Senior Project Expands Abu Dhabi Music Scene

AUHDIO, a project that aims to vitalize the music scene in Abu Dhabi, held its first showcase on Saturday, Nov. 16. The event was held in Sama Tower as ...

Nov 16, 2013

AUHDIO, a project that aims to vitalize the music scene in Abu Dhabi, held its first showcase on Saturday, Nov. 16. The event was held in Sama Tower as a preview for later showcases, which will be held at other venues around the city. Music groups and bands from the greater UAE community joined NYU Abu Dhabi students to perform their music.
AUHDIO is the Capstone project of senior Manuel Jose Nivia Obando. AUH, Obando explains, refers to the Abu Dhabi airport code, and -DIO is added to complete the musical term. Obando was driven to pursue a community-based project because he identified a gap in the current Abu Dhabi music scene.
"Unlike other large cities, the main music [is] centered on clubs and places that you have to be 21 to go [to]," said Obando. "So I thought there is a great need for live music in the city and there is a market that is not being targeted."
Margherita Giacobbi, who lives in Abu Dhabi and attended the event, said that AUHDIO also targets a specific group of musicians who usually do not have a performance outlet. Giacobbi has been in Abu Dhabi for eight months and attended many different performing arts events. She said that the music scene is polarized by two extremes: the pubs and restaurants where music is played in the background, in contrast to opulent performing arts events in locations such as Emirates Palace and Manarat Al Saadiyat.
"Hidden somewhere in Abu Dhabi is this talent, and this identity of artists-to-be, musicians-to be," Giacobbi said of musicians in the AUHDIO showcase. "You can see their drive ... they want to play a role in the performing arts field in this city."
Giacobbi was confident that AUHDIO could fill the gap in Abu Dhabi's music scene.
Among the musicians in the showcase was Dubai-based music group Cannonball Productions, who performed beatboxing, singing and rap in both English and Arabic. Asked whether he thinks the music scene in Abu Dhabi is lively, rapper MC Yazen gave a resolute, “No.”
"It's great to be here and do some music because usually in Abu Dhabi there's no open mic, there's no place to perform," said MC Yazen. "I usually perform in Dubai."
Andrei Ramos, who performed with a band at the AUHDIO showcase, is usually not motivated to perform music in Abu Dhabi. Ramos is an admissions consultant for GDS Knowledge Consultants in Abu Dhabi.
"One deterrent for the music scene is that people can't just sit down on the street and start busking," said Ramos. "There's not much of an outlet ... I've been deterred from even trying [to perform] because I think of all the formalities involved."
Ramos commends projects like AUHDIO for creating more platforms for local musicians.
Yohann Samuel, a student from Heriot Watt University in Dubai, performed with Ramos' band as a vocalist and guitarist. Samuel studies psychology and does not plan to pursue music as a career, but enjoyed the AUHDIO event as a social activity.
"Manuel just pulled me in and he said, whatever instrument is vacant, pick it up and use it," said Samuel. "I don't [usually] perform — the guys over here, we know each other from church ... and we just jam together."
Obando plans to send videos of the showcase to other venues in order to book more performance spaces.
"I want to show what kind of vibe I'm going for, what styles of music I can offer and hopefully excite not only the people in NYU ... but to impact the city and step outside the school," said Obando.
Among the audience were representatives from White Cube, a music production company in Abu Dhabi that aims to “give the music scene of Abu Dhabi a place to belong,” according to its Facebook group.
Although student turnout was relatively low, audience members ranged from professionals in the music sector to students from local universities to NYUAD faculty members and family.
Giacobbi was pleasantly surprised by the event. She was invited by Obando, who has sought her advice for music projects in the past.
"I had no expectations, but I know Manuel and I came to trust his entrepreneurial drive and his talent," said Gicobbi. "I didn't expect to find such a vibrant, warm, friendly and at the same time, such a high-profile, talented crew."
AUHDIO's next performances will be held in the spring semester once a month. Confirmed venues include popular study café Argo Tea and the Armed Forces Officer's Club in Al Maqtaa.
Joey Bui is news editor. Email her at
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