Dana Al Fardan is Qatar’s only female contemporary composer and is set to make her West End musical debut this week.
Dana composed the music and lyrics for new musical Broken Wings at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
The musical is based on the novel of the same name by Khalil Gibran of The Prophet fame and is the first musical score written by a Qatari to debut in London’s West End.
How did you become a composer?
I suppose I have always known I was a musician but it did not materialise until I gave birth to my daughter. I understood that was my true calling and I wanted to share it. The reason I decided to pursue music in the first place was to write a musical, so when I was asked to collaborate with a West End star to compose the music for a brand new musical based on one of the most prolific Middle Eastern writers of all time, and watch it unfold in the prestigious Haymarket Theatre with a cast of top West End actors, it was a dream come true.
What is your musical inspiration?
My musical development has been so diverse it’s difficult to put a finger on a specific direction. It ranges from classical to pop to rock and folk. World music has always inspired me. Recently I have understood how to incorporate certain elements of Qatari folk music into my work – namely percussion and the nahham in a lot of my orchestral pieces and the intermingling of those sounds is so natural and powerful it really consolidates the fact that music is a universal language. Music is a tool to tell a story that transcends linguistic barriers, and it is important for me to bring elements of my own cultural identity into the mix.
What is your proudest achievement in your career so far?
Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to write a musical, so I’m incredibly humbled by the opportunity to embark on this initiative with some of the top players in musical theatre in the world. My co-writer Nadim Naaman, was previously Raoul in Phantom of the Opera and has taken part in numerous workshops with Andrew Lloyd Webber. So I am very proud to be taking part in a project, surrounded by accomplished and talented collaborators, that brings an important historical figure from the Middle East to a global stage.
When you are travelling what do you miss most about your home in Qatar?
I miss playing tennis overlooking the sea on the Pearl, it’s the most surreal thing ever! I also miss the easy going and relaxed nature of the country. Doha combines the relaxed nature of a beach resort with the bustling character of a cosmopolitan city. You can be productive and laid back at the same time. For me there is no other place like it. I get homesick very quickly when I’m away!
How has Qatar changed in your lifetime?
Qatar is one of my greatest inspirations. To watch my country grow so profoundly is absolutely staggering. It’s a testament to the power of will, knowledge and virtue combined. It’s not just the landscape that has grown into a bustling centre for creative expression but there has been a massive growth in the role of women in the public sphere, and as a Qatari woman I am incredibly proud of that development and the respect that women have gained. Our role Model, Sheikha Moza, continues to be the pillar for women everywhere.
What would be your top three recommended experiences for visitors to Qatar?
First off the Souq and Katara Cultural Village are an absolute must. It really is magical. To walk amongst the beautiful cobbled roads of Katara, grab dinner at some of the most incredible traditional restaurants and then enter the opera house to watch a symphonic performance by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is out of this world. Also, the Pearl is an absolute must! Anywhere along the marina features breath-taking views. I lead an active lifestyle so I always cycle around the Pearl and I like to sit in a café by the marina and catch up on my reading and my emails. There are a few fitness facilities sprawled around the Island so I usually enjoy walking to and from my workouts.
What is your advice for budding female musicians looking to follow in your footsteps?
Let your passion for your work drive your career, always seek to better yourself and learn from others in the process. Surround yourself with support and the people you care about. Music is about inspiration, so don’t let the hustle and bustle of the industry divert your attention from your goals and your love for your art. Most importantly, in a highly competitive industry, don’t seek to imitate, look for the elements that set you apart.