Long-awaited concert music to Saudi ears

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Saudi Arabian singer Rashed Al-Majed peforms during a concert in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)
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Saudis attend a music concert by Rashed Al-Majed who performed in Riyadh. (AFP)
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Saudis attend a music concert by Rashed Al-Majed who performed in Riyadh. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabian singer Rashed Al-Majed peforms during a concert in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)
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Saudis attend a music concert by Rashed Al-Majed who performed in Riyadh. (AFP)
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Saudis attend a music concert by Rashed Al-Majed who performed in Riyadh. (AFP)
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Saudis attend a music concert by Rashed Al-Majed who performed in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 11 March 2017
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Long-awaited concert music to Saudi ears

RIYADH: Legendary Arab singer Rashed Al-Majed gave his fans three encores in the Saudi capital Thursday night. Why not? They had waited about three decades for such a show.
Al-Majed opened for Mohammed Abdu as part of what one music lover called a “paradigm shift” in the conservative Islamic Kingdom, which has cautiously begun introducing entertainment despite opposition from Muslim hardliners.
Both singers have Saudi roots and are popular throughout the Arab world, but fans said Abdu had not sung in the Saudi capital since 1988.
Local media reported there had been no other concerts in Riyadh since the early 1990s, after which they were effectively banned, although private musical events did occur.
“We missed them a lot,” Jamal Al-Onzi, a 31-year-old bank worker, said of the singers.
He was among the audience of 2,000 — all men — who paid between 500 and 2,500 riyals ($133-$667) for the performances at King Fahd Cultural Center hall.
“We sold out in 30 minutes,” Habib Rahal, of the organizers Rotana Music, told AFP.
Dressed almost exclusively in traditional white thobes and chequered headgear, the crowd was initially sedate despite the infectious drum beats and melodious strings that accompanied Al-Majed.
In the shadows, one spectator mouthed the words and moved his arms in time to the music. Another tapped his left hand on his thobe.
There was lots of enthusiastic shouting and calls of “Rashed” before the energy peaked, pushing the singer to his three encores.
They swayed in time to the music. Some even stood up to dance.
After more than 90 minutes, it was time to do it all again when Abdu took the stage at around midnight.
Less pop-influenced than Al-Majed, the elder man sings patriotic and traditionally romantic songs.
“I have feelings of happiness and joy and pleasure,” he told reporters before ending his long absence from a Riyadh stage.
Abdu gained fame long before Abdulaziz Al-Shudayyid was born, but the 21-year-old student said the veteran artist “sings for my generation. I know by heart all his songs.”
Although conservatism still runs deep, there is pressure for change in a country where more than half the population is younger than 25 and people are connected to the wider world through the Internet.
They have a champion at the highest levels of power in Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, who is pushing economic diversification and social reform of the oil-dependent Kingdom.
One of the most visible aspects has been entertainment, partly out of an economic motive to get Saudis spending at home rather than elsewhere in the Gulf.
The Kingdom still bans alcohol, public cinemas and theaters. It usually segregates unrelated men and women in restaurants and other public places.
But hundreds of men and women, side by side, clapped to the hip hop beat when New York theatrical group iLuminate performed in October.
That began an entertainment calendar that has so far included WWE wrestling and the Kingdom’s first Comic-Con pop culture festival. The US-based Monster Jam truck competition is scheduled for next week in Riyadh.
There has, however, been resistance. On Thursday, a member of the religious police disrupted a musical performance by a group from Malaysia at a venue hosting Riyadh’s International Book Fair, damaging their sound system.
The Information Ministry called it “an isolated case” by the religious police, whose power has been greatly reduced.
A scheduled show by Abdu last September in Riyadh did not take place, but in January he performed without incident in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, widely considered somewhat more liberal than Riyadh.
Abdulrahman Al-Shaya, 28, a chemical engineer who attended the Riyadh concert, said Saudi Arabia is going through “a paradigm shift” with such events that have proven popular.
“This is towards the good of the country, and I hope they continue,” he said.


TheFace: Saudi entrepreneur Samar Alhashim

Samar Alhashim. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 11 min 18 sec ago
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TheFace: Saudi entrepreneur Samar Alhashim

  • She found her passion in business administration and economics, and chose to pursue this interest as another degree
  • Alhashim’s future plans are to continue promoting physical and social well-being to the country’s citizens

Samar Alhashim’s success story started in the Eastern Province where she was born and raised. There, she graduated with an English literature degree, and started her adventure by moving to the US in 1993 as a newlywed. 

She found her passion in business administration and economics, and chose to pursue this interest as another degree. At Philadelphia University she studied for an MBA degree with a minor in international business. 

Returning to the Eastern Province, Alhashim decided to open her first business, a fusion of a tea lounge and art gallery in 2007. Due to the high demand for her concept, she decided to expand her small business into the capital city of Riyadh. The business flourished and became a central hub for many families and art lovers. 

In addition to her restaurant business, Alhashim established a new concept, one almost foreign to Saudi society at the time. “My Saudi Wellness,” a venture targeted at a healthy lifestyle in the Saudi community, was well underway. 

Today, with her strong commitment to introducing healthy living and fitness to Saudi society, as well as support from the Vision 2030 plan in the Kingdom, Alhashim’s future plans are to continue promoting physical and social well-being to the country’s citizens.