Ismat Izzy Abidi, founder and creative director at Freshly Ground Sounds, the UAE's first collaborative music community, has proved that having a portfolio career - combining a full-time position with entrepreneurship - is both achievable and fulfilling.
A few years ago, Abidi, our latest Entrepreneur of the Week, dreamt of a place in the UAE where you could while away a lazy Saturday afternoon chatting with friends or reading a book while listening to a local musician playing in the corner.
She grew up in Abu Dhabi and spent a few years studying in London. Having graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science, she moved back to the UAE and was happy with her chosen career of a technology and media lawyer.
However, she missed a lo-fi independent live music scene in East London which she had actively been part of during her studies.
Late in the summer of 2013, Abidi decided to play for a few friends in a relaxed setting of a local coffee shop in Dubai. Little did she know that it would turn out to be the very first gig of what today is Freshly Ground Sounds.
In time her initiative has grown into a community-based platform for local musicians, helping to build the UAE's now recognised independent live music scene.
Freshly Ground Sounds gigs, which have taken place at various locations over the past three years, have brought in emerging musicians as well as local luminaries and have attracted a crowd of 1,000, their top attendance so far.
It was not before long that international and local brands have become interested in sponsoring their events more than eager to tap into the opportunities of the city’s emerging new demographic who now favour no- or less-commercial musicians over international superstars.
"The right people began to increasingly appreciate the intangible creative value of music and the effect it can have on brands, venues and businesses," Abidi says. “We will never be able to measure the butterfly effect of Freshly Ground Sounds on Dubai’s creative and start-up economy, but I am confident we are a significant contributor.”
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