In our continuing series on building a life as an artist, this conversation delves into current opportunities and challenges that artists are facing with careers based in the country. Hear from locally based artists: Shilpa Ananth, Khalid Jauffer, and Carlos Páez.

About the Artists

Shilpa Ananth

Shilpa Ananth is an Indian singer-songwriter based in the UAE. Having grown up listening to artists including Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Norah Jones and a variety of classical Indian artists like Bombay Jayashri and Sudha Raghunathan, the singer’s musical compositions blend the ethereal tapestries of South India with influences from Soul, Jazz, and Electronic genres. Her captivating catalog seamlessly weaves three of the oldest Indian languages – Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi – with English, creating a musical experience that transcends cultural boundaries. 

Ananth’s journey into the professional world of music began at the prestigious Berklee College of Music where she graduated with an honors degree in Professional Music. Following her time at Berklee, Ananth released her debut EP Indian Soul, receiving praise and recognition across the music industry. More recently, Ananth has recorded and performed with Grammy award-winning composers, A.R.Rahman, Bobby McFerrin, Bill Whalen, Chandrika Tandon, and Javier Limon’s ‘Original Quartet’. The trailblazing songstress’ career boasts significant milestones including, featuring as a vocalist on the 2021 Grammy-nominated album ‘ONA’ by Thana Alexa, as well as being an opening act for internationally renowned jazz musician, Corey Henry, and Afro-Jazz band, The Balimaya Project.

In September 2023, Ananth released her much-anticipated second album titled REPRODUCTION, solidifying her position as a true artist of global resonance.

Khalid Jauffer

Khalid Jauffer (b. 1996, Dubai) finds his subject matter in everyday life. He stumbles upon his work within a routine of walking, running, cycling, and driving. From writing poems in delivery order comments to recreating a rose in a bottle from his office parking lot, he distills the poetic fragility of human existence from seemingly mundane experiences.

Khalid is interested in what he calls “public language”: Everyday society’s remains, belongings, trash, footsteps, notes, actions, mistakes and constructions. He is a careful spectator within this domain, turning nuance into metaphor. His practice takes various forms; pencil portraits, receipt prints, forged notes, found postcards, replicas of suitcases and recreations of bus stops. Being a spectator of such, Khalid refracts how these objects could be viewed—with a sociological and anthropological perspective. 

Khalid is an alumnus of programs Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship and Campus Art Dubai 7.0 with previous group shows in Goa, Jeddah and Yorkshire.

Carlos Páez

Carlos is a multidisciplinary theater artist, game designer, and educator. His work focuses on creating new realities where audience-participants explore new ways of being themselves and interacting with other humans and non-humans.

After a serendipitous acting workshop 13 years ago, Carlos has been consistently performing, starting in Venezuela with the Theater Group of the Corporate University Sigo, and then in Abu Dhabi with Community Theater groups such as Resuscitation Theatre, Beyond the Veil, and musical performance groups like the UAE National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and the acapella group Blue Fever. Throughout his undergraduate studies, Carlos developed an interdisciplinary practice that combined theatrical performance with game design. The fruits of this exploration can be seen in works such as After the Mountain Wildfires (The Everywhere Classroom), presented at Dubai World Expo 2020 and produced by Alserkal Avenue, which took inspiration from theories of instructional design to create a live performance combining videogames, board games, and live performance, where audiences interacted through game-like structures; and Dinos Rock!, an interactive play for children aged 6 to 10.

Carlos is also a creative coder, having developed an interactive video piece titled Slow Motion, which was presented as part of The Trace of Dawn, an online exhibition by Header/Footer Gallery. Carlos also incorporates creative coding into his performance, such as in the short performance Salata, presented at Alserkal Avenue and produced by Engage 101, where a live simulation would run in parallel to the live performance. Carlos has also developed a short arcade-style videogame titled Clams, using the “fantasy retro console” Pico-8.

As an educator, Carlos has conducted several arts workshops in Abu Dhabi and Al Ruwais City for different age groups. Carlos currently co-runs the Performance Co/Lab workshops at 421 Arts Campus in collaboration with seasoned performer and producer Mary Chase, which are recurring, free, open to all performance workshops that aim to create a stable community of performers in Abu Dhabi. Carlos is currently employed at Al Raha International School, where he teaches theatrical lighting and sound, and devised theater.

Carlos holds a BA (Hons.) in Theater from NYU Abu Dhabi, with a minor in Game Design from NYU Tisch. He is also a current artist fellow of the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF).