Bring Your Own Concert: Dubai Wants You to Bring the Music

Published June 9th, 2017 - 10:00 GMT
Yodalaiheyyhooooo. (Khaleej Times)
Yodalaiheyyhooooo. (Khaleej Times)

I'd heard of and been part of BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Drinks) evenings, so when I came across the abbreviation BYOC, I wondered what could the C stand for; perhaps the host didn't wish to provide for chocolates, cheese or chai. My curiosity piqued further when BYOC came coupled with the other two, too: PS: Do BYOF and BYOD. I made few more wild guesses: coasters, carnations, cousins...Err...I gave up.

Little did I know that I would be in for a pleasant and melodious surprise - BYOC stands for Bring Your Own Concert! Of course, I could have never guessed that. Was I interested in playing, listening, hosting or all of the above? A nod to listening and hosting (I'm a bathroom singer, I confessed) got me an invite to a home concert in the city and also a chat with Christopher Rodrigues, one of the organisers of Home Concerts In Dubai, and a few of its members.

So, how does this work and what should I expect? "Well, home concerts is not a new concept, it's been around for ages and going by different names like Living Room, Couch or Backyard sessions," shared Rodrigues. The group (on Meetup) came about because of the many restrictions imposed on venues for musicians to perform live. "Permits need to be obtained and permissions need to be sought, which makes the whole experience for a musician and the organiser dreadful. With Home Concerts, as the name suggests, musicians have the opportunity to perform live in front of an audience in warm, welcoming surroundings without having to go through any legal and administrative procedures."

The free-to-attend concerts are open to all - musicians and non-musicians, across all nationalities. "Music has no boundaries and everyone is welcome. Yes, priority is given to those who play instruments." As for the number of attendees, it varies depending on the size of the host's home. So far, they've hosted between 10 and 150 people. What's the occasion, someone may ask? "We don't play to celebrate special occasions, however, if at a scheduled concert we learn that it is someone's birthday or anniversary, we do dedicate a song to them. The idea is to meet and discover different and new people who share the common love for music," says Rodrigues, who is an investment banker by day, and a musician, traveller, and photographer in his free hours.

"Christopher, Jules and all the members of the Home Concerts group are among the warmest people I've met in Dubai. It's amazing how they welcome others into both, their homes and lives graciously. They provide a stage to Dubai's talent and memories for all those who come along," says Kartikeya Raina, a guitarist and singer, and sales professional in the city. Overall, the group is large and varied and it is rare to bump into the same set of people. Though there are a few regulars and some who help out in setting up. "Home concerts are a great avenue to express ourselves musically in front of an international crowd. It's also a way to socialise and share not just stories with people from all walks of life, but also share music in all native languages," says Eddie Quisora, who is a part of the Kimaro Band Philippines and works as a health and safety officer in the city.

Interestingly, both you and I can host a concert at our homes too. The process is simple - reach out to the organisers with a date for the concert and mention the number of people your home can accommodate. They'd take it from there - keeping in mind every tiny detail, even the timings will be decided upon depending on how lovely and accommodating your neighbours are. People attending the concert are requested to bring food and beverages to share with everyone. On some occasions the hosts volunteer to take on the food expenses and bring in a complete spread for the attendees. "Shawarma stations have been set up in some homes, while at other times we have indulged in pizza fiestas." Interestingly, at times, they've taken their music to the desert too. "These concerts are providing a DIY option to singers, songwriters, and musicians. They gather people with passion in music in the purest and most intimate way," says Karen Kim, a singer and member of the Kimaro Band Philippines. In his day job, Karen works as an executive assistant and looks forward to concert weekends, "The overflow (on a sharing basis) of foods and beverages add to the fun quotient of the do."

And how does the behind-the-scenes of a home concert look like? "A lot goes into it like setting up sound, ambient lighting, organising the list of musicians for the evening, ensuring that there is a good mix of talent, ensuring that the musicians are on time, et al. But most importantly, ensuring that everybody is having a good time." Last word: Come down, be a part of entertainment. How? Follow the music here and here.


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