DUBAI // Aspiring young musicians and performers took to the stage last night to send an uplifting message at the launch of a new monthly open microphone night in Dubai.
An excited audience of about 70 young people were treated to a mix of entertainment including rock and rap music, and poetry readings in the main hall of the Global Youth Empowering Movement (GYEM) centre in Festival City. The centre organised the event as a way of encouraging and providing a platform for talented young people to perform.
"I was really nervous but I got a great response from the audience," said Sonya Shadravan, a 21-year-old Iranian-American who read her own poetry. "I wrote this piece when I was doing voluntary work in Uganda and it's about racial politics. I've performed it before in New York but I still get nervous. It's very personal to me and I'm glad it got such a good response."
The evening shifted gear from solo vocalists to bands, and performers in their low teens were part of the programme.
"This is our debut performance tonight so we were a little nervous," said Benjamin Zack, a 14-year-old from Singapore who is part of the rock n' roll trio Gravity's Rainbow. The group performed a cover of the US rock band Weezer's If You're Wondering If I Want You To, which was well received by the crowd.
"We've performed in front of friends and have been practising for several months so hopefully it went well," added Zubayr Hossain, the band's 15-year-old Bangladeshi guitarist. "We would love to make this our profession but there aren't that many opportunities music-wise in Dubai."
Ritz Miranda, a 17-year-old Filipino who is in his final year at high school, led a jam session on stage with a couple of friends with his acoustic guitar, performing Coldplay's The Scientist and The Fray's Look After You.
"I love both of them because lyrically the songs are amazing," he said. "I like acoustic music because it creates a real chilled-out vibe."
The theme of the night was to play uplifting music or performance art. Music could be a positive force for good and to lift people's spirits, which was the idea behind the event, said Seaon Shin, a 19-year-old American who is also the founder of GYEM.
"Open mic nights are very common in the US and we wanted to do something that would give young people the chance to show their musical or performance art skills," said Ms Shin, who has been in Dubai for five years and is taking a gap year to help build the group before she goes to university in the US.
"The sad thing is that in Dubai young people don't really get the opportunity to showcase their musical talents, but with the interest we've had for our first open mic night that will change," she said.
"Our aim is to have an event like this once a month, maybe in the third week of every month. I think there is enough demand for this kind of event and we aim to continue hosting them."
GYEM is made up of teenage volunteers and requires donations to stage events and to maintain its new centre. Ms Shin said the organisation couldn't exist without them.
"We rely heavily on volunteers giving up their time and sponsorship from companies who help donate paint or furniture for example," she said.
"It's difficult sometimes but there is enough goodwill to help keep us going."