French PM visits Louvre Abu Dhabi to launch ‘Cultural Dialogue’ initiative

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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks during his visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 10, 2018. (Reuters)
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (L) meets Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during a visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on February 10, 2018, on Saadiyat island in the Emirati capital, to launch the French-Emirati "Year of Cultural Dialogue". (AFP)
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, left, claps as Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development approaches the podium for her speech, during his visit of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. (AP)
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (2nd L) tours the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on February 10, 2018, on Saadiyat island in the Emirati capital, to launch the French-Emirati "Year of Cultural Dialogue". (AFP)
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (2nd L) tours the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on February 10, 2018, on Saadiyat island in the Emirati capital, to launch the French-Emirati "Year of Cultural Dialogue". (AFP)
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (2nd L) tours the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on February 10, 2018, on Saadiyat island in the Emirati capital, to launch the French-Emirati "Year of Cultural Dialogue". (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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French PM visits Louvre Abu Dhabi to launch ‘Cultural Dialogue’ initiative

DUBAI: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Saturday visited Abu Dhabi for the launch of the French-Emirati “Year of Cultural Dialogue” at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The project includes a six-month series of themed concerts and festivals that seek to encourage cultural exchange between the UAE and France.
The launch was held on Saturday and was attended by the French prime minister, Noura Al-Kaabi, the UAE’s minister of culture and knowledge development, and Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE’s minister of state.
The initiative will run from February to July and builds on the "Emirati-French Cultural Program," which was announced in 2016.
This year, the Emirati-French Cultural Program will shed light on artificial intelligence and protecting endangered cultural heritage.
After a decade of expectation, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors to the public in November and has since been visited by a number of international dignitaries, including French President Emmanuel Macron, the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and the UK's Prince Andrew, duke of York, and Princess Beatrice of York among others. 
For the next 10 years, 13 of France’s top museums will lend works to the UAE at their discretion and for a maximum of two years each.
The museum currently has hundreds of pieces on loan, including an 1887 self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Belle Ferronniere.”


‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan

‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2019
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‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan

  • Jordan-based indie-pop band 'Hayajan' has released a new album
  • The majority of tracks on “Khusouf Al-Ard” fall into one of two categories: Upbeat funky pop or slower synth-led ballads

DUBAI: It’s been more than five years since “Ya Bay,” the debut album from Jordan-based indie-pop band Hayajan, was released. Frontman Alaa Wardi was already hugely popular for his online videos of layered a capella covers, but in the years since he has become a genuine online phenomenon with almost a million YouTube subscribers and two solo albums to his name.
Wardi, and his voice, naturally, loom large over Hayajan’s recently released sophomore album “Khusouf Al-Ard.” But it would be a mistake to see this record as ‘Alaa Wardi plus musicians.’ Guitarists Odai Shawagfeh (who also plays with El Morabba3) and Mohammed Idrei, bassist Amjad Shahrouh, and drummer Hakam Abu Soud are equally responsible for Hayajan’s impressive sonic soundscapes.
The majority of tracks on “Khusouf Al-Ard” fall into one of two categories: Upbeat funky pop or slower synth-led ballads. Often, though, those pop tracks have pessimistic lyrics at odds with the bouncy, foot-tapping feel of the instrumentation.
In “Zubalah,” for example, Wardi warns a Martian newly arrived on earth to leave again ASAP because the planet is “trash” and “There is no hope for a better future.” On “Al-Ghabah,” he tells a tale of a bullying animal who becomes king of the jungle and burns it to the ground to quell an uprising, leaving himself ruler of nothing. A fable that could be relevant to any of the world’s ‘strongmen’ rulers.
Throughout the record Wardi shows his vocal chops not just on the top-line melodies, but with great choices of harmonies. The rhythm section is super-tight and the crystalline, angular guitar riffs are often instant earworms. Many of the tracks use the old ‘slow build to crescendo’ trick to great effect. “Kbirna” — a nostalgic ballad that employs Imogen Heap-style Vocoder effects — in particular culminates in the kind of soaring soundtrack-friendly climax that Sigur Ros seemed to have made their own in the Noughties.
The one bum note on the record is “Jibna Al-Eid,” in which Wardi’s requests for us all to come together cross the line into saccharine simplicity (as does the music). The result being a track that sounds like the kind of bad festive charity single usually accompanied by a video of the assembled vocalists grinning unconvincingly at each other.
Still, the rest of the album makes up for that misstep. Along with “Kbirna,” opening track “Yalla Bina” is a high point — driving, funky rhythms interspersed with staccato guitar stabs and a vibe reminiscent of French band Phoenix.
“Khusouf Al-Ard” is a confident, bold record that rewards the patience of the band’s fans.

Listen to the full album here: