, to play Rather Be. A great tune, but something was missing. This ­appeared to be Budget Bandit.

The group – formed by classically trained Cambridge students – have one distinct unique selling point: combining live violin and cello parts with ­electronic beats to create a novel baroque-house hybrid.

But this time there were no strings in sight.

The three female vocalists did a good job of hyping the crowd, but they are paid employees. It wasn’t clear how many actual members of the quartet were onstage. This was more a live PA than the advertised concert ­experience.

Earlier in the evening, ­actor ­Idris Elba played a decent, 90-minute DJ set. In town to shoot upcoming blockbuster Star Trek Beyond (spoiler: he plays a villain), the Luther star seemed far more confident and competent behind the decks than his own hurried, ­haphazard Sandance slot in 2013.

Instead of last time’s ­genre-mashing grab-bag of crowd-pleasers, Elba made use of the longer stage time to build a thematically smart selection of credible and danceable house and electro.

From the large attendance, this event was a clear success.

But it’s notable the hangout “village” area of the venue often felt busier than the dance floor; many punters seemed happier to chat than watch the music.

The festival is set to return on November 30, but we might need some more novel names next time, if DXBeach is to truly win a space in our hearts.

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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