Dubai: He lost his job — his third in Dubai — in early 2012. His wife was then pregnant with their second child and the couple had a very limited income that was barely enough to cover the basic expenses.
But Shavkat Mamadjonov, an expat from Tajikistan since 2007, did not apply for a new job.
Instead, the former simultaneous interpreter from Russian-English-Russian, who was frustrated after selling chemical products and doing financial services in Dubai, decided to nurture his passion and love for music that grew during the three years of his experience in his last job with a piano business he was hired to develop and promote.
On September 5, 2012, House of Pianos (HOP) was born with just Dh27,000 gathered with the help of two of his friends. Today, it is one of the most well-known brands in the GCC and beyond for finest pianos and instruments in the industry.
“In the last nine years, we have provided our services to world-famous musicians like Andrea Bocelli, Bruno Mars, Elton John, Katy Perry, Hussain Al Jassmi, Justin Bieber, Lionel Richie, A.R. Rahman, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Lang Lang and many others,” Mamadjonov told Gulf News in an interview. “Today, we take pride that we have been chosen and preferred by many royal and ruling family members of all seven emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain,” explained the 39-year-old.
Why he chose this business
But, fame was not just what Mamadjonov had envisioned when he decided to start the piano business. “I chose this business venture because I knew I could contribute to the community through music.”
However, the power of music in his business has taken him far and beyond. “It has connected me with some of the most talented people from around the world. It gave me the opportunity to travel to different corners of the world and the amazing network that music has to offer.”
House of Pianos currently has three showrooms in Dubai — one in Dubai Opera, the main showroom and another branch in Al Qouz. “We have another showroom coming up in Abu Dhabi. We have a branch opened in Frankfurt, Germany,” said Mamadjonov.
Success of the people
But the young entrepreneur firmly believes that it is not just the product that makes a company successful. “It is the people,” he says, referring to his employees. “Behind the success of our company are the amazing group of people of all ages and walks of life. We have people who have been in the piano craftsmanship business for over 50 years. We have a father and son working together, and an amazing team that has grown to become a family.”
From BBTone to flying piano
One of the founding principles of the business is, Mamadjonov said, “Just like everything in nature, if you don’t feed or water the plant, it will eventually die, so does our human nature. We must feed it with creativity, excitement and ideas.”
For Mamadjonov, creative ideas come from listening to and communicating with his team. And those ideas gave birth to some of the unique pianos.
One such piano is the BBTone piano, a baby piano designed and made in Dubai. “These are colourful pianos in small size made for kids with the look and feel of a grand piano. Our BBTone pianos have become very popular not only in the UAE but beyond,” said Mamadjonov.
Another unique piano that HOP has produced is a “flying piano” that can float in the air with the help of a special design. “Our Flying Piano is now in operation and available for event companies and musicians to hire for their events,” said Mamadjonov.
As a first, HOP flew a piano from Sky Dive Dubai all the way to the helipad of Burj Al Arab in March. “Flying a 500-kg Steinway Grand Piano by helicopter 1,200m above the ground was one of the most exciting and challenging projects. I have not heard anyone doing it anywhere in the world. It took us four days to design and produce the support structure that lifted the piano for a private event,” recalled Mamadjonov.
Some more firsts in piano world
For the first time in the UAE, Mamadjonov said, HOP has built and assembled a semi-transparent piano. It was completed in May. “Guests can see this special piano made in Dubai in the lobby of Burj Al Arab. It was also displayed at the Hotel Show,” he said.
Making the UAE home
Mamadjonov had been a simultaneous interpreter from Russian-English-Russian for 20 years before coming over to the UAE. “I have interpreted for many presidents, ministers and officials from around the world. In 2007, right after getting married, my wife and I decided to visit Dubai for two weeks to spend time together and 14 years on, we are still here and have grown to love this place as our home. Our two kids were born in Dubai.
“The UAE is my source of inspiration and courage. One of the most important lessons learnt in the UAE is that on the path of development never forget that development must be holistic and serve the well-being of the people not the other way around.”
HOP has also introduced a piano robot. Named Pianoplan, the piano robot can lift a piano on the stairs. HOP has also produced portable customised ‘Piano Shells’ of different colours, sizes and designs.
HOP was also behind the first piano concert of Emirati pianists in 2017, said Mamadjonov. “We are working on the development of Floating Piano, and Piano on Wheels. We are also developing an initiative called Community Concert On Wheels.”
Giving back to the community
Music therapy is one among a series of initiatives through which Mamadjonov and HOP have been giving back to the community in the UAE, musically.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Oxana Uncu and Abner D’souza from HOP played the piano for an hour for a patient at Thumbay Hospital in Ajman who had a stroke, recollected Mamadjonov. “They played some of his favourite songs. Not only did he enjoy the songs but he even took part in it by playing hand percussion. The glow in his eyes and that joy that he expressed will never be forgotten,” Mamadjonov said.
There were other patients who joined the musicians in wheelchairs. “There was one old Arab man, who asked to play songs by iconic Lebanese singer Fairouz, and he started dancing to the music. We were proud that we brought some joy and fun to these people and we intend to continue it once the pandemic is over,” said Mamadjonov.
The young entrepreneur from Tajikstan strongly believes that music indeed has a magical effect on people, no matter the physical or mental state we are in. “We have seen many thousands of great and inspiring stories from around the world. One of them is the recent one from America’s Got Talent — Kodi Lee, the autistic and visually impaired young man who inspired millions of people with his piano playing and singing skills.”
For the same reason, Mamadjonov said education and community contribution is an integral part of his piano business. “We make every possible effort to support and promote musical education in the UAE and beyond,” he said.
Multiple community projects
Over the past nine years since its inception, Mamadjonov said, HOP has developed and launched several community projects. “‘On The Edge of Discoveries’ is focused on educating schoolchildren about the history of music, history of piano, anatomy of piano and most importantly, benefits of playing piano.”
HOP also offers a platform for talented musicians and composers to conduct masterclasses and workshops for interested people from its showroom. It has also launched a piano book for schools and hotels on care and maintenance of pianos. “We have also built five piano studios for freelance teachers to teach students and conduct online learning sessions for their students,” said Mamadjonov.
Another community initiative from HOP is Musical Friday. “It was born early 2017 with the idea and the goal to create a platform whereby musicians and community can come together to share their talent, knowledge and passion for music and music history.” Before the pandemic, Mamadjonov recalled, Musical Friday had become so popular that many people started coming with their family and children to take part.
Promoting music virtually
After the pandemic hit, Mamadjonov said HOP quickly adapted to the new reality and made every possible effort to create online platforms to stay connected with its community and customers. “We have launched online live streaming concerts supporting local musicians. We have created a virtual tour of our showroom for our customers from around the world to view and listen to our pianos through our website.”
With the virtual opportunities expanding the horizons, another initiative titled ‘Musical Diary’ was also launched. “It is a series of video interviews by talented musicians and composers from around the world. One of the first musicians was the legendary pianist Ludovico Einaudi whom I interviewed in our Steinway Dubai Opera showroom,” said Mamadjonov.
HOP has also been actively supporting and promoting piano competitions across the UAE and GCC countries. Mamadjonov is also one of the founding members of charity organisation ‘Nazari Digar’ in the UK and Tajikistan, which focuses on supporting and raising awareness about autism and Down syndrome.