x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Middle East offers a growing list of music venues for all tastes

The advent of Music Hall Dubai will add variety to an already respectable choice of places to hear music of all kinds in the region.

While next year's arrival of Music Hall Dubai will add some much-needed variety to the UAE music scene, its addition will complement an already impressive list of iconic performing venues in the region.

The wider Arab world boasts a growing number of clubs, halls and auditoriums hosting musical acts ranging from pop stars and jazz groups to symphony orchestras.

Another musical venture on its way to the Gulf is Jazz at Lincoln Center at the newly built St Regis Hotel in Doha (www.stregisdoha.com). To be opened formally in April, the Qatar venue marks the first time the jazz institution has branched out from its home at the top of the hotel's New York sister-establishment.

The centre's director, the modern trumpet maestro Wynton Marsalis, flew in to Qatar earlier this month to launch the project formally in a special performance with students from the Qatar Music Academy.

The centre will hold performances six nights a week, with monthly residencies by local and international artists.

In a statement announcing the venue's opening, Omar Alfardan, the president of Resorts Development Company, the developer behind the hotel, said the centre's arrival would capitalise on Qatar's growing cosmopolitan population and appreciation of the genre.

"With Doha increasingly becoming an international, cosmopolitan city with a range of nationalities from all over the world, a unique and genuine jazz venue will contribute to enhancing the city's popularity," he said.

Another venue hoping to put its country on the map is Muscat's brand new Royal Opera House (www.rohmuscat.org).

Opened in October and designed by the team behind Dubai's Atlantis, the Royal Opera is a regal, state-of-the art 1,100-seater venue, principally for opera and ballet. The venue has already brought to Oman such luminaries as Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli, Yo-Yo Ma and the Mariinsky Ballet, from St Petersburg, who performed Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

But if that is not grand enough for you, try the Cairo Opera House (www.cairoopera.org). Part of the large Cairo National Cultural Center in the trendy Zamalek district, the venue is home to several resident companies, including the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, the Cairo Opera Ballet and the Cairo Modern Dance Theatre.

The venue features performances most nights in its three separate halls housing from 600 to 1,300 people. Forthcoming productions include a musical tribute to the late diva Umm Kulthum on January 4 and the Cairo Opera Company's staging of Puccini's La Bohème on January 10.

The Egyptian capital also offers the chance to watch bands in the more intimate setting of the Cairo Jazz Club (www.cairojazzclub.com). For over a decade, the club has been the centre of the city's thriving independent music community, as well as the host for several international performers including Stanley Jordan and Los Banditos.

One of the groups to have graced the venue's small stage recently is the Dubai acoustic crew Dahab. While most Middle Eastern music venues favour large audiences and big-name acts, the band's guitarist and vocalist Sharif Maghrabi said the Cairo Jazz Club was one of the region's rare small venues serving independent artists.

"It was a great experience because it was a nice and cosy place. The sound was great and the experience of engaging with the audience, feeding off their energy, was good," he said.

"It's definitely a platform for bands who want to come and play in the region and who can't play in these big large halls. The problem with playing in these large venues is that you also feel detached from the audience, while in smalls clubs the audience are literally a metre away from you."