Performance in the UAE

In November of 2022 I was contacted by a friend of mine from Hopi, Clark Tenakhongva. He wanted to know if I would be interested in playing with their trio called “Ongtuqpa”(Hopi name for the Grand Canyon) in the Middle East. Their trio includes him, Matthew Nelson and a flute player named Gary Stroutsos. The flute player couldn’t make it so Clark asked me to fill in and I agreed. This performance was to take place in the United Arab Emirates in two locations and was sponsored by the US Embassy Abu Dhabi as part of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs American Music Abroad Program.

We embarked on our 20+ hour journeys to the UAE on January 18. We arrived the next night in the city of Abu Dhabi where we would be lodging for this trip. We did not have any performances scheduled for the 20th so the other two performers and I visited a few places that day. We traveled by taxi to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, walked through and toured through this large beautiful structure and then we went to downtown Abu Dhabi. We walked around under the shade of large skyscrapers and went below the surface to one of their underground malls. Once we emerged from below we walked to the Al Hosn Festival nearby and experienced some traditional Emirati culture.

Saturday January 21st was the day of our first performance at a place called the Jebel Hafit Desert Park about 2 hours east of Abu Dhabi. We performed after sunset on an outdoor stage in the middle of the desert at the base of a beautiful mountain range. The next day we performed about 2 hours to the southwest of Abu Dhabi at the Al Dhafra Festival. This location was even more isolated than the day before, but this particular festival is one of the biggest in the UAE. We performed on a large stage in an enclosed market area to an audience of about 70 people.

This was certainly a very eye-opening and amazing trip, where I was able to share a little bit of my Jemez culture with people on the other side of the world. I am very grateful for this opportunity and welcome any questions about it.

Left to right: Clark, Matt, and Me- Öngtupqa Trio, Jebel Hafit Desert Park, Al Ayin, United Arab Emirates, January 21, 2023

Matt and Clark on stage at the Al Dahfra Festival, photo taken by me. United Arab Emirates, January 22, 2023