The task of transforming a 20th Century construction into an acoustically sound music lounge is a difficult one and is what Archt. Murad Ismail undertook with the Qbaa project. What is today a unique dining space with an affliction to soulful music was, at the point of its inception, an abandoned warehouse. 

By Dilshan Senaratne


The challenges of developing a music lounge in a highly residential area are obvious. Noise pollution is a significant hindrance to residents nearby. While soundproofing a restaurant is an achievable feat, soundproofing a music lounge poses a set of complications.

The problem with soundproofing a music lounge is that the music sounds dead and lacks reverberation, once the place is soundproofed. “With Qbaa we had to maintain a fine balance of acoustics and soundproofing,” explains Archt. Murad Ismail adding that, “we could’ve made it conducive to music completely but that wouldn’t have been fair by the residents and to completely soundproof it would mean that the music wouldn’t carry.”

Besides the music lounge, Qbaa also has a dining space where the mood is much lighter and only traces of its heavy musical influences are evident. In fact the sound is so well contained within the lounge that the same music will go unnoticed in most parts. This is especially true of the rooftop where the ambience is more intimate and silence is the most overplayed notation.

The rustic chambers of Qbaa, with its brick wall finishes and minimal lighting, are a testament to the concept of emphasising the music, which is the basis for the design idea and central to the Qbaa experience. One of the highlight of the architecture is that the sound carries on equal levels throughout the lounge, whether it is the furthest corner of the lounge or a stand just next to the band, the sound levels will remain on an equal acoustic.

“Instead of having an aesthetic band performing on an elevated stage, we wanted to offer a more engaging and involved performance. The band is on the same level as the guests and there are a few lights to highlight the performers. This kind of concept is very successful all over the world, especially in New York and now even in Singapore on Arab Street. “It’s not about drawing influence from a specific country, it’s about music and music has no boundaries.” adds Archt. Ismail.

The sophistication of Qbaa is essentially drawn from its simplicity, with simple workings like the canopy drawn across the dining area and a majority of fabric and timber constituting the palette of materials used. The construction itself is not a costly endeavour with the larger part of the budget invested in obtaining top of the range equipment for the music setup.

The one element that is larger than life is the bar which is a majestic centrepiece composed of copper and timber. 

The one element that is larger than life is the bar which is a majestic centrepiece composed of copper and timber.

Qbaa is a prime example of using the correct space with minimal distractions to accommodate the design idea.

“We as Sri Lankans are still avid fans of glittery finishes and glamour, bling isn’t always a necessity. It’s more about complementing the concept and providing a space with a theme. Internationally, most leading properties have understood this and they do the minimum in terms of construction and final detail so as not to hinder the mood or the feel.”

The growing interest in sustainable design and eco-friendly concepts all demand that constructions and detail are kept minimalistic whenever possible to make the most of what is available at the location. Preservation of the musical soul that is clearly evident at Qbaa is testament to the success of maintaining the character of the building with minimal additions, for the sole purpose of achieving an ideal convergence of mind, space and atmosphere.


Qbaa is a prime example of using the correct space with minimal distractions to accommodate the design idea. 


“The reason Qbaa is so conducive is that it was given the right ambience for the kind of music we envisioned to be played there. What we have created is a music lounge that is ideal for soul and jazz and caters to a crowd who truly appreciates the music as opposed to the ambience of a night club.”


Photographs: MICD Associates