Composer Mohammed Fairouz is somewhat of a rarity. Not only is he an Emirati working in the western classical tradition, but he also moonlights as a foreign-policy commentator for the likes of The Independent and The National. It’s perhaps unsurprising, considering he’s the son of an Emirati diplomat and grew up living on several different continents.
These days, the 31-year-old may be based in New York, but he’s a citizen of the globe. He spends much of his time travelling, whether to attend Davos in Switzerland; Amsterdam for the premiere of his second opera The New Prince with the Dutch National Opera; or the UAE, where his parents live and his piece Pax Universalis will be performed at the BBC Proms Dubai this week.
As Fairouz himself proudly states, it’s the first Emirati composition to be performed by a major symphony orchestra at Dubai Opera.
Animated and serious, albeit with the odd flash of dry humour, Fairouz isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to politics. And the same goes for his music, which draws on a huge range of influences from globalisation to the proposed Dubai-Abu Dhabi Hyperloop.
“[Journalism] manipulates words in the form of expression, [but you can also] write analysis pieces, poetry and novels,” he says. “Music is the same thing and has the same sort of diversity. Maybe it has even more malleability of expression and universality because it bypasses the constraints of words?”
This willingness to use music as a way of communicating wider issues is evident in Pax Universalis. Fairouz explains that its dedication “to the children who have fallen victim to global conflict” came about at the suggestion of Saudi prince Turki Al-Faisal, who saw a unique opportunity to combine Fairouz’s talent with his influence to draw a wider attention to the issue.
“We’ve done several events that have raised money and awareness – but money especially – for organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières or UNHCR [the UN refugee agency],” says Fairouz.
“I’ve seen that Pax Universalis refreshes people,” he continues. “It’s a deliberately attractive piece, so that it will attract people to think and listen, remember the melody and when they remember the melody – when they go home – they’ll make a donation to UNHCR or Médecins Sans Frontières.”
While some critics haven’t been too kind about the work and its crowd-friendly optimism, Fairouz isn’t fazed.
“Pax Universalis has beautiful love themes in it, and I really mean love themes. I’ve had enough of this idea [that we should] shy away from love; that the ‘L’ word has become bad. Trust me when I say, with [everything that’s] going down in the world, there’s a much bigger thing to be afraid of than love.”
Pax Universalis is performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Edward Gardner at the First Night of The Proms, March 21, at Dubai Opera. Tickets cost from Dh50 at www.dubaiopera.com