The UAEs Project: Aloft Star winner Stephon LaMar (centre) with (left to right) Virgin Radios James, Sony Music Entertainment Middle East general manager Mike Fairburn, Maz from Virgin Radio and DJ Bliss at Aloft Abu Dhabi. The UAEs Project: Aloft Star winner Stephon LaMar (centre) with (left to right) Virgin Radios James, Sony Music Entertainment Middle East general manager Mike Fairburn, Maz from Virgin Radio and DJ Bliss at Aloft Abu Dhabi.

New Carolina native Stephon LaMar emerged as the 2017 winner of Aloft Hotels’ music talent search ‘Project: Aloft Star’, organised in collaboration with Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, after an exciting evening of live musical performances by the competition’s four finalists on November 10 at Relax@12, the rooftop lounge at Aloft Abu Dhabi.

Strumming a guitar and crooning an original song composition, LaMar competed against three other finalists: Yousef Khalil, Iva Georgieva and Danny Aridi. His talent ultimately impressed the panel of judges, comprising personalities from the UAE’s music industry, including Mike Fairburn, general manager of Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, artist DJ Bliss, and Maz and James from Virgin Radio 104.4.

LaMar, who moved to Dubai from Brooklyn, New York in 2013, is a self-taught musician who has been performing in clubs and venues throughout the Middle East region, including a starring role in Dubai’s dinner theatre show “Alice: Curioser and Curioser”. According to his Facebook page, LaMar has performed opening acts for such established artists as Enrique Iglesias and Florence and The Machine.

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Speaking to Hotelier Express during his night of triumph, LaMar said: “Events like this are so important for the UAE and for the Middle East because there is so much undiscovered talent throughout this region and there’s not that many platforms where people get to perform original music, original compositions.”

As the winner of ‘Project: Aloft Star’, LaMar is guaranteed a distribution deal from Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, as well as a styling session, a chance to record his own music video, a mentoring session with industry producers, lyricists, choreographers, and more, including multi-platform publicity opportunities in the region.

Aloft Hotels’ ‘Project: Aloft Star’ annual competition to discover musical talent  kicked off on October 1 when bands, artists, and songwriters based in the UAE submitted original song compositions. After receiving over 130 submissions, three of the four finalists were selected by the judges while the fourth was voted in by the public.

Since 2008, Aloft has been putting the spotlight on rising stars, offering an ongoing music concert series at every one of the brand’s 126 hotels.‘Project: Aloft Star’ promotes the brand’s commitment to supporting self-expression by identifying emerging music talent from around the globe, offering artists a chance to kick start their careers and take centre stage at the hotel brand.

Marriott International area manager Abu Dhabi – SPG Hotels and Aloft Abu Dhabi general manager Michel Nader said: “It is extremely important for Aloft Hotels to organise ‘Project: Aloft Star’ because in the DNA of the brand, our hotels provide a platform for new musical artists to be discovered. These are people who don’t necessarily have a chance to showcase their music and Aloft as a brand speaks to these people.”

Of the partnership with Aloft Hotels, Sony Music Entertainment Middle East general manager Mike Fairburn said: “Aloft Hotels came to us because they share our vision  in supporting talent. If you look at what they’ve done around the world in all their hotel locations, in the US, Europe and Asia, they support new, breakthrough artists. We as a record label based here in Dubai and looking after a wide territory over the region, we’re committed as a company to young artists. This is an opportunity for us to partner with a team that supports music and obviously, it’s also an interesting project to discover who’s out there.”

Currently running live acts in its Abu Dhabi and Al Ain hotels, Aloft Hotels will turn up its brand programming in the UAE with new hotel openings expected to come online in Dubai South, Palm Jumeirah, Me’aisem and City Centre Deira in the next year.