Storming the Desert
In whichis invited by Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai to get the party started following the fabulously wealthy Dubai World Cup
DUBAI OR NOT DUBAI? That was the question as I bit my lip waiting to hear whether I’d be flying out to perform at the esteemed Dubai World Cup early in April. Fortunately the answer came back in the affirmative, so I prepared myself to travel to that shimmering oasis in the desert.
The Dubai World Cup is an annual event, established in 1996 by the emirate’s ruler, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. For the past two years it has been held at the Meydan Grandstand and Racecourse, built in 2010. With a total pot of more than US$27 million for the nine events and US$10 million for the feature race alone, it’s the world’s richest horse-racing meeting and is thus highly anticipated by owners and enthusiasts around the world.
Naturally I felt honoured to have been invited to attend such a prestigious event, especially since I’d be performing at a private function for a delegation of international dignitaries and VIPs who had all flown in as guests of Sheik Mohammed.
I boarded the plane in LA for a gruelingly long flight, landing in Dubai only a few hours before the races were due to begin. I was picked up from the airport and taken to my hotel, the majestic Madinat Jumeirah, where I had just enough time to drop my bags, grab a quick shower and change before being shuttled off to the races with the other guests.
As we were ushered through the Dubai traffic by our police escort, I marvelled at how much has changed in the city. Although I’d been there numerous times in the past, my last visit was in 2005, since when there have been countless additions to the city’s already spectacular skyline – none more impressive, of course, than the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building, standing at just under 830 metres.
We shortly arrived at Meydan Grandstand and Racecourse, which was quite a sight in itself. With a grandstand more than 1.5 kilometres long and capable of housing more than 60,000 spectators, it’s the world’s largest purpose-built horse-racing arena.
We were ushered into a private box to await the first race. Although I had no idea of who might be attending, once inside our area I was pleasantly surprised to run into a number of clients and old friends who were among the guests. After a quick catch-up we all settled into the race programme. I’ve never considered myself a racing enthusiast, but I was quickly swept up in the excitement and soon found myself cheering on the various mounts. As the evening drew to a close, we were treated to a jaw-dropping fireworks display, which included a hair-raising aerobatics show over the racecourse.
The following evening was my big night, the closing party, which was to be held on the beach at the Madinat Jumeirah, right in front of another of Dubai’s architectural jewels, the iconic Burj Al Arab.
The organisers had done a magnificent job in creating the party space, which was set up on the sand right by the water’s edge. My booth had been placed in the middle of the party zone and was surrounded by a perimeter of shrouded cabanas for guests to relax in.
Since we were in Dubai and hosting such a mixed audience from across the globe, I started by setting an appropriate mood with a gentle selection of Middle Eastern and oriental-infused songs to entertain guests as they sipped their drinks, mingled and dined from the lavish buffet that had been spread before them.
Not long afterwards we were joined by Sheik Mohammed, who had come to greet his guests. Upon his arrival the live entertainment kicked off, consisting of local fishermen performing songs on board a traditional Emirati dhow that had been pulled up onto the beach earlier in the day and placed alongside the party area especially for the night.
Once the performance reached its conclusion and the audience was sufficiently warmed up, it was over to me to shake things up and get the party started. Prior to the evening, the organisers had expressed their concern that even though there were undoubtedly some hardcore revellers among the pack, the majority of the guests had never previously met one another and so they were anxious that it might be hard to get them all moving.
I asked if I could have a look at the guest list, and noticed that there were sizeable contingents from Brazil and Latin America. Knowing them as I do, I felt sure that if I played some upbeat Latin and Brazilian songs, they’d immediately start to dance. My hunch paid off as I launched into my set with a series of classic samba and bossa nova tracks, and in no time the Brazilians jumped up and began to dance. Their energy was infectious and pretty soon the place was in full swing. For the rest of the night I cranked out one party anthem after another as the guests kept rocking on the sand.
I managed to snatch a few hours sleep before rushing to the airport to catch my flight to LA, having had a brief but nonetheless memorable time in Dubai and happy in the knowledge that I’d created my own little storm in the desert.
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