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V4texx: Painting Dubai Nights Red
What happens when a Dubai-based hotel, Palazzo Versace, seeks to build a themed performance around a famous global icon in music? The result is V4texx Band, scouted by the ace music producer, Quincy Jones and the music band, which is led by the famous percussionist, Kennedy Dante, has three Nigerian instrumentalists. The combined energy of Jones and Dante, is one of the smartest moves yet by the management of the hotel, who has created a specialised entertainment package that is unrivalled anywhere in the world, writes Vanessa Obioha
“Where have you been all my life?” That’s one of the likely reactions after being entertained by the V4texx Band. Given the fact that it is a four-piece aggregation of accomplished multi-instrumentalists, it could easily be mistaken for a full orchestra, owing mainly to the power of its delivery and the demonstration of great skill by the band members. Experiencing the band is such an impactful feeling that endures and longs for an encore.
The powerful quartet which has become talk of the town (and beyond) has raised the bar of entertainment, particularly for nightlife in Dubai. V4texx Band is made up of accomplished instrumentalists who churn out masterly pieces that keep its audience asking for more. The Dubai-based band has a unique and interesting history. It was formed out of the quest by the management of the Palazzo Versace Hotel in the United Arab Emirates to build a themed performance around a famous global icon in music. Not many would fault its choice of Quincy Jones, the ace music producer who made a name for himself and Michael Jackson, the late King of Pop.
His assignment was to create a self-styled bar and lounge within the hotel. Jones went to work immediately by identifying a talent who understood what was required of him. That man is the immensely gifted Dante Kennedy, who has a diverse background cutting across music, marketing and sales.
Kennedy, CEO of V4texx Music Group LLC also doubles as the Entertainment and Music Director for the Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai. For Jones to trust him with that demanding responsibility says a lot about his lofty heights in entertainment. It is common knowledge that it is not easy to earn the respect of Jones. The ace producer’s trust in Dante is very revealing of his immense talent, and so far he has lived up to his rating. Completely at peace with himself and what was required of him, Dante formed the V4texx Band.
The name of the band is pronounced “Vortex.” The keyboardist, Emmanuel is from Nigeria. Mr. Segs plays the saxophone. He is also from Nigeria. The guitarist, Ajayi can play a couple of other instruments, as well. He is another Nigerian. Dante plays the drums and other percussion instruments. He completes this dynamic quartet that is changing the nightlife of Dubai. Dante said that being surrounded by Nigerians in his workspace “was not planned.”
“Having these musicians from the same nationality was not planned. Before Ajayi, the newest member of the band joined us, we had a Kenyan and before him, a Cuban, playing the guitar,” Dante said.
To be sure, there are a couple of platforms through which Nigerian entertainers are showcased in Dubai. The Expo 2020 Dubai, which ran on the theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ is one such event. Held every five years, the World Expo welcomed over 24 million visitors from 192 participating countries to Dubai. On Nigeria’s Day at the Expo 2020 Dubai, ARISE Fashion Week reminded the world why Nigeria is a land of endless opportunities and outstanding talents. With a stunning runway and riveting music performances. There is also One Africa Music Festival which is held in Dubai and promoted by Paul Okoye.
Information sourced from Dubai Tourism Statistics puts total international visitors from November 2022 to January 16, 2023 at 12.82 million, out of which, inbound tourism data for Dubai, estimates that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians visit the emirate every year, marking a year-on-year rise of 33%. The result makes Nigeria Dubai’s fastest-growing visitor source market. Apart from those who come and go for business or leisure, dependable sources state that around 50,000 to 100,000 Nigerians live in the UAE. About two years ago, the release of a new labour policy, prohibited Nigerian diaspora living and working in the UAE from being provided with a work permit. This led to the mass deportation of Nigerians from the Gulf nation.
For most Nigerians who can afford a taste of luxury, Dubai is their first choice, as visitors are only required to get a visa on arrival into the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite the suspension of visas to Nigerians of certain age categories, Dubai still holds a strong attraction to Nigerians. Being a serious professional to the core, the nationality of members of the band wasn’t something that bothered him. His pressing concern is to do whatever it takes to keep his audience happy.
Last January, the leader of the band, Dante Kennedy recorded his 400th performance in the Middle East country.
He captures the changing scenario of the entertainment scene in Dubai. “The entertainment scene in the UAE is very good. There is growth because of individuality and what we can collectively do in the entertainment sector within the country. The people in the entertainment business have come together to create a good foundation.”
The capabilities of his team have never failed, said Dante. “What we do every night is determined by our perception of the kind of people sitting around the table in the room. We celebrate the evening based on the kind of people sitting in the crowd. If they want to dance, we have to play something danceable or they just want to sit down and listen with their glasses of wine, we are capable of doing that as well. The band is so versatile in its delivery.”
Working in a region of the Middle East that keeps breaking its own record for the spectacular, V4texx comes highly recommended to the stream of tourists pouring into Dubai. The band is inspired by Jones, a living legend in music production, whose name provides a kind of talisman that draws a crowd to hear and watch the band perform inside one of the most wonderful hospitality establishments in the world.
In a part of the world that is used to having everything described in fitting superlatives, it is extremely challenging to come up with something that finds a space among the spectacular. The strategic harnessing of the combined energies from Palazzo Versace, Jones and Kennedy is one of the smartest moves yet by the management of the hotel, who have created a specialised entertainment package that is unrivaled anywhere in the world.
While it is common to write about things and events in Dubai in magniloquent words, since almost everything is purposely created as phenomenal, V4texx without doubt, has earned its place among the stars.
By choosing Dante, Jones was putting his good name and everything he has achieved on the line. If it failed, it could put a question mark on some of the things he had done in the past.
Thankfully, he has not regretted that decision for close to two years now; night after night, as satisfied audiences keep coming back for more entertainment. It proves that Jones still has the magic as a talent scout and the almost clairvoyant ability to breathe new life into an existing product as he did with Chaz Jankel’s song, ‘Ai No Corrida.’ Jones took the song in 1981 and transformed it to win the Grammy in 1982 for himself in the Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals category.
Versatility is a common trait of V4texx as the band rises to the challenge of diverse tastes for music from audience members at every performance.
Dante has found more than one opportunity in Dubai, while the band is performing, he is also filling a void in the administrative and business side of music.
“So many people are coming to Dubai to perform but they are missing that other portion like licensing, contracts and different things. You are not going to give away your hard-earned material that you recorded in the studio for free to companies that are earning revenue off your hard work. So, I am trying to make some awareness and business out of that.”
At the end of the day (more like the end of the night), all Dante wants to do is just paint the nightlife of Dubai red “by doing whatever it takes to make sure that everyone is happy.”
Credited with designing a sneaker brand called Taek, this famous drummer who has shared the stage and worked in the studio with many leading American musicians considers his time in Dubai as a very important assignment to try and change how music from the West can be marketed to a conservative society like the UAE.
For Dante, whose other interests include fashion and marketing, one of the challenges of taking up residency at the Palazzo Versace is the distance it creates between him and his family. It makes him feel like he is “home alone,” most times but his wife understands that he is at work for the good of the family.