Expo 2020 Dubai: Grammy nominee Anoushka Shankar to perform with Firdaus Orchestra

The event that will take place on Sunday at Jubilee Park is being mentored by musical maestro AR Rahman

Anoushka Shankar. — Supplied photo
Anoushka Shankar. — Supplied photo

A Staff Reporter

Published: Fri 4 Feb 2022, 9:57 PM

Last updated: Fri 4 Feb 2022, 9:59 PM

The all-women Firdaus Orchestra is returning to Expo 2020 Dubai to perform at the mega fair’s Jubilee Park, complemented by the star power of multiple Grammy-nominated sitar player, producer, film composer and activist Anoushka Shankar.

The event that is to take place on Sunday at Expo 2020 is being mentored by musical maestro AR Rahman.

The ground-breaking orchestra is made up of 23 nationalities from across the Arab world, with an age range from 16 to 51.

AR Rahman said: “Representation in music is powerful. It’s incredible to welcome a musical powerhouse such as Anoushka Shankar to perform with the inspiring Firdaus Orchestra. To fill a void left behind by the master world-music icon Pandit Ravi Shankar is not easy, but his daughter Anoushka has gracefully stepped into the void with her own powerful voice, talent and courage to do brilliant collaborations with masterful elegance. Both Firdaus Orchestra and Anoushka symbolise a shift in the arts towards a more inclusive and beautiful world. It brings me immense joy to stage this show at the Expo 2020 Dubai.”

The orchestra’s upcoming show will feature a wide and varied repertoire, from Shankar's virtuoso sitar performance to music from Rossini's classic opera The Barber of Seville, as well as The Khorumi, a Georgian war dance.


The orchestra’s conductor Yasmina Sabbah said she was “honoured” to be performing with Anoushka Shankar.

She said: "I am so excited to resume our season with a very special concert. The eclectic repertoire, ranging from great symphonic works to contemporary and oriental compositions, represents the diversity this orchestra has to offer."

Multitalented British-Indian American Shankar, who has picked up seven Grammy nominations during her career and is the youngest and first woman to receive a British House of Commons Shield, said she cannot wait to experience first-hand the “iconic” Expo 2020 Dubai.

Anoushka Shankhar opined: “From childhood, music has taught everything from memorisation and number patterns to spirituality and the art of cultivating a craft. It has also opened my heart to empathy and connection with other humans. Empathy is at the heart of any generous act and central to any activism.”

The ensemble’s collaborative process is one that resonates strongly with Shankar.

She added: “Collaboration helps me to reach heights I can’t reach on my own. When I bring my strengths to the table and they marry with someone else’s, it feels like an alchemy and magic can happen. It’s an opportunity to learn from another person, culture and tradition and to move my own work forward.”

As an activist working with numerous causes and charitable organisations, particularly ones that support women and refugees, Shankar is proud to be part of an all-female project: “Issues as big as gender-equality have no quick-fix solution, but I’m not saying they’re insurmountable. Education plays an important part in raising humans who believe in equality across all differences. In music, this comes down to opportunity and representation.”

The Firdaus Orchestra will perform from 6.15 UAE time at Jubilee Park. Entry is free for all Expo 2020 ticket holders, but concertgoers are advised to arrive early.

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