DUBAI: Ukrainian-born prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova and a star-studded cast of dancers from the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet company will perform in the UAE as part of the ninth Abu Dhabi Classics festival.
The event is set to take place over 11 days across various venues in the UAE capital between Jan. 28 and Feb. 7.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest ballerinas of her generation, Zakharova gained international recognition as a prima ballerina performing the Russian ballet company’s classic repertoire under legendary choreographer Yury Grigorovich.
During Abu Dhabi Classics 2020, Zakharova will star in “Modanse,” a brand-new double bill produced by Russian production company MuzArts.
In the first act the ballerina will perform in “Come Un Respiro (Like a Breath),” which celebrates the German composer George Frideric Handel’s music.
That will be followed by a performance by international choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s new ballet Gabrielle Chanel — a tribute to fashion icon and designer, Coco Chanel — with Zakharova in the title role. More than 80 costumes have been designed exclusively for the dance by Chanel Creative Studio.
On Feb. 6, Abu Dhabi Classics will also host a concert by Egypt’s Sanaa Nabil, the great grandniece of the legendary Arabic singer Umm Kulthum, who shot to fame on “Arabs Got Talent” by winning the Golden Buzzer.
She has carved a reputation for her contemporary interpretations of complex songs. Nabil will perform “Laylat Saltana” with members of Cordes Croisées, a group of Egyptian musicians, at the Cultural Foundation.
Abu Dhabi Classics’ grand finale will see Magida El-Roumi wow audiences at du Arena on Feb. 7.
Bahraini singer Mo Zowayed: ‘I’m not the sad and tortured type’
The Bahraini singer-songwriter discusses his latest album and keeping busy in lockdown
Updated 14 min 28 sec ago
MANAMA: Mo Zowayed’s email signature bills him as “Singer. Songwriter. Sleeper.” But the sleeping part of his repertoire is clearly not top of the 31-year-old Bahraini’s agenda.
Even in lockdown he’s busy, having recently taken part in an online concert to raise funds for Bahrain Animal Rescue Centre. (“I don’t know what life would be like without dogs and I’d rather not find out,” he says.) There’s another scheduled for the end of May.
He’s also just gone live with his “Viola Sessions” — a series of five original tunes from his latest album, “That Good Love,” released in November, captured at a local club — and he’s performing Instagram Live sessions every Saturday afternoon, besides writing a bunch of new material.
It’s no surprise Zowayed ended up as a musician. His dad, Yusuf, is an oud player and his grandfather Mohamed is a respected folk singer. His own musical journey, though, began with a spot of bribery.
“I started when I was 13. I struggled a bit in seventh grade with my math grades. My parents agreed to buy me a guitar if I managed to turn my grades around,” he says. “It was tough, but I did it. I got the guitar.” He’s now an accomplished player of several instruments, including mandolin, banjo, trumpet, ukulele and harmonica.
He didn’t start singing until he was about 25, though. He cites acoustic artists including Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz and Ben Harper as major influences. “I just loved the way that they could express themselves with just a guitar and (vocals). So, I started practicing like crazy,” he says.
Unlike many regional musicians, he was always set on writing and performing his own material, rather than covers. “I’m still surprised when I meet a good musician who doesn’t write their own stuff,” he says. “For me, it’s the most enjoyable part — there’s no feeling like performing a song you’ve written and having some of the audience singing along.”
Zowayed quickly established himself on the Bahrain music scene. “I started by accepting every single gig. I played everywhere — every little dingy venue. There were some well-known bands in Bahrain, but they played a couple shows a year, tops. I just wanted to put myself out there, and I was one of very few people doing that. What makes me happy is that almost every band in Bahrain is doing that now. We’ve got a community of working musicians who are on stage all the time. I love seeing that.”
His work ethic and determination eventually landed him an American tour — something few independent musicians from the Middle East manage to achieve. “I spent months emailing, calling and messaging venues in the US. I must have contacted over 100 venues and festivals. I didn’t give up, even after 50 rejections — no exaggeration. I just kept trying.
“Eventually I was offered a spot at Farmfest in Michigan. That gave me the motivation to keep trying to book shows. We played in Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Nashville, Alabama and Ohio. It was the most surreal time.”
From there, Zowayed and his “incredible band” The Moonshiners, got offered a support slot for UK star Jools Holland at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in 2017. “I just can’t overstate how magical that night was,” he says. In December last year, he and The Moonshiners were back on tour with Holland and played several shows of their own in the UK to support the release of “The Good Love.”
That album has evolved from the folky roots of Zowayed’s debut EP “New York Times,” partly because he’s playing an electric guitar, but he describes it as a natural progression.
“I really wanted to make an upbeat record, because that’s the kind of music I’m into these days. I’m a pretty upbeat guy,” he says. “I’m not the sad and tortured type, and I’ve realized that’s okay, I don’t need to be. As soon as I embraced that, the songs started pouring out. The result is an album that gets me excited every time I hear it.”
Zowayed’s goal is to be a touring musician, and he recognizes that that could mean leaving the GCC. “It’s simply not possible in the Middle East when it comes to non-Arabic music,” he says.
But his local fans don’t need to worry just yet. “I’m on a mission to put out as much music and as many videos as I can and play as many shows as possible,” he says. “And I hope to see everyone at a live show once we kick this virus in the behind.”