Living in Qatar, you cannot but know one of the biggest family-owned conglomerate houses in the region, the Al Fardan Group. Dana Al Fardan, a progeny of the family, is a renowned artist whose passion lies in music. She is a composer and songwriter, and is the CEO of DNA Sounds, a homegrown label that she launched to build the musical infrastructure in Qatar, and also to nurture the local talent.
She pursued a degree in International Relations and Gemology (a study of gemstones), after which she briefly joined the family jewelry business. But life took a surprising turn when she got pregnant.
“It was actually while I was pregnant with my daughter Layla that I was inspired to write my first piece of music which is called ‘Layla’; a musical ode to my daughter. While listening to music, I had a realization and thought that I wanted to essentially make music. I began to write a story and began to explore different themes, ideologies and concepts. And I ended up writing a musical piece that was set in the American Civil War, and it ended up evolving from there. That was a turning point for me and it was in that moment that I decided to make music my career,” says Dana Al Fardan.
She went on to launch her debut album ‘Paint’ four years back, making her the first Qatari English singer. Her second album ‘Sandstorm’, contains 11 songs composed by her and can be considered as a cross over album with a number of different genres including jazz, swing and Latino. Last year she also partnered with Hamad International Airport (HIA) and had her song ‘The Beginning’ selected as the theme song for the entire airport.
But though music has always been a passion for Dana, as one of the heirs to the Alfardan Jewellery empire, she has also always had a keen interest in the jewelry industry. She recently has joined Alfardan Jewellery as its newly appointed Vice President but she says that she hasn’t switched careers.
“I’m a composer and I have spent the past four years trying to build a repertoire of my music and to improve my skills and to create more awareness of what is it that I do as a composer and musician”
“I have not shifted from music to jewelry,” she says. “I’m a composer and I have spent the past four years trying to build a repertoire of my music and to improve my skills and to create more awareness of what is it that I do as a composer and musician. It’s been an exciting journey but at the end of the day, my family business is my business. So it is great that I had some time to pursue my career as a composer, which I’m still doing but at the same time, I’m dedicating some time to looking after our business.”
Dana says that this was always part of the plan and what she wanted to do was to establish her music company so she could come back to running the jewelry business.
“It was always part of the plan to take some time off and pursue my passion. Otherwise my mind was always going to be there and I would never have been 100% invested in my job. In the past four years, I was trying to build a team which I now have set up to run the business side of things. The only thing I want to do related to music is to compose and not organize anything.”
Dana says that she has now someone managing DNA Sounds and though she is completely involved and will still look at everything and approve the overall aspect of it, she will not be following the detail-oriented, micro-managing approach that she had for the last four years.
“Of course, you have to build the platform and the infrastructure and now that the structure is built, I’m happy and confident enough to take a step back,” she said.
Dana also disclosed details about another new branch of DNA Sounds that she has opened called as DNA Heritage, the chief aim of which is to take Qatari culture out to the world.
“What DNA Heritage does is that it exports facets of Qatari arts, which are packaged up with my music, to different cultural centers around the world. This is done through the foreign embassies here. The first of these is going to two cultural centers in Vienna and so it is going through the Austrian ambassador here. It is a form of cultural exchange that I want to encourage.”
The past year has been challenging for Dana as she was working on many musical projects.
“It’s been a pretty taxing year as I had to create the bulk of the musical content for many projects. Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to reveal more about these upcoming projects as they haven’t been officially announced as yet. I spent most of my time putting together all this and it is finally done and recorded. So now I can focus on my job here and in my spare time compose which is what I do anyway,” she said.
Dana, whose instrument of choice is the piano says that she spends most of her time around a piano, writing songs.
“Music is my passion, I am literally living and breathing music pretty much all of the time. It is something that inspires me, in a way I hope I can inspire others. Music allows me to be able to create something that I am proud of, it gives me a unique voice.”
With her new role as Vice President of the jewelry business Dana wants to bring on a more personalized approach to a corporate approach that most businesses employ.
“One of the main changes that I’m going to make, stepping into the company, is to take a more personalized approach with every single one of our brands”
“Jewelry has been at the forefront of my family business for generations and I am excited to build on its existing outstanding collections with new fine pieces where women will feel empowered while wearing them. One of the main changes that I’m going to make, stepping into the company, is to take a more personalized approach with every single one of our brands to communicate the identity more and the character, rather than just the visuals. So everything is going to have a narrative from now on.”
With her new appointment, Dana envisions to launch new and inspirational campaigns for women in Qatar starting with the ‘Stay Active and Shine’ campaign which is set to launch soon. With this campaign, she aspires to raise awareness of the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle for the women of Qatar, while confidently incorporating into every day wear and use, the beauty of the finest jewelry of world renowned designers.
“I’m personally invested in promoting and healthy and balanced life style. This is something my whole family feels very strongly about. Especially for my sister, Jawahar Al Fardan, who is a yogi and has set up Evergreen Organics, the first 100% vegan café in Qatar. For us, fitness is not just a lifestyle, its not one hour in the gym. It is what you do the second you wake up until the second you go to bed and jewelry is a part of that. It’s a part of that self expression.
“Stay Active and Shine campaign basically will bring jewelry into the sphere of everyday life. It will give jewelry a voice, an identity and a culture rather than just an aesthetic quality that is reserved for only special occasions. The visuals and ad campaign is going to be about women wearing active and sportswear with diamonds that don’t weigh you down. It’s all about being feminine and to shine while exerting ourselves and to sparkle while breaking a sweat. By doing this somewhere I feel I’m taking a more personalized approach to things and giving them a greater meaning.”
Dana wears many hats, yet she seamlessly manages her home and family. Her daughter, now three and a half years old, can often be spotted with her during events and even at her workplace.
“It’s challenging when you have a child,” she says. “But as much as possible, I try to incorporate her into my daily life. She is always a part of my music, if I’m in the studio, she’s often with me and she loves it. She grew up with this and so for her, it’s the most natural thing in the world to be around music. I also take her to the office from time-to-time where she has got her own space. In the morning she’s in school anyway, so this year has been a lot easier that last year and I can plan my mornings. I feel spending time with your child is the most important thing. One thing that we, both me and my husband, make sure is about bedtime. She has a time when she goes to bed and we have to be there at the time that is very important for us.”
Layla takes after her mother and loves music just as much.
“She loves to sing, she started piano and violin lessons and she really likes the piano. I’m very proud of her. This is a great age to start teaching them. They are so observant right now that they don’t have to make the slightest effort to figure anything out. So now that she is absorbing, we are just throwing everything at her. She teaches me something new everyday, I just hope that I can give her the same amount of support. For me, she is my inspiration every moment.”
This article is from BQ Plus’s Issue 9 – March-April 2017.
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