After setting up an operation that has organised some of the biggest independent music events in Abu Dhabi, Manuel is now figuring out the future of Auhdio on the eve of his graduation. Nerses Sanassian from White Cube chats to him.
Manuel is one of two music students in the first graduating class at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), who decided to establish and run Auhdio, a touring music showcase. His ultimate drive was always to develop roots and a relationship with a new city and
its people – and to do so, as he had always done, through music.
Can you explain the concept of Auhdio?
You come into a restaurant or coffee shop and there are speakers, and a set list of performers. Events are usually two hours, on the weekends, in the evening. Each performer gets around five or 10 minutes. There are performances all the way from hip hop to rock, to acoustic pop – it can be a variety of styles. We are not limited to just an acoustic platform, we want to be open to a variety of styles.
Can you tell us how Auhdio came to be?
Actually it came from another project that never really took off. My first idea was actually to record an album but I didn’t have enough of my own music to start it and I wanted really high quality music – and I know that takes a couple of years to put something like together. Then I thought maybe I could collaborate with a few other musicians who have written more music, but then what I eventually realised is that I wanted to bring people together around music. I said, ‘This is a project that I’ve been doing on a smaller scale with smaller open mic nights and music performances within NYUAD, so how can I have a bigger impact?’ When I looked at the compilation album, I wanted to see how I could involve a wider community other than just the people I know. Eventually I came up with a project that showcases acts, having them once a month, not only inside universities but outside and open to the entire public.
What is the process like trying to organise an event like this?
We want to embrace what it means to be moving and to really be a part of the city, recognising where more music could be happening. So the process is identifying potential venues, going and talking with the owners and seeing if there wouldn’t be a problem, basically saying that we are promoting music. Currently there is no money involved, the equipment is provided, musicians play for free and then after that, to get the word out that all the performances are recorded and uploaded online. On our sound cloud page there are currently 36 recordings that are uploaded, and several other hours that I am working on.
How can people sign up for Auhdio?
I would like to say you simply send an email, sign up or through the Facebook page. It hasn’t always been that case. I think, part of it is; I want to encourage musicians to work hard and grow in talent. It’s difficult when there is so little, to really expand. I would like people to send emails or messages with some of their music to see what level they are on. I don’t want people to be discouraged but I want people to work harder. I really want to see the musicianship grow and not just simply open it up to anyone – I think there are open mics for that. It’s a showcase of good art.
How has Auhdio evolved?
I think the first few events relied a lot on the NYU community and that was the majority of the audience whereas recently the majority have been complete outsiders. We can now recognise which places work the best and which times work the best and how to get performers to get involved. I think there is also more structure in the coming events, more inclusion of a lot of a people. It’s difficult to maintain the level when you don’t really know all the performers but it is opening up.
Do you have a plan for Auhdio, now that you are graduating?
I’m in the process of figuring something out. I know that NYU is interested in hosting similar projects out on their new campus, but currently I am talking with different people about what the succession plan will be. I would like to encourage people out there to see that projects like this can happen. So have initiative for musicians to keep on making music and to be attending the different events that are happening. Abu Dhabi has been moving a lot since I started Auhdio, they are starting Abu Dhabi soul and there is the open mic at the Sheraton, so there are things happening – you have to support that.
Check out the musicians, soundcloud/auhdio, www.facebook.com/auhdio.