Two Contemporary Arab Composers Revive Khalil Gibran’s First Novel Broken Wings

Broken Wings is a lyrical novel about the young Khalil Gibran and his first love, Selma, in Lebanon. The story was published in 1912 and now the acclaimed musician, Dana Al Fardan, from Qatar and the Lebanese-English West End star, Nadim Naaman, (The Phantom of the Opera) are recreating it in the form of a musical. The premiere of the semi stage production with a 9-piece orchestra will be at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London, August 1-4.

After releasing two singles from the upcoming show, the producers announced the full cast:

Nadim Naaman is a co-writer of Broken Wings music but will also perform; he is going to narrate as Gibran. By his side will be Hiba Elchikhe (Princess Jasmine in the Australian production of Disney’s Aladdin) as Selma Karamy and Rob Houchen (Marius in the West End production of Les Misérables and Titanic at Charing Cross Theatre) as Gibran’s teenage self. The whole list of the remaining cast comes from the supreme layer of the UK opera and theater stage.

Khalil Gibran, who is the third most read poet in the world, inspired generations with the beauty and the refinement of his words but also with his integrity, high values, and personal example. His family moved to the US when he was 12 looking for a better life but he always honored his heritage and he was writing in both English and Arabic. His philosophy and philanthropy are still relevant today and his dedication for bringing bright changes in the world made him a positive symbol of Middle Eastern immigrants who become successful in the West and never forget their roots.

Co-author of Broken Wings musical, Nadim Naaman says:

“Kahlil Gibran is the Shakespeare of The Middle East. His views transcend nationality, politics, and background, read by all faiths and all ages. He was spiritual, but wouldn’t dedicate his life to one particular organization of religion. Instead, he took the best of all faiths, championing humanity, tolerance, and love above all else. I still can’t believe that the book hasn’t already been adapted for the stage; it is structured like a play and is awash with musical references. Much like Kahlil Gibran’s life, the creation of this show has been a fusion of both The Middle East and The West, so to be presenting this piece in London, at the stunning Theatre Royal Haymarket, is both fitting and overwhelming.”

Nadim Naaman has numerous appearances in the theater and in various orchestras, and apparently, he also creates his own music.

It’s the first time Naaman works in collaboration with Dana Al Fardan. The revolutionary Qatari female composer has experience with composing for the cinema but this is her debut in writing music for a musical. Arab America reached her and asked her for her insight into this new adventure in her career journey. “I’ve never written a musical! Yet it is what I’ve always wanted to do and the reason I got into music in the first place.” Dana admitted and she continued: ”Nadim is one of the most talented all-around artists I have ever worked with. Being given the opportunity to work with a West End Star was a dream for me and although we worked remotely, he still was able to provide me with clear guidelines for what was expected of my compositions. He taught me everything I know about the process of writing a musical.”

Dana founded the Qatari music record label DNA and proclaimed its motto: Music is our DNA. She is well known and respected in Qatar and world-famous performers and composers are proud of being part of her creative team. She highlighted more than once how her country of Qatar is culturally progressive and how it is continuously encouraging arts. Having said that and linking it to Gibran’s ideals, it’s arguable how open the Middle Eastern societies are in various regions.

Broken Wings is an autobiographical tale of Gibran’s youth in Lebanon and abroad. At the age of 18, he returned to his home in Beirut and fell in love with a girl who was betrothed to someone else who is a bad character but wealthy. The tragedy is Gibran and his beloved Selma can’t be together because of fake morals. A touchy issue that the novel deals with is the lack of women’s rights at the time. When asked how she (Dana) identifies herself with the subject of the story, Dana responds that even if we tend to bend under social pressures against our truth, this book reminds us that in order to better serve our community and our family, we got to be whole within ourselves. Furthermore, Dana has optimistic views about the role of women and women’s rights in the Middle East in general. She believes there has been a massive improvement: “We cannot categorize The Middle East as one monolithic entity but the issue of freedom to marry who you love for the sake of love is a global matter and something that will find a home in the hearts of many.”

At the end of our conversation, Dana promised that, hopefully, Broken Wings will travel to the US where Gibran lived for the most of his life. Nevertheless, coexistence and the realities of relocation are central for his work and the legacy he left.

For those Arab America readers who are willing to attend the premiere of the musical in London, there will be a promotional ticket price. 

New musical Broken Wings to have West End premiere at Theatre Royal Haymarket

A new musical, Broken Wings is to have its West End premiere in August.

"Spirit of the Earth" is the first song released from the new West End musical Broken Wings, written by West End star Nadim Naaman (The Phantom of the Opera) and Dana Al Fardan, one of The Middle East’s leading contemporary composers.

Based on Lebanese-born poet Kahlil Gibran's 1912 autobiographical tale of the same name, the show is written by Nadim Naaman (The Phantom of the Opera) and composer Dana Al Fardan.

The tale follows Gibran, living in 1923 in New York, as he reflects on his life and experiences in the Middle East as an 18 year-old, where he falls in love with Selma Karamy, daughter of a family friend. When Karamy is betrothed to another man, Gibran has to fight for her love. One of the numbers from the musical, "Spirit of the Earth", has been released in advance.

Casting for the West End production is to be announced, with the first listen being performed by Rob Houchen (Les Misérables) and Hiba Elchikhe (Disney's Aladdin) as teenage protagonists Gibran and Selma, with Naaman as Gibran's older self and Soophia Foroughi (Spamalot) is Mother.

Naaman said: "Gibran is the Shakespeare of the Middle East, and the third best-selling poet of all time. His views transcend nationality, politics and background, read by all faiths and all ages. He was spiritual, but wouldn't dedicate his life to one particular organisation of religion. Instead, he took the best of all faiths, championing humanity, tolerance and love above all else. I still can't believe that the book hasn't already been adapted for the stage; it is structured like a play, and is awash with musical references."

The musical is directed by Bronagh Lagan (Little Women), with orchestrations by Joe Davison. It will be performed as a semi-staged show with a nine-piece orchestra.

The show will also release a concept album on 10 May, with a cast of Houchen, Elchikhe, Naaman and Foroughi joined by Gillian Budd, Joseph Claus, Nadeem Crowe, Siubhan Harrison, James Hume, Irvine Iqbal, Nikita Johal, Sami Lamine, Adam Linstead, Leo Miles and Lauren James Ray.

Broken Wings runs at Theatre Royal Haymarket from 1 to 4 August.

Box Office: http://www.trh.co.uk/whatson/broken-wings/

Launch of Qatar-Russia Year of Culture 2018 and the celebration of the Qatar National Day on the 18th December 2017

Dana Al Fardan concert in Moscow, performed by members of the Russia Orchestra featuring guests from the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Qatari’s drummers performing Danas composition Fjiri; representing traditional Qatari sea base percussion uniquely fused in an orchestral blend.

The event, which was hosted by the Ambassador of Qatar to Russia H.E. Fahad bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, was also attended by high-ranking officials from partnering Year of Culture stakeholders including Qatar Museums, Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar Airways along with the leading figures from the Russian cultural sector. 

The Year of Culture programme, led by Qatar Museums, aims to build bridges between Qatar and Russia different cultures, thereby promoting mutual cultural understanding and appreciation between them, and helping people explore and appreciate their cultural similarities and differences. 

Dana Named Woman of The Year by Grazia Qatar

2017 ended on a celebratory note for Dana when she was voted Woman of the Year by readers of Grazia Qatar. The award was given in recognition of her role in shaping a national narrative - her vision for a nation proud of its cultural heritage and potential future cultural offering and legacy. The award pays tribute to Dana's own musical talent, commitment and passion. All these elements have driven her determination to shine a spotlight on the burgeoning music scene here in Qatar through supporting the existing music initiatives in the country and contributing to the establishment of new infrastructure from the creation of Qatar's first and only record label to endorsing music education programmes and competitions for our next generation of talent. 

Thanks to her most recent album release, Sandstorm, her appointment as the official composer to Qatar Airways, and to the overwhelming success of her debut London concert performing to a sold out audience at the prestigious Theatre Royal Haymarket, she is garnering incredible international acclaim. In a recent interview with Grazia, Dana says of the power of music, “Art is a compelling storyteller, a representation of human emotion, human development, of history, of the truth of people’s circumstances. It’s the most compelling and purest way to communicate with other cultures.” 

 

 

Grazia Arabia News 10_Page_1.jpg
Grazia Arabia News 10_Page_2.jpg

“Al Fardan is at the forefront of professional and influential women in Qatar…” – Culture Whisper, London

Meet Dana Al Fardan, classical composer and founder of the first and only record label in Qatar, DNA records.

Earlier in September she performed her latest work ‘Sandstorm’ with the London Metropolitan Orchestra at The Theatre Royal Haymarket in London.. so I was intrigued to learn more about this (sold out) show, her influences and her experiences as an artist and business woman in the Middle East.

Is this the first time ‘Sandstorm’ has been performed live? 

Actually, no, it had its debut at the Katara Opera House in Doha, performed by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. We then performed a selection of pieces from the work at the Cadogan Hall in London last year and the response was so warm we decided we had to come back to the UK! It was such a privilege to perform at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and the fact we eventually played to a full house and received such an incredible reaction, well, I’m wondering when I’m going to wake up from the dream!

When you were writing Sandstorm what were your main inspirational touchpoints – musically / personally – 

I'm inspired from a blend of sources - my own cultural heritage is incredibly important to me, but so are the characteristics of the music, people and landscapes I have experienced around the world. Personally, becoming a mother was the most crucial moment in my musical evolution. It was when I discovered I was pregnant that I realised I had to be entirely true to myself and in that moment of self-evaluation, I realised that the only version of myself I could offer my daughter was as an artist and creator. 

What in a word / or a couple (!) would you love an audience member to have felt when leaving your show? 

I would love them to feel a connection to the music and to feel moved in some way..

Correct me if I am wrong, but am I right in thinking that you had written or thought about writing a musical …? 

I am in the process of writing my first musical, yes. I can’t say too much about it now but I am working with an incredibly talented team on the show and we can’t wait to bring it to life for a London audience in the latter part of 2018..

Not only are you an artist, but you also started the first ever record label in Qatar? What prompted you to do this?

Even though Qatar's creativity community is growing at an impressively fast rate, the infrastructure of a western style music industry just doesn't exist. So, in order to produce and distribute my own work and that of other artists I believe in, creating a label seemed the best solution!

What would you like to accomplish with DNA?

We want to support emerging talent that deserves to be heard and to contribute to Qatar’s growing music industry. We want to work with collaborators in the UK, Europe and the States, and of course Doha.  

Can you give us any insight about the Middle Eastern music landscape and any experiences/ difficulties you have faced ..?

Although I am the only female composer I know of in Qatar, there are many other Arab women composing music and writing songs such as Jordanian-born, half Syrian, half Bosnian-Palestinian Suad Bushnaq, and British-Lebanese Bushra El Turk, both doing brilliant work. So I consider myself privileged to stand amongst these international Arab women of immense talent, representing our culture across the world; this, to me, is one of the most exciting developments on the music landscape in my region.

I hope that I can use my own experience and the lessons I have learned to inspire young talents to express themselves. I believe passionately in the development of Qatar’s music and arts communities and industries whilst also recognising the vital importance of preserving the rich cultural legacy of our ancestors that has made us who we are today.

We are working together as a society to drive forward with incredible progress in these areas and it is my true belief that future generations will not face restrictions but, as I have been blessed with support and encouragement, so must they.

"BRAVE NEW WORLD" - COMPOSED AND WRITTEN BY DANA AL FARDAN

The concert entitled ‘Brave New World’ is a message of solidarity and a symbolic partnership between Italy and Qatar joining forces to support displaced Syrian families and children currently living in refugee camps in Jordan. The funds gathered through this event will be used to support the growth and sustainability of existing psycho-social education  programmes for children and families currently living in refugee camps in Jordan, under the umbrella of the Italian NGO Vento di Terra. In addition to providing psychological support to help them overcome their trauma from the war, the centres will provide a wide variety of educational and creative activities. Education, hobbies and artistic activities can play a major role not only in the recovery process but also in bringing a sense of dignity to those refugee families trying to find shelter, a place to live and some semblance of a normal life again.

The concert will be staged at the Qatar National Convention Centre on FEbruary 1st, 2018. It already is receiving strong support from the local and global music community. Prestigious local artists such as Ali Abdulsattar and Fahad Al Kubaisi have embraced the project with their full commitment to the forthcoming concert. Moreover, the highly respected composer Dana Al Fardan has written and composed the song ‘Brave New World’, as a result of her collaboration with the Pavarotti Foundation. Nicoletta Mantovani, President & Founder of Luciano Pavarotti Foundation and wife of the late Italian Maestro showed her gratefulness to the Qatari composer: “Dana Al Fardan captured the emotions of this cause and the courage needed to pursue a new world - a brave one - into the lyrics in an exceptional manner. I would like to express my highest gratitude for her generosity, creativity and commitment to this fund raising concert”.  

Additional international artists, musicians and performers have pledged their support and will be announced later this year. 

"Qatar Airways Celebrates Dana Al Fardan, the official composer of the Qatar Airways Group"

DOHA, Qatar – Qatar Airways today named artist Dana Al Fardan, globally renowned composer and artist, as the official composer for Qatar Airways Group. This recognition caps a series of highly successful engagements, including the composition and 2016 performance of The Beginning for Hamad International Airport, its official theme song.

More recently, Ms. Al Fardan’s original composition, Art of Flight, is prominently featured in the airline’s new television commercial featuring the innovative and game-changing Qsuite – Qatar Airways’ new Business Class product that allows passengers to customise their experience on board. Parties of four can create their own cabin-within-a-cabin by lowering privacy panels and joining their Qsuites together. This product also features the first-ever double bed option in Business Class, all of which combine to bring elements of First Class to Business Class.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Ms. Al  Fardan’s talent is well recognised around the world, and we at Qatar Airways are happy to provide another stage for her inspiring and beautiful music, and to pair it with our world-class service. At Qatar Airways, we look after the details in order to earn our best-in-class reputation.”

"Dana Al Fardan Support Act for Hussain AlJassmi Live in Doha"

Qatari musician Dana AlFardan will be giving an opening performance at the concert.

Dana said, “I am excited to share a stage with regional star Hussain Al Jassmi. Shop Qatar’s entertainment schedule offers a great platform for enriching Qatar’s cultural offerings and sowing the seeds for more home-grown talent.” She added, “Culture and heritage cannot be separated from the artistic process and I am happy to see that it has a prominent role in the development of the country’s tourism sector.”

The concert come as part of Shop Qatar’s colourful live entertainment schedule, offering a rich array of cultural shows, performances and unlimited family-friendly entertainment.
 

"Qatar Primary School Choir competition announces Dana Al Fardan as Ambassador"

Qatar Primary School Choir of the Year (QPSCoY) has announced Qatari composer Dana Al Fardan as its ambassador. 

QPSCoY has also said that Dana has agreed to compose a short piece especially for this year’s competition, which will be sung by all choirs competing in the final.
The Qatar Primary School Choir of the Year competition was officially launched at the Shangri-La Hotel Doha in December 2016. Shangri-La Hotel is the official hotel partner for the competition and will host many of the heats and the final.


The committee of Qatar’s inaugural primary school singing competition met with Dana al-Fardan last week to discuss her new role as ambassador and were “thrilled with her positivity and commitment to the cause”.


Dana said: “I want children to grow up in an environment where they are taught about music. It means so much to me… We have so much talent in Qatar… Qatar should be a hub, a producer of talent which then radiates worldwide. I will do anything at all to help the competition.”
When speaking about the opportunity that the competition presents to school children in Qatar, she also reflected on choral events she attended as a child in Doha: “They were the highlight of our year, we all absolutely loved performing at them and were so excited to go.”

SANDSTORM CONCERT - Live performance in Doha by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra at the Katara Opera House

The album will be performed live in Doha for the first time with 2 new songs Lustre and Fjiri. 

Lustre, a collaboration between solo violinist and prominent member of the QPO, Maias Alyamani, with Al Fardan writing the music and Alyamani arranging it.

"This song is a reference to the lustrous, silvery-white substance that is emitted from pearls and is also a nod to the Al Fardan family’s heritage and pearl trading background.

Dana's  second new piece, Fijiri, is a traditional genre of music synonymous with pearl diving and this featured local Qatari drummers performing the rhythmic patterns characteristic of “Fijiri”, and a “nahham” chanting about the stories of the sea, alongside the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.

DANA AL FARDAN HAS BEEN HONOURED BY HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

The event, also titled ‘The Beginning’, highlighted HIA’s journey over the years, including its official inauguration as well as the launch of the official music theme.

The music for ‘The Beginning’ was composed by Dana Alfardan, with the musical piece performed by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO) in front of the iconic Lamp Bear at HIA as well as next to the airport’s runway.

During the event, a special video was also shown with footage of QPO performing ‘The Beginning’ at various locations around HIA.

Dana Alfardan has confirmed that through this exclusive partnership with HIA, ‘The Beginning’ will played around the whole airport including its lounges, lifts and the special video will also be shown on board as part of the in-flight entertainment on Qatar Airways flights.