x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The tale of a region's rich history, told by Emiratis

The Qasr Al Hosn festival is entirely local 'from head to toe', says its director and producer Murad Shisha.

ABU DHABI // More than 173 Emirati performers are participating in the shows at the Qasr Al Hosn festival.

“This festival is entirely local from head to toe,” said Murad Shisha, the entertainment director and producer of the festival, which has been running since February 28.

The entire production team is also based in the UAE.

“Even all the footage we shot for the show is local. When we needed a sunset we took video of one in Umm Al Quwain. The video taken in Liwa was used for visuals of the oasis. Everything originated from here, which is a great achievement,” Mr Shisha said.

He said it was not difficult to locate an all-Emirati performing crew.

“There are many Emirati performers in the country to choose from, but we wanted to pick those with the ability and willingness to work and rehearse.”

Many of the groups were used to less structured shows, so they needed to endure more than three weeks of rehearsing to get things in sync.

“It was great to see the cultural groups working so hard and committing to timings,” said Eissa Al Qubaissi, the manager of the Abu Dhabi Folklore Society.

“This will no doubt enhance their skills.”

Mr Shisha agreed: “We are empowering these artists to do theatrical performance, which require script, use of props and commitment. Their talents are now applicable in many different arenas.”

Most of these performers are used to entertaining VIPs and weddings, which means their traditional talents are usually only seen by Emiratis.

“The involvement in this show has exposed them to a much greater audience, including expats, who are unfamiliar with the Emirati culture and heritage,” said Mr Shisha.

He said many people were surprised to learn the origin of some of the Emirati arts.

Through the performance many of the audience learnt Nahhami, a fisherman style of singing used to entertain and motivate the pearl divers, who had to remain out at sea for days at a time.

The audience’s feedback has been positive, with some Emiratis saying they thought some of the local artforms had long died. “An elderly man came to me in tears saying he didn’t know a particular style of singing he had heard was still alive,” said Mr Shisha.

This is the first time modern techniques have been incorporated into traditional shows. “We even have performers breaking out in performance flash-mob style to surprise the audience,” said Mr Shisha.

Mubarak Al Ottaiba, a folklore consultant for the festival, said the shows in no way took away from the folklore and the heritage.

“These performances only highlight the culture of the Emirates in a different setting but are all true to nature,” he said.

The festival, which is separate from the show, splits the performers into four different zones, the marine, desert, Abu Dhabi and oasis sections, with all 173 artists being brought together on the main stage for the final performance.

Qasr Al Hosn Festival will run until Saturday.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae