The dawn of April means the official kick-start to music festival season, and not just for California’s famed Coachella, but also for Dubai, who has its very own glamorous and not-so glamorous sets of outdoor music festivals, where no welly boots are (ever!) required and where the weather is reliably dry and pleasantly sunny, with temperatures oscillating between the high 20s and high 30s (Celsius).
In the UK we may have Glastonbury in June (yes, we still have two months to wait), the U.S. may have Lollapalooza in August, but Dubai gets to the live music action early, super early in fact, and warms up the music stage even before Coachella’s (14th April), beating the Californian giant a whole week earlier, as a matter of fact. Plus, there isn’t just one big festival in Dubai, oh no! there’s much more variety than that: there’s seven different ones of them, each differently themed to cater for all tastes and all ages.
And there’s everything from electronic music to local talent, hip hop, R&B, non-stop DJ spinning sessions and even a jazz-themed mini-festival. If you read carefully you’ll see that some of these gigs are also free to attend!
Beyond the music there’s also the fabulous Middle East Comic Con extravaganza, World Art Dubai for art buffs, the Latin Dubai Fest and the Go Vintage festival. The only thing there’s not much of in Dubai this April is family-themed entertainment, yet I did manage to find this one little play that will delight the youngest visitors (you’ll have to scroll all the way down to the bottom to find out more, a little hint: it’s based on a popular children’s book). Otherwise stick to the music, the arts, the dancing and the dream. It’s a great time to be in Dubai, at least for the young and hip and the young at heart.
Top picks – festivals and fairs
OK, so April in Dubai is big on festivals, what am I saying? It’s fricking huge on festivals! April has so many live music festivals lined up in Dubai, you won’t be going without some festival action on any day of the month; you could easily hop from one festival to the next. So, yes, in case I hadn’t stressed it enough, festival action in Dubai this month is actually enormous! So, for easier, more productive reading, I’m going to split this section into two: music festivals and otherwise - themed festivals and fairs.
Arts, food and oddities: a miscellanea of fairs
GO VINTAGE Festival (6th -13th April)
Not that anyone hasn’t noticed, but nostalgia-inspired trips back in time are making a comeback in recent years, with an increasing fan base of retro-lovers who reminisce about the 50s (despite being born well after that time) and who long to relive the era through whichever means of memorabilia or vintage paraphernalia available. If you’re one of these people then make sure you make it to Dubai before 13th April and check out the amazing display of 50s cars, retro fashion, arts, crafts and décor at the Vintage Market, where will also get to enjoy live performances of old tunes in the jazz, rock & roll and rockabilly genres. If that weren’t enough there’ll also be delicious old-time favourites served at the Escobar Lounge and Food Trucks while the Beach Side Retro Cinema plays 50s films and cartoons. Do swing by for a time-travelling experience.
Middle East Film and Comic Con 2017 (6th to 8th April)
Get your freak on, dust off your superhero costume and be geekishly cool at the one festivity in Dubai this month that has nothing to do with anything but sheer role-playing fun and pop culture creativity. Whether you’re a die-hard, avid comic reader and custom-dressing enthusiast or you are more low-key about your comic consumption and superhero fantasies, everyone is welcome at this year’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, a colourful event where creative work is celebrated, inspiring workshops are set up and cosplay competitions add to all the fun. Trekkies, Stars Wars aficionados, steampunkers and all kinds of sci-fi enthusiasts are all taken very seriously here and are treated to a whole array of exclusives, from celebrity autographs to exclusive pilot screenings and Q&A sessions. Oh, and if you want to splash your cash there’ll also be vintage comic on sales as well as various collectibles, artwork, curious gadgets and anime paraphernalia. It’s on at the DWTC (Dubai World Trade Centre, entry prices start at 100 AED (close to £22) and it opens from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
World Art Dubai (12th to 15th April)
Coming back for a third edition and featuring artists from five continents, World Art Dubai showcases the world’s most prominent up-and-coming artists who all flock to the emirate to exhibit their work in a variety of galleries and open spaces, leading workshops, educational appearances and presiding entertainment events. With collections from over 150 international galleries, there are a myriad of art pieces for art buffs to feast their eyes on and buy, as many of these works will also be available for purchase at prices ranging between 360 and 73,500 dirhams, making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire unique art. Sculptures, photographs, prints, paintings, installations and mixed media will all be on sale, making this a one-of-a-kind event for collectors and professionals. Laced with live performances, seminars, workshops and a craft market, there’s nowhere else better for art lovers to be in Dubai this April.
Dubai Latin Fest (12th and 16th April)
If you want to move to the salsa beat, try out a few bachata steps, then tuck into super tasty burritos to the rhythmic sounds of Latin percussion, then there’s only one place in Dubai to head to this month and you only have five nights of swinging concerts to do so. The Dubai Latin Fest comes in full force and takes over the city with fun boat cruises, tantalising flavours, dancing workshops, DJ night parties and outdoor films. There’ll be spectacular dance shows presided by world-champion professionals and music line-ups include Latin Grammy winners and nominees, bringing them all together under one roof. Concert tickets start at 150AED (roughly £32) for General Admission day passes and are available as one-day passes and three-day passes. Similarly dance tickets start at 395 AED (£86) and are available as one-day and 3-day passes, while Boat Party tickets go for 180 AED (close to £40) and the Safari Experience costs 300 AED (around £65).
Truckers DXB (ongoing until 29th April)
Calling foodies and casual diners going to Dubai this month looking for an informal setting with live music in which to sample the most delicious, high quality fast food from a variety of food trucks. Ongoing until the end of the month, TruckersDXB moves around Dubai’s hippest locations to bring tasty fares everywhere. These street delicacies are served in vibrant open spaces every Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and this month they’re based at the Emirates Golf Club. Do bring cash though (small change helps too) and remember that outside food or pets are not allowed.
Live Music Festivals
Riverland Dubai: Rhythm on the River (6th to 8th April)
To me this is perhaps the most amazing of all festivals in Dubai this month, mainly because it’s absolutely free for all to enjoy! It takes place in the recently opened Riverland Dubai, the gateway to the new Dubai Parks & Resorts and a lovely riverside promenade lined with cafes, a street theatre and divided into areas named: The Peninsula, The French Village, India Gate and Boardwalk. Bringing together an impressive line-up of performers, including Michael Jackson’s double, the rock n’ roll Swing Gang Show and show-stopping drumming sessions, the highlight of the event will doubtlessly be the floating stage on the river; where 15 acts will perform over three days of music and dancing. You could even try your dancing /martial arts skills with some capoeira at a music workshop.
STEP 2017 (7th April)
Twelve hours of live music where the best of local talent is showcased, the STEP music festival delights audiences with the best of regional music while arranging a variety of activities including 18 performances by independent artists, workshop and presentations. This one-night-only event is on at the Dubai International Marine Club with advance tickets going for 180 (around £40) AED while on-the-door tickets will be priced at 250 AED (close to £55).
Red Bull Weekender (13th to 15th April)
This mega event will bring an exciting line-up of reputed DJs from the world over to Dubai, performing live simultaneously across various venues in Dubai. The first day is all about European DJs, the second brings American talent to the table and the last one mixes it all up a bit. Kick-starting things at the Media One Hotel on 13th April are The Black Madonna and Moodymann, while the Steigenberger Hotel will host Kode9, Ikonika, 264 Cru with MC Cobra in one room while a separate one enjoys beats by Axel Boman, Peggy Gou, DeWalta & Shannon. Tickets are priced at 100 AED at both locations and shows are from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Prepare for a blend of dance music and hybrid experimental sounds mixing electronic techno and house rhythms.
The following day brings Californian hip-hop rap artist Earl Sweatshir to the stage at the D3 in Dubai Design district, followed by Danny Brown, Princess Nokia and Jessy Lanza (entry tickets cost 130 AED). The next morning opens with a chillout Sunrise Session at Kite Beach Dubai (completely free to attend!) with Dubai’s Pierre Ravan, accompanied by the vocals of American guest artist Julianna Barwick. It all ends that same day in the evening at the TAP House, where New York’s Danny Krivit joins Australia’s Andras to bring a blend of electronica ace, while Volcov ups the disco soul beats and Dubai’ James Locksmith and Megadon Betamax wrapy it up with a mix of disco house, nu disco and world beats. And yes, that closing performance on 15th April is also free to attend!
DJ sessions on Nasimi Beach (14th April)
Who doesn’t love a party on the beach? And specially one at what could be described as Dubai’s hippest, hottest, trendiest one? Nasimi Beach at Atlantis the Palm is preparing a truly special one-day music fest with an amazing line-up that indludes Steve Aoki, Cheat Codes and multi-platinum selling rapper, Fuse ODJ. Supporting the main acts will be David de Luca, Nasimi Beach’s Resident DJ who will liven things up with his cool mixes. But it doesn’t end here, as awesome as the line-up acts look, there’ll be more unannounced surprises and guest performances, so do check back Nasimi Beach’s Facebook page for more updates. Early bird tickets start at 175 AED (£38), online tickets are priced at 200 AED (£44) while ladies go free before 8 p.m. If purchased at the door, tickets will set you back 295 AED (close to £65). The party will rage on from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. and it’s hyped up to be one of the month’s most mind-blowing events.
Piknic Electronik (15th, 22nd, 29th April)
Taking place over three consecutive Saturdays, this electronic music festival makes spring bloom with the hippest, freshest electronic tunes of the moment, performed by world famous artists at the Dubai International Marine Club. It all kicks off on 15th April as ZONE+, Unueberlegt and Soph-Eye Richard lead the way, followed by a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Jim Cassady and Pablo – a true original not to miss. Subsequent performances on the following two Saturdays will continue with strong headline acts including soulful blends and deep grooves by Marc Poppcke, dance floor techno by Stelios Vassiloudis, multi-genre beats by Goldcap and melodic sounds by Luca Bacchetti. Tickets range between 100 AED and 220 AED (£22 and £48 approximately) and shows kick off at 1 p.m. every Saturday, finishing at 10 p.m.
Jazz Garden (28th April)
Materialising for the first time ever, the first edition of Dubai’s Jazz Garden kicks off on 28th April for one day only at the Habtoor Grand Hotel in the Dubai Marina, bringing jazz lovers a unique opportunity to revel in quality music for free! Yes, this is yet another free music event in Dubai this April and brings about an impressive line-up of jazz bands and singers from the world over. Prepare to enjoy some of the best jazz and blues acts in the world at a beautiful outdoor venue, surrounding the Habtoor Grand’s scenic fountain garden. Also showcasing the best of rising local talent, food and drinks will be offered onsite to be enjoyed picnic-style or at pre-booked tables. Do keep in mind that attendance is free for registered guests only, so (if you don’t want to pay for tickets) registering ahead is a must.
Theatre and Performing Arts
Grease (7th to 13th April)
After winning over the hearts of a British audience, one of the most beloved films of all time comes to the Dubai stage this April, bringing a selection of high-profile, acclaimed theatre actors to re-enact this iconic, all-singing, all-dancing, spring-fevered musical. Follow the young characters’ budding romance as you dance and mouth the words along some of history’s most famous tunes. Be taken away on a trip back in time with bright 50s costumes, (literally) hair-rising hairstyles and swinging rock n’ rolls melodies. It’s electrifying! Shows start at 2:30 and 8 p.m. and tickets are available from 150 AED (nearly £33) upwards.
Blue Man Group (11th to 5th April)
Prepare to be astounded and amazed all while living in the moment, with nothing but sheer ingenuity involved. The Blue Man Group returns, refreshed and renewed with an updated routine, new music, custom-made instruments, even more fine-tuned technology and new stories to tell. A one-of-a-kind opportunity to let go of worldly troubles, embrace your sense of wonder and let joy spread. Shows are on at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Dubai Opera with tickets starting from 195 AED (a little over £42).
Hamlet (12th and 15th April)
Enjoy a Shakespearian classic, expertly performed in the most traditional, original way, with a cast of just five actors playing all 24 characters and only the bare basics props on set to get this masterpiece’s true essence and experience it the way a Shakespearian audience in the 1500s would have. One of Shakespeare’s most studied, quoted and celebrated tragedies comes to life for four days only at The Junction on Al Serkal Avenue at 8 p.m. every day (except on 14th April where the matinee show is on at 3 p.m.) Tickets are available for advance online purchase ad prices start at 50 AED (£11) for students (IDs required) and 100 AED (£22) for adults.
Blockbuster classics at the Dubai Opera (19th to 21st April)
OK, so there’s no actual classic music performances this month at the Dubai Opera. Instead, blockbuster classics like Indiana Jones’ Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park will be screened at the grand theatre’s auditorium…But that’s not quite all, both films will be accompanied live by the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, meaning the films will come to life like never before, with live music taking the sound to a whole new level of suspense. Hear the amazing soundtrack of these two “Best Sound” Oscar winners in full live glory adding a whole new dimension to the way you remembered these classic films. Tickets start at 150 AED (£33) for these unique cinematic experiences. You can book ahead through dubaiopera.com
Russell Howard: Round the World Comedy Tour (20th to 22nd April)
The charismatic, hilarious and witty Russell Howard is doing a three-day stopover in Dubai as part of his Round the World comedy tour. The famed British comedian, radio and TV presenter will keep the audience chuckling and roaring with laughter as he tells stories about his life, experiences, and why ever not…his mother! With his well-known charm and his talent for connecting with viewers spanning a wide age-range, an evening with Howard is like chicken soup for the soul. His previous tour did sell out weeks ahead so if you want to get your hands on tickets the time is now. Ticket prices start at 295 AED (around £65) and can be purchased at knockknock.ae
Sharmila Dance Extravaganza 2017 (21st to 22nd April)
A spectacle that will delight audiences of all ages, the Sharmila Dance Company’s annual showdown is one promising act to attend this month in Dubai. Gaze in wonderment as 200 advanced dancers in a variety of age ranges (from seven onwards) take to the stage to perform their jaw-dropping antics, mixing a variety of dance styles and elevating modern dancing to the highest form of sublime art. Afternoon and evening shows start at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. respectively with tickets ranging between 165 (£36) and 220 AED (£48). Any dance lover should absolutely not miss this!
Madame Bovary at DUCTAC (28th April)
This one’s for the classic novel lovers and theatre fans, but more especially couples in search of a day out with a romantic love story backdrop. The famous character from Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, comes alive onstage at DUCTAC. This drama adaptation of the book is not only entertaining but passionate and even sometimes humorous. Throughout the characters’ adventures and amorous misadventures, it’s ultimately a piece to reflect on appreciating what one has before losing it. Tickets are priced at 225(close to £50) AED with a discount for subscribers.
There’s not much for little ones in Dubai this month, at least not in the performing arts scene (there’s still loads of theme park attractions and mall arcades, aquariums and water parks to take them to) except for this one little play at the end of the month. Keep reading for more.
Guess How much I love you (28th April)
The best-selling, deeply endearing Guess How Much I Love You story books for children will come to live onstage at Dubai’s DUCTAC Centrepoint Theatre by the end of the month. Featuring the endearing Big and Little Nutbrown Hares, this magical puppetry production will enchant audiences big and small, while tugging at some heartstrings and giving viewers the opportunity to interact with characters on stage. Opening day is 28th April with three performances at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. while on 1st and 2nd May there’ll be twice-daily performances at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tickets for the earliest time slot on opening day have already sold out, so if interested in taking your little ones along, you best get booking ahead to avoid disappointment. Tickets start at 135 AED (just under £30) going up to 175 AED (around £38) for premium seats closer to the stage.
Coming up next month: Justin Bieber, Mary Poppins and more
If all this wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for a Dubai holiday this April, or if you simply cannot make it there until next month, we’ve got a few good surprises to motivate you even more. There’s the much-awaited Justin Bieber concert on 6th May, a month-long of Mary Poppins performances and quite a few more events to soon be confirmed. Watch this space, and until next time, cheerio!