John Travolta wows fans in Riyadh

US actor John Travolta attends a panel discussion at the Apex Convention Center in Riyadh on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2017

John Travolta wows fans in Riyadh

RIYADH: Hollywood superstar John Travolta, best known for his roles in “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” was extended a very warm welcome in Riyadh on Friday as he made his first-ever appearance in the Kingdom to discuss his career and Hollywood.
The actor, 63, discussed his journey to fame during his talk at the Apex Convention Center.
He responded to questions from the audience on various aspects of his career. Organizers told Arab News that the free event was full to capacity with 2,000 people.
Yasser Mohammad, a student at King Saud University (KSU), told Arab News: “It’s absolutely wonderful to see Travolta here. He has come all the way to Riyadh. Thank you GEA (the General Authority for Entertainment) for this big event.”
Abdurrahman Al-Dayl, another KSU student at the event, told Arab News: “The GEA is doing tremendous work. It’s good to see it hosting successful local and international events, transforming the entertainment landscape in the Kingdom in such a short time.”
Saleh Abdul Wahed, a data analyst, said more Hollywood celebrities should be invited to the Kingdom. 
Commenting on the reopening of cinemas from next year, he told Arab News: “It’s a welcome decision by the government.” 
Praising the GEA’s efforts, Ibrahim Basha, a Saudi social media influencer who filmed Travolta’s arrival on Snapchat, said: “Can you imagine he’s come all the way to Riyadh in his private plane?” 
Faris Al-Shammari tweeted that Travolta is “the highest-paid actor in the world, no one can compete with him.” 
Abdal Otaibi tweeted: “It’s possible that he’s here to talk about cinema and how Saudi could benefit from cinemas now.” 
Many used the hashtag #John_Travolta_in_Riyadh to mention their favorite Travolta films. Malak picked “The General’s Daughter,” tweeting: “It’s one of his best films. Still lives in my memory and there’s no other film that portrays betrayal in relationships and its effects on a person like it.” 
Travolta’s stay in Riyadh included visiting tourist, cultural and entertainment locations.

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

Updated 10 min 30 sec ago

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

  • Singer-songwriter Tamtam has released a music video to coincide with the day her fellow countrywomen make history
  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

JEDDAH: With the long-awaited day when Saudi women can finally drive drawing near, a Saudi singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles has written a song to mark the historic occasion.

Called simply “Drive,” Tamtam’s take on the breakthrough reform covers a range of emotions: Happiness, pride and even surprise.

Millions around the world shared the news that Saudi women would be allowed to drive when it was announced last fall, and with all the preparations taking place, the singer wanted to take part in the best way she could. So she wrote the lyrics to a song that mirrored the exciting events ahead.

Tamtam’s release focuses on the themes of freedom, equality and empowerment that she has explored in her music since the start of her career in 2012.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

“If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be hope. Women in Saudi are ready to have a bigger voice and become more independent.

“This is a huge step forward for all of us. The country is showing us that they know we are ready, and they are here to support us and help launch us forward,” said Tamtam. 

Her song’s lyrics include the words: “We know what we want, we know it’s our time, let go of past perceptions, tomorrow is mine, we got drive” — suggesting that it’s time to look forward and stop looking back at what once was.

The verse mirrors the narrative many Saudis are sharing with the world, empowered by the dramatic changes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accomplishing with Vision 2030 and beyond. 

Tamtam, inspired by the late Michael Jackson, started singing aged 15. She wrote her first single, “Little Girl,” while attending high school in California after her family moved to the US from Riyadh. Her singing and songwriting have been influenced by events around her, always related to current issues with a twist of optimism. 

Whether it’s her strong vocals or hauntingly beautiful voice, Tamtam’s music transcends expectations. This young Saudi is singing and making a name for herself in the City of Angels, and her positive energy is reflected in her music.

As Saudis embrace a host of reforms, Tamtam believes many Westerners are shocked by the news. Yet people forget that Saudi is a relatively young country and more good changes will come, she said. 

“With hope comes more aspirations, dreams, new achievements and positive energy.”

The “Drive” video is uplifting, with playful, artistic imagery, and soulful and empowering vocals. The singer and her friends wear white, representing peace and femininity, and drive a yellow Ford Mustang convertible (Tamtam’s dream car). 

“Whenever I’m in a car, especially if there is traffic or it’s a long drive, I always turn on music to put me in a better mood. Driving is so much more enjoyable with music,” said Tamtam. “I hope that this song will be blasting through car speakers everywhere.” 

So the question is: Will Tamtam get her Saudi license, too?

“Yes, I can’t wait,” is the answer, obviously.