Saudi YouTube star Hatoon Kadi spotlights social issues

Saudi YouTube star Hatoon Kadi has more than 350,000 subscribers on her channel. (Photo courtesy: YouTube/ Noon Alniswa)
Updated 12 December 2017
0

Saudi YouTube star Hatoon Kadi spotlights social issues

DUBAI: It has been a year of significant social change in Saudi Arabia and everyone is sitting up and paying attention.
“The changes we’ve experienced this year alone are equivalent to changes that take maybe 10 or 20 years in other societies. We’ve been waiting for these decisions for so long,” said Saudi YouTube star Hatoon Kadi, speaking on the sidelines of VIDXB — a gathering dedicated to online video content held in Dubai on Dec. 8 and 9.
While it might be a stretch to claim that Kadi and online content creators like her from the Kingdom are directly responsible for any of the monumental changes witnessed in Saudi Arabia this year — Kadi herself certainly would not make that claim — it is fair to say that the surge in popularity of Arabic-language content has given a public voice to those who, traditionally, have not had one. And in doing so, important social issues have been brought into the spotlight.
Take, for example, Kadi’s own 2013 video about women driving in the Kingdom. “I had a slogan in that video — ‘the most important man in a Saudi woman’s life is her driver,’” Kadi told Arab News. It was a lighthearted way of making a serious point, which is Kadi’s general approach on her wildly popular Noon Alniswa channel that has more than 350,000 subscribers.
“Usually, when you make people laugh about things, their sub-conscious mind will be analyzing this: ‘OK, I laughed about this, but there’s something to it, maybe something we need to change or look differently at.’ So sarcasm and comedy are accepted by people because usually they’re not judgmental, because people really hate it when other people preach at them,” Kadi explained. “So when you’re just talking about the issue and you make them laugh about it, they’ll accept it more.”
Importantly, Kadi pointed out, when she started making videos, she did so “by laughing at the things I do.”
It was a point she made onstage at VIDXB too, she was not creating content to make herself seem more important, or smarter, than the average person. She was highlighting issues that affected her and — by extension — the society in which she lives. “I always thought to myself, ‘what is society?’ And it’s us. It’s people,” she said.
She admitted that seeing a clearly conservative (by her own admission) Saudi woman poking fun at herself was seen as “strange” when she started out. But, she added, “people accepted it in the end.
“We’re always afraid of introducing new concepts,” she said. “And a lot of people say that GCC society will not accept this. But I know my limits — they’ve been shaped by my religion and my conservative upbringing — so why not set our own rules? And why not laugh about ourselves?”
Kadi was quick to stress that she is not suggesting everybody embrace anarchy or ignore traditions. She is simply saying that it is OK to question things and not blindly follow the norm.
“Our society is very conservative. We feel we’re obliged to be like each other. That’s just how we were brought up. So if a woman is very conservative and she cares about what other people think, I will not tell her, ‘you are wrong.’ You just belong to a society where it takes a lot of courage to be different,” she explained. “So, I really respect if someone just wants to stick (to what they know).”
Kadi has firsthand experience of the courage needed to speak up in a conservative society: “I had lots of comments saying things like, ‘you are very ugly. You are very fat. How dare you? You don’t have a mirror? Why do we have to look at you?’ When you hear such comments that really criticize the core of your femininity, you want to believe that you don’t care, but that’s wishful thinking. It really hurts.”

Window Shopping

A post shared by هتون قاضي (@hatoonkadi) on

Kadi admits there were times when she nearly quit making videos. But advice and support from friends convinced her to keep going. “And you know, after all these years, I look back at my show and I see it was worth fighting for,” she said. “I have created my own way. I’m happy. I’m comfortable with myself. I’ve tried to focus on what I’m really good at. These days I care what other people say about my content, but not about the way I look.”
And recently, of course, “I had the pleasure of making another video after the decision that allowed us to drive that said ‘real Saudi men can now acquire the long-awaited position as the most important man in your wife’s, or your sister’s, or your mother’s life. It’s not the driver anymore.’”
Triumphs like that make it all worthwhile for Kadi.
“I’ll never be able to know if I had any real impact. But I know that I did what I had to do. And I have other episodes for other women’s issues, or social issues, and I’ll be waiting for those decisions too. And I’ll be happy that I did my bit,” she said. “At least I know that when I had the voice, I used it for the good of my society.”


After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

Updated 16 June 2019
0

After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

  • Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George
  • The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market

NEW YORK: After triumphing on Broadway, the lower 48 states and London’s West End, “Hamilton” is eyeing its first non-English production as well as tours throughout Europe and Asia.
The much-decorated musical, currently being staged nightly in London and New York as well as four other US cities, last month announced plans to launch in Sydney in early 2021 in a production expected to tour Australia before going to Asia, its producer said in an interview.
The “Hamilton” team is also working with a German hip-hop artist and playwright to develop a German-language version of the work.
The show, which is performed by a mostly non-white cast and mixes pulsating rap numbers with ballads and traditional musical numbers, has been credited with invigorating Broadway, thrilling audiences of all ages and across the political spectrum.
Producer Jeffrey Seller told AFP he sees a lot of international interest in the show. Australians frequently stream its soundtrack, Germany has long been receptive to American musicals and a Mexico City show, perhaps in Spanish, is also a possibility.
“My hope is that our story is resonant to people all over the world as a story of revolution, as a story of ambition, as a story of self-realization,” said Seller, who has been called the “CEO of Hamilton Inc.”
“I think Alexander Hamilton’s journey is universal.”
The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market.
Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton — introduced as “a bastard, orphan son of a whore” — who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George Washington during the American Revolution and later the architect of the US financial system in the republic’s early days.
Hamilton was killed in a duel in 1804 by Aaron Burr, a foil throughout the show and the character who sings “The Room Where It Happens,” a jazzy show-stopper about political horse-trading.
Nearly four years after its Broadway debut, the show completely sold out during the just-ended 2018-9 season, garnering almost $165 million, or nine percent of Broadway’s total in a record-setting season.
Business is also brisk for three national touring companies, which typically perform three- and four-week stints in American cities of varying size.
The “Angelica” touring company — named for Hamilton’s sister-in-law in the musical — made its Louisville premiere earlier this month at the Kentucky Center. The venue seats 2,400, about 1,100 more seats than the musical’s Broadway home at the Richard Rodgers Theater.
Anticipation for the show boosted subscriptions for touring Broadway shows in Louisville this season by nearly 20 percent, said Leslie Broecker, Midwest president for Broadway Across America, who calls the show a “catalyst” in attracting new audiences.
Shannon Steen, a University of California professor specializing in performance studies and race theory, attributes the show’s domestic success to Miranda’s skill at blending musical genres while appealing to diverse political constituencies.
The show “confirms this idea that America can serve as a city on a hill for global democracy,” a theme that resonates with conservatives, Steen said.
At the same time, signature lines such as “immigrants get the job done” have emerged as applause points for critics of US President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies, which parallel similar debates in other markets.
The show’s themes about immigration “will likely not resonate in the same way (as in the US), but it will be interesting to see how those things are taken up by audiences in other countries,” Steen said.
International investments will be tailored by market. Seller expects an English-language version of “Hamilton” to play in Paris perhaps for an eight- or 10-week run as part of a European tour around 2022-23.
He said the French have not shown much hunger for past American musicals, but that this show — which features a prominent French character in the Marquis de Lafayette — could spawn a French-language version if it sells well.
But Germany has for years been a robust market for US musicals, including “Wicked” and “Lion King,” and “they have the population to support it for a long run,” Seller said.
Stephan Jaekel, a spokesman for Stage Entertainment in Germany, which has been overseeing auditions for “Hamilton,” said the aim is to open in the fall of 2020 in Hamburg, but that a final deal has yet to be signed.
“We much look forward to presenting it to German audiences and hope to be able to start ticket sales soon,” Jaekel said in an email.
Seller hopes to announce the show in the coming months.