‘Music Is All Around You, All You Have To Do Is Listen.’
– August Rush –
A step back in time
The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival is by far the biggest, the most awarded, and the longest running music festival in the region. It is the 1st ever multi-day music event that caters for all tastes from Jazz and Blues, to Pop and Rock. Over the years it has attracted more than 370,000 spectators, top international and local brands, and hundreds of artists such as Santana, The Script, Deep Purple, Jason Mraz, David Gray, Jools Holland, Alison Moyet, Train, Macy Gray, And Kool & The Gang, just to name a few.
The innovative idea of the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival developed into a popular concept which attracted jazz and music lovers from all over the world. The festival has grown a lot since its beginning. First, it was Anthony Younes CEO of the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival’s idea, a dream he nurtured throughout the years… With his determination and perseverance, he decided to take the leap and jump into the world of music and bring music lovers from all over the region and the world to Dubai, for the love of jazz!
Anthony’s idea saw the light in 2003 and from that moment on, developed to gain an international stance. The jazz festival committee is more of ‘a committee of friends who gather to discuss who the perfect artists for the upcoming year would be,’ stated Anthony. An artist who enjoys all kind of good music and an entrepreneur by default, Anthony responsibly decides to keep the artist in him backstage and move forward with his business skills in order to create the most popular multi-day music festival in the region. His success is tangible, as he was able to create the ultimate platform for international artists in Dubai, a platform which unites the whole world, in a same beat, on the same tunes…
Close up on the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival 2015
The most rewarded music event with eleven acclaimed awards to its name will take place at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre from February 25th until February 27th. This year announces great success in terms of artists’ line up and tickets selling. The artists’ selection includes James Blunt, on the first day of the festival, who is highly anticipated and acclaimed by the crowds. Christina Perri will be seen setting the stage for him as the opening act of the night. Those highly acclaimed singers will be followed by Sting the very next day, accompanied by dancer and violinist Lindsey Stirling. The walk of fame doesn’t stop here as the third night of the festival will host John Legend as well as Esperanza Spalding.
Exclusive Interview with:
Dubai Jazz Festival’s CEO
Interview conducted by: Marie-Christine Tayah
What do you do in your free time?
Either I’m working or thinking about what to do next. Or walking, riding my bicycle, taking my son for a ride, or having an activity with my wife and my son.
How did it all start?
I was based in Dubai. I have already been living in Dubai for 5, 6 years, and I was working as a producer for many events and I decided that I wanted to start something. The idea was always at the back of my head for ten whole years before I started to jump in. I wanted to start something like the Jazz Festival, similar to the ones around the world in Montreal and Montreux, which would grow and become iconic. The first year was the toughest year on me because I didn’t have anything. It was very difficult to translate the ideas into reality. It took me at least one year to convince sponsors to come on board. I didn’t have any material to show them and I couldn’t show them anything from abroad as I wanted to cater something especially for Dubai. The idea was perfectly right with all the sponsors. After the first night, the sponsors came to me and started negotiating for the next year as they have seen what was going on in my mind.
So would you consider yourself a creative person?
Yes, I am a creative person.
What was your motivation to keep moving forward with this cultural buriness line?
To me, it’s business, just like any kind of business. If I had to think with two brains, it would never work. The only brain that is working now is the one that is looking at the numbers. To me, it’s a business. It’s not a hobby. I don’t do it just to enjoy myself.
What is the Jazz Festival’s added value?
On a personal level, it created lots of values. We created something very unique. We set some standards in the market. We created an iconic event. From the outside, the government needs to realize its real value, as it is not just another event in Dubai. It is important for Dubai itself. The Jazz festival is important to the people in Dubai and to the artists and music lovers abroad. I receive everyday hundreds of emails from hundreds of artists who would like to be present or associated with the Dubai Jazz Festival. Thus, Dubai is now a hub for another jazz festival around the world.
Would you say you’re a pioneer in this field?
My company is a pioneer in this field, yes. We started something that no one dared to start before. We have been the only music festival in Dubai for about 10 years, as we started in 2003. No one knew at that time how to do a multiday music event and a multiday music festival.
Who helps you in the artists’ selection and what are the criteria that you use to base your selection on?
We’re a small committee of friends. It’s not an official committee; we sit together and we start putting down names together for the upcoming year. Then, the criteria are based on who would sell more tickets and cost less.
As you mentioned Sting as your favorite artist, is it also an opportunity to meet your favorite artists?
I don’t consider it as an opportunity to meet the artists. I only have met two or three artists out of hundreds of artists we hosted. I try to stay away as much as I can from artists; it’s better technically. I might say hello to the artists, but if you check my office, there is no pictures of me taking poses with the artists. Most of the pictures I had with artists were taken on the spot by photographers.
Are you positive about this year’s selection?
I am very positive about this year’s festival. What backs my optimism is the numbers, as we have had a 51% increase in sales as compared to last year at this stage. It’s going to be a big sell out this year. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Would you consider shifting this platform to another counry?
We thought about it. Still, Dubai is unique and there is no other place similar to it. From a business side, if you consider any other place in the Middle East, there is nothing like Dubai. It’s a cosmopolitan city and people still have some money to spend. You can cater for multiple communities. We tried to do it in Abu Dhabi, it didn’t work really well. It might work in Beirut, but again, the situation is not really stable there. In order to start the Jazz Festival in Beirut and keep it going year after year, we need stability. First and foremost, the idea to start a jazz festival was actually in Beirut, not in Dubai. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and I don’t think it would ever work, if the situation remains the same in Lebanon.
Do you have any message for Jazz lovers?
This year we’re not doing the jazz garden, which was the biggest support of the jazz festival for the jazz lovers. Unfortunately, because it was pure jazz, we couldn’t find enough support to keep it going on. We would need support from the government and the sponsors to reactivate it –as we were having a huge number of crowd; 3000 to 4000 people every day, because it was free. If we wanted to make it payable, we would lose 80% of this crowd. Thus, we have put it on hold for now, hoping that we get the support needed to keep it going on for the upcoming years, as the production, organization, etc. costs a lot to put it all together –about 700,000 USD.
Any messages to young CEOs or young Entrepreneurs who decide to follow their dream or idea?
I would say that it’s not an easy road and they’d have to focus. If you want to do something, stick to it even if you fail the first and the second time, try the third, fourth, and fifth time, and it will work. And always stay focused. I see many young people who want to start out on their own. They come up with two hundred ideas and want to want to implement each of them, and I always tell them, choose ten out of those two hundred. Do your research and see which one will mostly probably work and start with it.
Any message to our Lifestyle readers?
Create your own Lifestyle. Don’t follow. I usually hate people following the trends… They can create their own trends.
MAIN GIGS PROGRAM
DAY 1 LINE UP – WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 25TH, 2015
Wednesday February 25th, 8:30 – 10:00pm
Her debut single “Jar of Hearts” sold over 3 million copies in the US and was a hit around the world. In 2012, she wrote and recorded “A Thousand Years” for the film The Twilight Saga, selling over 4 million copies in the US, being certified 4 X Platinum. Her second studio album, Head or Heart, was released on April 1, 2014. Its lead single, “Human”, is a worldwide huge hit.
Wednesday February 25th , 10:30 – 12:00am
Blunt has sold over 20 million albums and 17 million singles worldwide, with his debut album, Back to Bedlam, being listed as the best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK. He has received several awards and nominations, having won two Brit Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, two Ivor Novello Awards as well as receiving five Grammy Award nominations.
DAY 2 LINE UP – THURSDAY FEBRUARY 26TH, 2015
Thursday February 26th, 9:00 – 10:00pm
Lindsey Stirling is an American violinist, dancer, performance artist, and composer. She presents choreographed violin performances, both live and in music videos found on her YouTube channel, Lindseystomp, which she introduced in 2007. Since 2010, Stirling has released two studio albums, an EP, and several singles. Her debut eponymous album was a commercial success in Europe, selling 200,000 copies in Germany, winning a platinum certification. Three other certifications were given to her by Austria, Switzerland and Poland. Her debut album was nominated for the 2014 Billboard Music Awards in the section of “Top Dance/Electronic Albums”.
Thursday February 26th, 10:30 – 12:00am
Composer, singer-songwriter, Sting was born in Newcastle, England before moving to London in 1977 to form The Police with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. The band released five studio albums, earned 6 Grammy Awards and 2 Brits, and was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. As one of the world’s most distinctive solo artists, Sting has earned an additional 10 Grammy Awards, 2 Brits, a Golden Globe, an Emmy, 3 Oscar nominations, Billboard Magazine’s Century Award, and MusiCares 2004 Person of the Year. Throughout his enduring career, he has sold close to 100 million albums from his combined work with The Police and as a solo artist.
DAY 3 LINE UP – FRIDAY FEBRUARY 27TH, 2015
Friday February 27th, 10:30 – 12:00am
Is an American singer-songwriter and actor. Has won nine Grammy Awards. In 2007, Legend received the special Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His career gained momentum through a series of successful collaborations with multiple established artists. Legend played piano on Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything”. He has also gained chart topping hits from his solo work as well, including the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, “All of Me”. He added his voice to those of other artists, assisting in them reaching chart-topper hits.
Friday February 27th, 9:00 – 10:00pm
An American jazz bassist, vocalist, and composer, who draws upon many genres in her compositions. She has won four Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, making her the first jazz artist to win the award. Spalding combines and freely moves between musical worlds, performing and collaborating with the likes of Bruno Mars, Milton Nascimento, Jack Dejohnette, George Duke, Janelle Monáe, Herbie Hancock, Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Wayne Shorter.