Mayssa Karaa Joins Emirati Stars for Dubai Expo Theme Song
For Mayssa Karaa, being part of the trio that sang the Dubai Expo 2020 theme song, which opened the event last month, was an extension of a role she’s played throughout her adult life.
“I’ve always been about bridging cultures through music and introducing Arabic music to the West,” said Karaa B.M. ’12, the artistic director of the Berklee Abu Dhabi Center.
The song, “This Is Our Time,” by Canadian songwriter and producer Greg Wells, is sung in both English and Arabic, and mixes Middle Eastern instrumentation with international pop. It’s performed by one of the United Arab Emirates’ biggest artists, Hussain Al Jassmi, along with Karaa and Emirati singer-songwriter Almas, who was named on Spotify’s list of best female talent in the Middle East.
The idea behind this group was to feature artists who represented the U.A.E. as well as a person from the region who represents a bridge to the rest of the world. Karaa, who is from Lebanon and lived in the U.S. for 14 years, was chosen as this person after Reem Ebrahim Al-Hashimi, the Emirati minister of state and managing director for the Dubai World Expo 2020 Bid Committee, saw her perform in early 2020.
Karaa joined the two other artists in July to shoot the music video for “This Is Our Time” at the front gate of the expo. The video has more than a million views on YouTube and has been projected onto Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The three performers also sang “This Is Our Time” at the expo’s September 30 opening ceremony, which also featured Andrea Bocelli, Ellie Goulding, and Angélique Kidjo.
Watch the video for "This Is Our Time":
The song’s message couldn’t be a better fit for Karaa, who moved to the Emirates in 2020 for her job at the Berklee center, which will help cultivate the region's enormous artistic talent.
“The song is highlighting the Middle East, which has been negatively portrayed. It’s time to show the world how open the region is. It's a place to inspire and be inspired,” she said.
In addition to her role in the expo's theme song, Karaa is bringing music to the event as the artistic director of the Firdaus Orchestra, an all-female group that includes musicians from 23 countries and is led by superstar Indian composer A. R. Rahman.
At Rahman’s request, Karaa helped lead the project, running more than 400 auditions. The orchestra played at the opening and will continue to appear throughout the expo, performing both popular cover tunes as well as original music by Rahman.
Karaa’s involvement in the orchestra has also inspired her to center her upcoming album around the theme of women’s empowerment and independence. She said the first single, which was produced by Moez Dawad B.M. ’15, is “an invitation to embrace the inner you and be who you are, not what the world expects you to be.”
Indeed, defying expectations is a theme that has run through Karaa’s recent projects, from an album that encourages women to pursue their goals to a song that promotes an area of the world Karaa says is often misunderstood. As she sings in the expo’s anthem, “Let’s join our voice, it’s now or never.”