Expo 2020: AR Rahman calls Dubai a ‘Yes place’

The music legend is directing an all-women 50-member Firdaus Orchestra for Expo 2020 Dubai

Oscar-winning music composer AR Rahman, who is directing the Firdaus Orchestra for Expo 2020, said Dubai is a “Yes country” and his all women-ensemble is a statement of equality and creativity.

“The world has certain opinion about the Middle East… that the women are like this… and they don’t play music. But Dubai is a Yes place. Everything is a Yes! Yes, we can do it. Yes, it is possible! Yes, we can progress. That is a big statement,” said Rahman during an interview to Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

The global music legend who has won two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards and a Golden Globe for his compositions, is currently in Dubai to mentor his all-female Firdaus team.

He said Dubai is place where people from across the world — from Oman, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Croatia, Armenia — came together to create a dream team.

“And everyone is coexisting and understanding each other like a sisterhood. People fear what they don’t understand. So, when they come together and create something beautiful like music… they are making a big statement,” said Rahman who shot to international fame with his ‘Jai Ho’ musical from the rags-to-riches 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire.

The maestro said he is “super impressed” by how Dubai has pulled off the Expo despite the challenges and delays caused by the pandemic.

“I have been seeing the (Expo) site for almost two years. I have been here, coming in and out. Even though we had setbacks… the whole world had setbacks… still they were doing this… They have got the whole infrastructure set and the blueprint ready on how to do things. I am super impressed. I am enjoying my time here,” said Rahman.

The orchestra, under his mentorship, has brought together 50 women of 23 different nationalities and draws inspiration from the various musical traditions and uses instruments such as the oud, rebaba and darbuka. It will debut at the inaugural ceremony of Expo on September 30. The orchestra will perform two concerts led by Rahman at Expo 2020 Dubai, a special show for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, among a number of other events.

He said the orchestra will perform eight to ten concerts throughout the six months of Expo.

“I am writing lot of pieces (for the orchestra). The big premier will be on the Space Day on October 23. So, they are going to perform pieces about space. Then there is also another piece I am working on. The studio will also have lot of activities for visitors like workshops.” he said.


Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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