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A different police story: Life on the beat.

The Dubai Police Symphony Orchestra is the front-line squad of Dubai Police's charm offensive.

And when they get down to perform or practise, one can understand why.

"Music is a universal language," explained Maj Mohammad Al Shair, Head of the Dubai Police Music Department, who studied music for five years in Egypt's Hilwan University.

"Anyone who can read music notes can play any tune, regardless of the origin of the composer or the period in which it was written," he explains.

Wide playlist

The band's repertoire is proof of their rich talent. They don't just play the UAE national anthem or marching songs but can also dish out classics by Beethoven and Mozart. The band can even play pop music.

Al Shair, a pianist and oud (a traditional Arabic instrument similar to a lute) player, together with a team of musicians, has composed and prepared melodies for hundreds of songs.

All the band's tunes are recorded and archived in a library.

"Dubai is home to people from different nationalities. We should play tunes that match these people's tastes that bring them happiness and joy," said Al Shair.

The marching band-cum-orchestra performs at various official, public and social occasions. The musicians can play the national anthems of different countries as well as popular Arabic songs, including those popularised by Umm Kulthum, Abdul Wahab, Abdul Haleem, Rashid Al Majid and Fairuz.

They also play popular Arab numbers from artists such as Abdul Qader Al Rais and songs from popular Bollywood movies such as Don.

The band's 160 members are a mix of Emiratis, Pakistanis, Indians, Yemenis, Omanis and Sudanese. They train under the tutelage of two Emirati musicians and, occasionally, expatriates.

Members are screened not only for talent but also for shape, height and weight.

Essential instruments

Musical instruments are -- unsurprisingly -- an essential component of the orchestra.

"The bejel (a musical instrument used to announce the arrival of VIPs) is one of our most essential instruments, often used during official functions," Al Shair said.

The band recently introduced congas (a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum of African origin) in playing traditional Emirati tunes.

When they are asked to play native tunes, they do it with what musicians call "Al Wataria", using traditional Emirati musical instruments such as rahmani (drum), altaar (duff or tambourine or hand drum), pipe, guitar and jazz drum.

Official assignments

"We perform on various occasions -- private or official assignments. The orchestra plays during Police Academy graduation ceremonies, festivals, conferences, carnivals, cruise ship arrivals, sports competitions, the Dubai World Cup and ceremonies for public and private schools," Al Shair said.

Sometimes, they are even asked to play at private events or wedding parties.

While the orchestra members do have an official uniform, they also wear traditional kandouras in some performances.

"We're sometimes asked to put on the national dress to promote traditional culture and music among the foreigners," he said.

TimelineAa

1962 Dubai Police orchestra was established as a brass band with 18 members

1968 A pipe band was also formed with 18 members and merged with the band making it an official orchestra

1970 The number of musicians increased to 160, playing 11 types of musical instruments

1990 Performed during the launch of the first Emirates flight to London

2006 Performed during the World Civilisation and Culture Festival in Algeria

2000 to 2007 The band played on 1,843 occasions -- or about 230 events per year.

Daily routine

Formation at 7.30am

Breakfast at 8.15am

Sporting activities

Training classes

Instrument cleaning at 1.10pm

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Oct 22, 2008
Words:604
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