Original UAE music to be streamed from space in rare opportunity

Students' musical compositions will be launched into space aboard a SpaceX rocket


Nasreen Abdulla

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Wed 5 Jun 2024, 1:48 PM

Last updated: Wed 5 Jun 2024, 11:04 PM

Two university students from the UAE are over the moon as their original music composition is set to be launched and streamed at the International Space Station (ISS) alongside pieces by award-winning musicians, following their success in a special competition.

New York University students Summer Reid and Nadine Kabbani are the winners of the inaugural ASTROBEAT – Music from Space competition, which offers students a rare opportunity to have their musical compositions launched into space aboard a SpaceX rocket.

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Summer Reid (L) and Nadine Kabbani. Photo: Supplied
Summer Reid (L) and Nadine Kabbani. Photo: Supplied

“I squealed with delight when I saw the email informing me that I had won,” said Nadine, speaking to Khaleej Times. The Emirati, who has a double major in Legal Studies as well as Music from the New York University of Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), submitted an experimental composition titled ‘No Gravity’ that merges synthesizers with classical instruments to create a futuristic soundscape. “I usually create pieces which are heavy on piano and other classical instruments but, for this one, I really pushed myself to create something space-worthy.”

American student Reid’s winning submission was an evocative piece titled “Little Brooks,” which was inspired by a deeply meaningful family reunion. The composition captures the essence of family bonds and the importance of returning to one’s roots and uplifting those who do not have the strength to pick themselves up.

'Surreal' experience

A senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Music Business at NYU Steinhardt, Reid has been a visiting student at NYUAD. “I’m so incredibly proud of this song and so grateful for this opportunity. As a child, my dream was to be an astronaut, so having my voice floating around the ISS is literally a dream come true. I’m so excited for this opportunity,” she said.

Nadine credited her friends for pushing her forward. “At one point, I was going to submit something that I was not very happy with because I was just so tired of how many times I had reworked it,” she said. “But my two best friends wouldn’t let me. They pushed me to continue working on it until I was happy. So they were the first people I called when I learnt that I had won.”

Later, when she called her family to tell her the news, her mother didn’t believe her. “When I told her that I won, she laughed and asked what I wanted,” she said. “But when I convinced her that I actually won, she was over the moon. I live in Dubai so when I went home from Abu Dhabi that weekend, she had organised a small party for me with a little cake. It was the sweetest thing.”

ASTROBEAT, is a project financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology through the Space Upstream Programme. The ISS payload opportunity is made available by Nanoracks, through its Space Act Agreement with Nasa’s US National Lab. The project is led by Leonardo Barilaro, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at MCAST. The collaboration with NYUAD was initiated and supported by Andrea Macciò, director of the Centre for Astrophysics and Space Science.

Leonardo Barilaro, also known as the Space Pianist, said the competition took space art to the “next level” and that it was a special opportunity for students.

“It was fantastic to listen to so many outstanding submissions,” he said. “For the students, this is a truly unique opportunity. Their compositions will be streamed from space alongside my music, in collaboration with the Grammy-nominated cellist Tina Guo and world-renowned producer Steve Mazzaro, as well as the music of Carlos Guedes.”

Associate Professor of Music at NYUAD Carlos Guedes, said the university was proud to host the competition for the first time. “This collaboration with MCAST not only highlights the incredible talents of our students but also showcases NYUAD’s commitment to promoting art through innovative projects,” he said. “Seeing our students’ compositions being launched into space is a remarkable milestone, and we are excited to contribute to this unique fusion of music and space exploration.


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