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Poets and musicians get ready for a new open mic platform
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 24 - 09 - 2020

The Middle East's longest running open mic night, Rooftop Rhythms, kicks off its ninth season this Friday at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). Co-presented with the official support of US Embassy Abu Dhabi, the virtual rendition of the monthly open mic series will take via The Arts Center at NYUAD's Facebook page.
Having moved to a virtual format in March in response to COVID-19, Rooftop Rhythms saw incredible engagement from audiences worldwide, reaching over 140,000 views over the three online performances.
The Arts Center recently launched its sixth season under the theme A Bridge and following the success of recent virtual performances, Rooftop Rhythms' ninth season will embrace the dynamics of the online space by bridging global artists and audiences through online platforms.
"Bringing Rooftop Rhythms online adds to the narrative that Abu Dhabi will continue to thrive culturally and artistically even in the midst of global pandemic. Residents here feel safe as Abu Dhabi is taking the lead internationally in prioritizing its residents' health and safety.
"NYU Abu Dhabi and The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi took the proactive approach to cancel on-campus events and close to visitors [for the fall]," said poet and founder of Rooftop Rhythms Dorian Paul Rogers.
"Through these entities' integral involvement and input, we all mutually agreed to stay responsible by postponing all in-person events. We made this decision in early March 2020 and found extreme success as a virtual event," he added.
Oman-based teacher, poet, actor, and comedian Hakeem Kemet, a former UAE resident who remains a regular performer said: "I love the reach Rooftop Rhythms gets as a virtual show! With the online events, Rooftop is able to unite artists and audience members across the world instantly.
"Performers and audience members new and old are able to plug into the community, even though they may not be in the UAE at the time. And the comments and Facebook likes and reactions help to replace some of that lost sense of atmosphere as with the in-person events.
"It's really helped me stay connected to this group and vibe that I love, giving me something to look forward to amidst all of this current COVID-19 madness."
From its establishment in 2012, Rooftop Rhythms has sought to create a community where artists can freely express themselves, while allowing for intellectual exchange and shared experiences.
NYU Abu Dhabi student, singer, musician, and songwriter Suzan Sadek, scheduled to perform on Sept. 25, said: "I was scared this was lost in the virtual world. After the first event, however, I realized that although I couldn't see the instant support, it was all there through the interactions, the likes, the comments, and the direct messages.
"The virtual show resulted in a wider audience, and provided accessibility to a larger range of viewers. My family and friends from all over the world could finally watch my performances, if not live then a rewatch, and still be able to interact and support me."
Dubai-based poet, writer, photographer, make-up artist Danabelle Gutierrez added: "The impact of Rooftop Rhythms is unparalleled as it has brought together so many different artists or different styles together to form the spoken word arts scene.
"The once-a-month poetry events in various parts of the city do keep me grounded and rooted as being part of the community whether I am performing or just attending. Moving virtual has helped push that sense of community despite the current circumstances."
Running from September until May 2021, audiences and performers can look forward to the ninth season lineup, which includes:
Virtual Season Opening / Open Mic Night – Friday, Sep 25
Virtual Slam Competition and Open Mic Night – Friday, Oct 23
Virtual Open Mic Night – Friday, Nov 20
Virtual Slam Competition and Open Mic Night – Friday, Dec 11
Virtual Open Mic Night – Friday, Jan 22
Virtual Slam Competition and Open Mic Night – Friday, Feb 26
Virtual 9th Anniversary Show / Open Mic Night – Friday, Mar 26
Virtual Open Mic Night – Friday, Apr 30
Virtual Grand Slam Finale Competition / Season Closing – Friday, May 28. — SG

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