Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Review: Colombian superstar Maluma brings 'radio-friendly reggaton' to Dubai

The 'Corazon' singer was in fine form with a colourful show at the Coca-Cola Arena

If it is good enough for Madonna, then it is good for the UAE.

Ever since making international waves last year by appearing in two songs of Madge’s album, Madame X, Colombian singer Maluma’s career has become an international concern. In response, the 26-year-old took his brand of radio-friendly reggaeton on his biggest tour yet.

The UAE got a taste of that undeniable star power when Maluma took the stage at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on Valentine’s Day.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Saeed Saeed: Latin superstar Maluma performs at the Coca Cola Arena in Dubai. Friday, February 14th, 2020. Coca Cola Arena, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Columbian superstar Maluma performs at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai on Friday, February 14. Chris Whiteoak / The National

While he didn’t arrive bearing roses (it was the opposite, actually, with many of the female fans up front bringing bouquets of their own for the star) Maluma did seduce an adoring crowd with a slick and fast moving set full of his reggaeton bangers, laser sharp visuals and more dancers than a K-Pop concert.

It also confirmed why Latin pop concerts are just more fun to experience. From Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin’s Dubai shows in 2017 and 2018 respectively, to Enrique Iglesias’s 2015 Abu Dhabi gig, these events were concert high points in the region for their lack of pretence. Latin pop shows are more concerned about having a good time than being cool.

Such was the case for Maluma’s UAE debut. He may have the movie star looks and cool shades, but his show benefitted from his keen understanding of not taking himself too seriously.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Saeed Saeed: Latin superstar Maluma performs at the Coca Cola Arena in Dubai. Friday, February 14th, 2020. Coca Cola Arena, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Maluma seemed to enjoy every moment on stage at the Coca-Cola Arena. Chris Whiteoak / The National

From the winning one two punch of the tropical groovers Mala Mia and Corazon, Maluma didn’t let up as he and his crew of dancers swept through a hip swivelling set showcasing why reggaeton could be in line to take over hip-hop as the dominant pop music form.

Like most modern genres, it’s a cocktail of styles anchored by its own distinct rhythms. Its Caribbean flavour is perfectly highlighted in the sunny No Se Me Quita, while its hip-hop heart is all over Borro Cassette, in which Maluma demonstrated his nimble rap flow.

But it is the slower numbers that are Maluma’s secret weapon. Stripped down versions of 11pm and El Prestamo gave us a moment to get past the looks and theatre, and focus on his rich tenor voice. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar and thousands of fans singing along, they were marvellous moments that hinted at the super-stardom that is surely to come his way.

A fine showcase for the Coca-Cola Arena

On that note, it is important to state this was a rather significant show for the Coca-Cola Arena and the UAE concert scene as a whole.

Maluma’s high-tech lighting and visuals not only acted as fine showcase for the new venue’s abilities, but the show’s attendance by a strong and multicultural crowd will go a long way in convincing further acts to lock in the UAE as part of their international touring plans.

Maluma’s gig also bucked the tired trend of hosting Latin pop concerts by veteran names. The fact that he is a rising star who kicked off a string of European tour dates with a night in the UAE puts the country’s music lovers where we have long wanted to be, and that is part of the global cultural conversation.

Updated: February 15, 2020 01:45 PM

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