ABU DHABI // Ibrahim al Junaibi, a 28-year-old Emirati who hopes to become the country's first major composer, was one of eight promising young pianists from the capital who performed at a recital yesterday to mark the 200th anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin's birth. The young musicians, aged eight to 29, each played a short sample of their well-practised pieces to an audience of around 100 at the event at the residence of the Japanese ambassador, Tatsuo Watanabe.
It was organised by the senior diplomat's wife, Setsuko, and Liliana Jaff, a local resident who is passionate about the piano. "This event is to keep each other inspired," said Mrs Jaff, whose 10-year-old daughter Shayanne was among the pianists. "This gives everyone a moment to shine and I am so impressed to see the Arab students - they are hidden treasures." Martin Hrsel, a piano teacher at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Development Piano school, said that in his 28 years of teaching he has never seen anyone as talented as Mr Junaibi.
The young Emirati cannot read music and doesn't intend to learn how, but he has managed to arrange many of the songs by Fairuz, the famous Lebanese diva, for piano, and is considered a promising pianist at school. "I have never seen anything like it before," said Mr Hrsel, a Czech who has been teaching at the school for two years with his wife Zdenka Kolarova. "He just hears something in his head and plays it. He wants to be the country's first composer and this is the first step."
The pianist also performed the country's national anthem with the Sharjah Music Center Orchestra across the emirates last year. "I just memorise music only, it makes me feel better," said Mr Junaibi, who currently works as a technician for an oil company. "My dream is to work in music." "I look up to Bach the most, he is my favourite," he said. "I play every day for at least an hour." The ministry's school is free to Emiratis, who must pass a test to take classes, while other nationalities are welcome but have to pay.
Two brothers, Saif, 22, and Mohammed al Jahory, 29, also attend the night classes. "I just started playing two years ago because my older brother plays," said Saif, a student at Adnoc Technical Institute. Mohammed, who works in customer service at a hospital, taught himself to play and bought his first piano 10 years ago. "I wanted to try something nice ... nobody in our family had ever played it before," he said.