Imagine a music haven unlike any other in the heart of Dubai. Born from the visionary collaboration between Expo 2020 Dubai and the Oscar-winning maestro A.R. Rahman, Firdaus Studio isn't just a recording studio; it's a testament to artistic ambition. 

Opened in 2022, this state-of-the-art facility boasts the title of one of the world's most advanced recording spaces. But its true magic lies beyond the cutting-edge technology. Firdaus Studio serves as the heart of the groundbreaking Firdaus Orchestra, a genre-defying ensemble composed entirely of talented female musicians. Their sound transcends borders, just like the artists who flock to Firdaus Studio. Here, musicians from all corners of the globe find a haven for collaboration, inspiration, and the creation of truly world-class music.

But Firdaus Studio's vision extends far beyond hosting international stars such as Beyonce, Coldplay, and Ben & Ben. It aspires to be a nurturing ground for the next generation of musical talent. Building on the spirit of innovation and global exchange that defined Expo 2020 Dubai, the studio fosters a multifaceted environment. 

We had the privilege of sitting down with Aditya Modi, the Head of Firdaus Studio, to delve deeper into its mission. Our conversation explored how the studio cultivates local talent, bridges cultural divides through music, and pushes the boundaries of the music industry itself.

Aditya Modi, Head of Firdaus Studio

Saira Malik (S.M.): How did the collaboration between Firdaus Studio and Expo City Dubai come about and what does such a significant location mean for it? 

Aditya Modi (A.M.): Under the visionary leadership of H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, CEO of Expo City Dubai, A.R. Rahman put together the first all-female orchestra in the region, the Firdaus Orchestra as part of Expo 2020. While H.E. Reem Al Hashimy viewed the orchestra as a legacy project for Expo, she also identified the perfect opportunity to create a musical oasis in the heart of Expo City by building a hub where artists from across the globe could access a world class recording studio.  

That is how we set out to build a studio with all the latest technology and one which took sonic quality to the next level. Positioned at the heart of Expo City, which is growing every day, we have the chance to shape a vibrant cultural hub where creativity can thrive.

(S.M.): What is it about Firdaus Studio that makes it so appealing to established international artists? 

(A.M.): Artists come to Firdaus Studio because it is a sonic paradise.If you think of the great music studios around the world, they were built many years ago, within pre-existing spaces, which means they have had to adapt to new technologies. We built Firdaus Studio from scratch, utilizing modern technologies housed in a custom-built building, thereby precisely meeting the demands of today’s music industry. This approach ensures that we are future-proof for a long time. 

We are the first Dolby Atmos HE certified studio in the Middle East. Within our Control Room we have a console that fuses together a state-of-the-art Neve analogue input stage with an Avid S6 digital control surface. Our Live Room accommodates 80 musicians and offers adaptive acoustics and multimedia capabilities. The studio engineers are highly qualified, with diverse musical and cultural backgrounds.

(S.M.): What is the Firdaus Studio’s impression of the current regional music scene, especially in terms of the Orchestra and what changes would they like to see? 

(A.M.): There isn’t a long history of orchestral music in this region but like the rest of the arts and culture scene it is growing fast. As a homegrown ensemble, the Firdaus Orchestra proudly represents Dubai on the world stage. With a big audience for this type of music the Orchestra has been busy performing with world-renowned celebrities like Beyonce and Atif Aslam.

We want the studio and the orchestra to be a catalyst for the music industry in this region. For the first time, young engineers have a place to pursue a career in the industry without needing to travel abroad. 

We also want to see more access to music education. To support this, we launched a program at the studio called ‘Mini Maestros’ which is aimed at children under 6 who can attend with their parents and enjoy an immersive orchestral performance. 

(S.M.): What is the dynamic between Firdaus Studio and Firdaus Orchestra and how do you work together?

(A.M.): The Studio is the permanent home of the Orchestra, and we have a symbiotic relationship. The Studio is where the Orchestra regularly practices and records. We work together closely. Musicians who want to book the Studio can also use the Orchestra for their recordings or film scores. This is what makes us unique. Most studios will only provide an agent to find you an Orchestra if you need one, while we can offer both facilities under a single roof with our own Orchestra that understands the space and can effectively maximize the recording opportunities. 

(S.M.): What role does Firdaus Studio play in promoting regional music? How do you nurture local artists and what have some of the milestones been to date?

(A.M.): We have done a lot of work with regional artists. Last December we hosted, alongside the Orchestra – our Holiday Experience event with singer Abir al Abed which was performed purely in Arabic. The Orchestra also has an Arabic section, which contributes to the unique sound. 

Our ‘Notes from Firdaus’ program opens the doors for aspiring artists in Dubai to come into the studio and record their pieces of work free of charge. Since 2022, we have had 32 up-and-coming artists come in and record, and for these artists it is often a truly once-in-a-lifetime chance to come and record in a world class studio facility.

(S.M.):  Can you talk to us about the cultural exchange that Firdaus Studio has fostered and the importance of it?

(A.M.): The Studio is more than just a space, it is a hub, where artists from around the world can come together to collaborate and create fresh sounds. This vision has always been at the core of our mission. 

We’ve had a Scottish children’s choir sing with Arabic singers and we’ve had an African choir come and perform alongside the Orchestra. We’ve recorded with people from all around the world including South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America. 

We welcome artists of different nationalities and backgrounds to the studio and this diversity is really what sets us apart. Music is an international language; it can be understood by everyone. One of the goals of Expo 2020 was “connecting minds” and we have remained steadfast on this since our inception.

(S.M.):  Can you give us an overview of some of the most standout projects recorded at the studio?

(A.M.): We have been lucky to work with many world-renowned artists such as Beyonce’s team that came in when she was performing at the opening of the Atlantis The Royal. We have also worked with some of the most sought-after production houses, ranging from Netflix and Paramount to Madras Talkies. 

The place really comes alive when A.R. Rahman is in town – both for us in the Studio and the Orchestra. For me, the highlight has been recording our own original tracks composed by A.R. Rahman specifically for the Orchestra. Currently, we are in the process of mixing and finalizing 16 tracks. Our debut track, “The Unsung” was released recently and is available on all the major streaming platforms, with 15 more to come. 

(S.M.): Finally, what are some of the goals the studio has set for the future?

(A.M.): The studio has been designed to have a distinct sound, and we hope artists from around the world will recognize the uniqueness and choose to record their music at the Firdaus Studio. Having said that, we also want to cater to more artists locally. We're a global studio, but our home is Dubai, and we want to promote the vibrant music scene here highlighting the city’s remarkable contributions to arts and culture.

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