Hekayat History & Hope

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As part of Abu Dhabi Festival’s exciting year-long hybrid virtual programme, under the theme The Future Starts Now, Hekayat: Symphonic Tales, by Emirati composer Ihab Darwish, will launch on 30 March at abudhabifestival.ae. The performance traverses the globe in 13 compositions played by 128 musicians in 20 countries, capturing the musical traditions and cultures of every continent.

Hekayat, which means tales in English, makes history as the first performance of its kind by an Emirati artist. In a marvel of technological sophistication, the performers, recorded separately in their countries, will appear together as one orchestra on the stage of Abu Dhabi’s luxurious Emirates Palace Auditorium. Ihab Darwish brings together a powerhouse group of international musicians, including Krakow’s acclaimed Beethoven Academy Orchestra, conducted by maestro Tomasz Tokarczyk, VOX Chamber Choir, tenor José Cura, virtuoso musicians Sara Andon, Kod, Carlos Piñana and Kinan Azmeh as part of Abu Dhabi Festival’s commitment to cultural diplomacy and mission to supporting the growth of the performing arts in the United Arab Emirates and at a global level.

With musicians, performers and the orchestra filmed individually in 21 cities around the world, the symphony required 675 zoom sessions and 86,600 man-hours of planning and production. The individual performances were synchronized digitally, and innovative post-production technology placed all 128 artists on a virtual 3D model of the stage. H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival, said: “Ihab Darwish’s “Hekayat” international premiere is an extraordinary global journey of symphonic music in which artists from all corners of the world come together in the composer’s universal message of peace and cultural understanding, that seamlessly aligns with Abu Dhabi Festival’s mission.

Through innovative technology, Abu Dhabi Festival is thrilled to present its second commission of Ihab’s work as a unique virtual production to audiences globally.” Ihab Darwish said, “I am constantly experimenting with different genres, instruments, and time frames in music. The experimental nature of Hekayat is inspired by my inherent hope for a better future and belief in shared human values. Since my first engagement at Abu Dhabi Festival, the format of performances has been transformed by the pandemic, and yet music’s profound emotional impact and power to soothe are more important than ever. As a unique virtual event, Hekayat will be accessible to all audiences around the globe, which is a great advantage.” Ihab Darwish is the first Emirati composer in his genre to have his music distributed by international publisher Universal Music MENA and first guest composer of the Beethoven Academy Orchestra.

He specializes in composing classical music, featuring distinct Western, Arab and Khaleeji fusions, which has become his signature style. In Hekayat, he further develops this style with exceptionally unique instrumental, musical and vocal fusions. This first-of-its-kind performance is available from 30 March until 11 April at AbuDhabiFestival.ae/Hekayat-Symphonic-Tales. Hekayat: Symphonic Tales is released by Universal Music in its second collaboration with Darwish. His first album Waves of My Life was released in 2018. “When I was invited to participate in this project, I had no idea who was involved and what I would find on the other side. Until I discovered in Ihab Darwish a fresh talent with a bright future ahead. And when you add the support of the Abu Dhabi Festival and Universal MENA, then success is guaranteed. It is a pleasure to be part of this project that unites people through music in a moment when this is so crucial.” José Cura, opera singer “It is an immense honor to be a part of the spectacular symphony. Darwish’s music is magnificent, and the roots of his creativity contain much of the ancient Arabic vision and pioneer spirit. His melodies emerge from his DNA and go beyond international output.” Takuro Susaki, Kod President “I am happy to be back at the Abu Dhabi Festival this year through this wonderful collaboration with composer and friend Ihab Darwish. Thank you, Abu Dhabi Festival, for mounting this remarkably ambitious, culturally rich, and creative project during a time of isolation. And a heartfelt thank you to Ihab for inviting me into his home, his creative mind, and for allowing me to contribute to it.”

Kinan Azmeh, clarinetist Emirati artist Ihab Darwish has played music since ten. Graduating in Art and Media, he has pursued a career of image and sound fusion to become a recognized composer. In 2017 a breakthrough was cooperation with the Beethoven Academy Orchestra in Poland. His first album “Waves of My Life” was launched in 2018, reaching audiences through International distribution by Universal Music MENA. The premiere of his orchestral work: “Waves of My Life: Every Real Story Begins with a Note” was held in 2018 at the prestigious Emirates Palace for the Abu Dhabi Festival. This performance left the audience captivated and eagerly anticipating Darwish’s further development. In March 2018 Darwish was bestowed ‘First Guest Composer’ by the Beethoven Academy Orchestra and invited to participate as Ambassador of the Euro Mediterranean Music Academy – EMMA for Peace.

In the same year, Darwish composed music for the award-winning documentary “She” (2018) directed by Philip Jamel Rashid. A further unique collaboration saw Darwish composing a piece of signature music for Zahra Lari, the UAE first figure skater, to be used in her performances worldwide. Darwish also collaborated Nahda Foundation, Emma For Peace and Opera For Peace. In 2019 Darwish worked in collaboration with the Emirates’ Ministry of Education on the historic theatrical performance ‘Voice of Tolerance’ produced by Dragone and staged at Le Perle in Dubai. The same year Darwish was invited to be a key composer at the UAE 48th National Day celebrations.

This government invitation was for the show “Legacy of Our Ancestors”, It was attended by the UAE leadership, royalty, international dignitaries amongst the 14000-strong audience and his music has been performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. In 2020 Darwish was commissioned by The Palm Fountain (Dubai, UAE) – world’s largest fountain by the Guinness Book of World Record, to compose an official musical theme “Aim For The Sky” as a sonic brand and its signature music. The composition pays homage to the UAE’s culture as well as capture Dubai’s cosmopolitanism and is performed regularly at The Palm Fountain at The Pointe, Dubai, from December 1, 2020.

Abu Dhabi Festival Founded in 2004, Abu Dhabi Festival was initially a small arts and culture platform that soon graduated to one of the world’s premiere annual events. Held in the UAE, it celebrates artistic and creative excellence, and promotes the role of music and the arts in bringing nations closer. It also promotes Abu Dhabi as a leading global hub for creativity and as an Emirati beacon for respect and tolerance. Strengthened by a growing network of 30 international partners, the festival brings audiences together each year to enjoy world premieres and exclusive commissions in the UAE and around the world. For more information, please visit www.abudhabifestival.ae

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation Founded in 1996, ADMAF is one of the oldest, not-for-profit cultural organisations in the Arabian Gulf. Pioneering new artistic practices, it seeks to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue and inspire a renewed interest in the creativity of the UAE and Arab world. Often in partnership with leading national and international institutions, it delivers multidisciplinary initiatives for people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities through the Abu Dhabi Festival, year-round youth platforms and community programmes.

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