Arab-Andalusian music, French-African art at Alliance Française Dubai - GulfToday

Arab-Andalusian music, French-African art at Alliance Française Dubai

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Anastasie Akibode's artwork.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The classical music scene in Dubai and the UAE is becoming more vibrant than ever. But perhaps locally based talents are yet to have fuller access to it. To make up for this, Alliance Française Dubai (AFD) is hosting a new series of chamber music concerts, in partnership with House of Pianos. It aims to give local artists the opportunity to perform and express their art in Dubai on a regular basis. An upcoming event in the series is the Arab-Andalusian Night on April 8 at the Alliance Française Dubai Theater, with the presentation of ‘Sonore Al Andalus.’ Taking place prior to the Holy Month of Ramadan, the concert is an immersion in Arab-Andalusian music.  For close to 800 years, the Iberian Peninsula in Europe was largely dominated by Arab States. Arab rule in this part of the world led to a Golden Age of tolerance and prosperity, not to mention its profound impact on the arts.


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‘Sonore Al Andalus’ is a show designed by Spanish soprano Isabel Cañada Luna. The recital opens with a poem by the 9th century poet Ibn Muafa Al-Qabri and unfolds with music by various Spanish composers showcasing Arab cultural and musical legacy. The audience will time-travel, through musical compositions spanning the 10th and the 20th centuries.

africa art 2 The Sonore Al Andalus music team.

Luna will be joined on stage by pianist Magdalena Wajdzik, violinist Crosby Barrett and percussionist Inas Halal. Luna is a soprano hailing from Malaga, Spain. She studied voice at the prestigious Escuela Superior de Canto conservatory in Madrid and began performing internationally at a young age. She has performed extensively across Europe and Asia, having appeared at Kontzerthaus Berlin, Berliner Philharmoniker, Teatro Real in Madrid, Auditorio de Tenerife, Tianjin Grand Theater, Harbin Concert Hall, Dubai Opera and Abu Dhabi National Theatre, to name a few. Her singing career includes a number of opera and zarzuela roles: Juliette from Roméo et Juliette (Gounod), Gretel from Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck), Musetta from La bohème (Puccini) and Pamina from The Magic Flute (Mozart).

She recently recorded a full concert for the Dubai Opera Online Music Series and also participated in a publicity campaign for Dubai Expo 2020. She currently lives in Dubai and her among her upcoming engagements are concerts in Europe and Asia. American violinist and violist Barrett holds a Masters Degree in Violin Performance from Baylor University (2012). Though initially inclined to teaching, she discovered a love for performing during her studies, touring with a guest orchestra accompanying the Baylor Acapella Choir under the direction of Dr Alan Raines, and as associate concertmaster for Baylor Symphony’s tour in Belgium.

africa art 2 The Sonore Al Andalus team practice their music.

Barrett has performed music ranging from Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, Handel Gloria with the Austin Baroque Orchestra to Beethoven Symphonies, Shostakovich Piano Quartet and folk music.In Dubai since 2012, she has been an active performer and collaborator on stage at Centre for Musical Arts, NYU Abu Dhabi, Sima Performing Arts, Emirates Palace and Dubai Opera, as well as at many private events.

Wajdzik, a native of Poland, is a pianist, educator, piano pedagogue and chamber music performer. She is a graduate of F Nowowiejski Music Academy in Bydgoszcz, Poland, as well as Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the prestigious Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary. She has been recognised as a soloist and a collaborator in Poland, United Kingdom, Hungary, United States of America and the United Arab Emirates. She received many awards, the most prestigious being winner of the Park Lane Group, which led to her appearance as a solo pianist at the South Bank Center in London.

Calling Dubai home since 2014, she started teaching piano at the Center for Musical Arts. She is now piano teacher and pianist in residence at NLCS Dubai. She has performed at the Chamber Music Concerts, New York University in Abu Dhabi, as well as in other Emirates.

Hailing from Syria, Halal graduated from the Faculty of Mass Communication at Damascus University. She is the first female Syrian drummer and percussionist. As a musician, she has performed internationally in various theatres, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, such as Dubai Opera, the Royal Opera House in Muscat and the Damascus Opera House. She was also part of the first female Syrian orchestra, Mary Orchestra. AFD is also presenting the artworks of Anastasie Akibode, a French artist with African roots. Opening April 12 at La Galerie, AFD’s art space, it is titled ‘Wired Artistic Energies,’ and will run till April 30.

Akibode’s African roots are in Cape Verde, Benin and Senegal. Her exposure to different cultures and interest in experiencing the uniqueness of each, is the driving force behind her search for a common universal framework for art. It also unifies her style. After moving to and settling in Dubai, she became a full-time artist in 2008. She furthered her art education at Dubai Art Center and was awarded the Merit Award for Painting in 2013.

Continuing her education, she attended the Beaux-Arts in Paris from 2016 to 2019. She has exhibited in several countries and her paintings were shown during Art Dubai at Tashkeel and at the Dubai Art Center. She is on the board of directors of ZeeArts and Art Connects Women. Exhibition curator Zaahirah Muthy says that “Anastasie’s art is very impressive, spontaneous, and vivid … Each of her artworks resonates with her personality, character and life experience …”

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