The Working Pinoy

From Stage to Kitchen: OFW Musicians in Dubai

As the pandemic puts an unforeseen halt to Dubai's live music scene, these OFW musicians are finding new ways to survive.

When Dubai was still an emerging supercity in the vast desert, Filipinos were one of the first to migrate there. Then with the emergence of karaoke and cover bands in the 80s, OFW musicians sprawled across the globe. In the hopes of finding fortune and fulfilling their dreams, they flew to this estranged mecca. Unknowingly, building an entertainment community that maintained its strong reputation among locals and tourists. But with the unexpected halt to Dubai’s nightlife, what’s in store for them in the uncertain future?

OFW Musicians in Dubai - From Stage to Kitchen
The wild, crowded parties in Dubai before the pandemic hit 2020

Dubai Nightlife Pre-Pandemic

Luxury. Excess. These are just a few words to describe this ridiculously rich city. Accordingly, the parties are just as grand. All year round, tourists flock to Dubai just to get a glimpse of the booming nightlife. On account of live music in almost every hotel bar and club. On those stages, talents from all over would perform their hearts out. But one nationality always stands out. For years, OFW musicians have been favored by Dubai’s agents and hoteliers. Not only because of demand by tourists, but because they know that they’re the best in the business. It’s always been Filipinos. Bars and clubs, the life of the party, the business has long been ignited by Filipino talent.

Music on Mute

In this land of man-made beaches and high-rise buildings, OFW musicians never had to worry about losing their stable jobs. Until now. Just when vaccines and hope are filling Dubai’s city, the government decides to shut live music down. As well as all forms of dancing and entertainment. It’s a common story for these OFW musicians to have families they have to fend for back home. Unfortunately, for most of them, all they’ve ever known is playing music. Ever since they moved to Dubai, income came from doing live gigs for years. However, with this unforeseen challenge, many of them have picked up creative ways to survive without being sent back home.

From Stage to Kitchen

For Filipinos, it’s never a bad time to turn to food. Good news? Let’s celebrate with a feast! Jobless and stuck in a lockdown? Dried fish and rice are enough! And this is exactly where the brilliant idea of three lovely musicians came from.

OFW Musicians in Dubai - From Stage to Kitchen
From Left: Wednesday and Dahlia on their regular gig, pre-Covid

Meet Dahlia, Wednesday, and Shanice. These OFW musicians-turned-sisters have joined forces to bring a new kind of Filipino food to Dubai. With the sole intention of surviving, they went on a hunt for tuyo. The idea: flavor it with olive oil and aromatics and sell it by the bottle. Sure, it’s pretty common for us here in the Philippines. However, in Dubai, bottled gourmet tuyo is hard to come by. So much so, that it’s always on the list of things that OFWs bring when flying back to Dubai.

RELATED: Meet the all-around OFW entrepreneur from Surigao

OFW Musicians in Dubai - From Stage to Kitchen
The very first bottle of gourmet tuyo they sent out to a potential distributor

The result? Flavor bomb bottles that are now being distributed to groceries around the U.A.E. – with zero experience in entrepreneurship, these three ladies managed to close a deal that could potentially change the course of their lives. Sadly, we can’t share the exact details as they’re still currently in the works. What we could attest to though is that their recipe is so good, they closed a massive deal on flavor alone! What bloomed from a need for survival has now become a possibility to secure their individual futures as well as their families. But also, to elevate Filipino cuisine abroad.

Back to Stage?

The question remains, what’s in store for them in the future? When gigging goes back to normal…

OFW Musicians in Dubai - From Stage to Kitchen
Shanice Michaels: OFW singer who’s been gigging for more than 20 years

“I can only see myself singing for the love of it now. I’ve finally reached that age. If I couldn’t sing, I’ve always known that there’s a place for me in the kitchen. The pandemic became an actual push for me to finally do it full-time, and trust me tuyo is not the only thing I have in mind,” Shanice, a tenured singer, explains as she mixes a fresh batch of gourmet tuyo.

Would you like to read more about these OFWs and their fascinating stories?

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