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INTERVIEW: Rooftop Rhythms’ Dorian Paul Rogers on the next nine years


Shunning money, Rooftop Rhythms Founder Dorian Paul Rogers has slammed this Abu Dhabi staple into the realms of the community.

Dorian is well versed in the region’s sentiment for poetry.

It’s something he knew on landing in the UAE from the United States some nine years ago, but he quickly learned that it was more in the way of traditional Arabic poetry.

He describes the region’s long history of storytelling:

“There’s the tribal ritual of passing on stories, synonymous with poetry,” he says.

“Those in the maritime industry would recite poems into the ship’s sails, praying all aboard would return to their families. People here wanted to enter a more contemporary poetry world, but I wasn’t the first by any means. I just popularised western style open mic.”



Founded by Dorian, Rooftop Rhythms – described by The Arts Center at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) as ‘the Middle East’s longest-running open mic night’ –   materialised some nine years ago in venues such as Noche, Rocco Forte Hotel, Café Arabia, Mushrif Mall and a variety of lounge-bars.

It was something (especially the latter) that Dorian wanted to move away from, to give Arabic speaking poets the chance to perform and untimely to create a fully cultural experience.

A meeting with New Yorker Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director The Arts Center at NYUAD, was the catalyst for such a move, which happened on 11 December, 2015. “I was desperately trying to get the show out of lounge-bar type venues, since Emiratis and other Muslim attendees may not have felt comfortable being in a licensed place.”

The Arts Center at NYUAD became the show’s new and, now in its ninth season, seemingly permanent home.



Dorian describes how there is a special economy for something that is “hip, cool and positive. When you can find that harmony, it’s always going to resonate with people who don’t want to drink; there’s always going to be a pocket of people who want to have a community, an arts community but to do it in a positive away.”

Rooftop Rhythms is now, according to Dorian, a place where one may bring a spouse for a date night, or a child who isn’t doing that well at school in English, or that they particular don’t care about school work so attendance at the event could inspire such a child.

“Perhaps someone is dealing with depression and just needs to be around positive people,” he adds.

He describes Rooftop Rhythms as “a factory in conjuring entertainment” where beginners, after a four year period, go on to professional standard, perhaps getting paid for bookings.



“It’s a really cool artist development platform; a great way to build a community in artistic ways, building a family, camaraderie through sharing vulnerable humanitarian based topics.”

And for the coming nine years, Dorian sees a platform that is not based on an individual, aka Dorian. “I came from an organisation that built me up the same way I am trying to help and develop artists.  I’m very much a product of an institution, art organisations that developed me and spat me out.”

To find out when the next Rooftop Rhythms takes place, visit

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