Fans of Iraqi music treated to a double helping at Tantora festival

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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 16 February 2019

Fans of Iraqi music treated to a double helping at Tantora festival

  • Ilham Al-Madfai: “The Saudi people have a high degree of elegance in terms of presenting things, taking what is available and turning it into something beautiful

AL-ULA: In a magical night filled with beauty and elegance, a sell-out audience hungry for an authentic taste of Iraqi music enjoyed a feast on Friday evening served up by two of its greatest exponents.
Kadim Al-Saher and Ilham Al-Madfai treated the audience at their show, part of the Winter in Tantora festival in Al-Ula, to some memorable performances of timeless tunes.
Renowned guitarist, singer and songwriter Al-Madfai, known for his synthesis of western guitar sounds with popular Iraqi music, was first on stage at the Maraya concert hall. The veteran entertainer performed a selection of his best-known hits — including “Bent Al-Shalabiya,” “Khuttar” and “Ashgar Beshama” — which generated a wave of nostalgia that was almost tangible.
The audience reacted with delight when the 77-year-old singer announced: “Now I’ll perform one of the most beautiful songs from my musical career: ‘Mali Shughul Belsoug.’”
Later, he told the enchanted audience, “I’m happy to be here with you,” before performing two songs dedicated to his home city of Baghdad, including one written by the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani that includes the line: “Oh, Baghdad, I came to you like an exhausted ship hiding my wounds behind my clothes.”
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Al-Madfai revealed that he was impressed by the natural beauty of Al-Ula.
“I was amazed,” he said. “I was daydreaming about what would I do in such a place for half an hour on my way to the concert.”
He described Saudis as elegant and classy, adding: “The Saudi people have a high degree of elegance in terms of presenting things, taking what is available and turning it into something beautiful —the houses, the rooms and the designs (in Al-Ula).”
Following the wonderful performance by Al-Madfai was no easy task, but Al-Saher was more than capable. Dubbed the “Caesar of Arabic Song,” he entertained the crowd with a selection of his timeless love songs, including “Zidini Ashqan,” “Kul Al-Eshq” and “Eid w Hub.”
The 61-year-old’s high notes echoed among the magnificent mountains and hills of the ancient city of Al-Ula, delighting his awestruck fans.


Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

Updated 19 August 2019

Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

  • One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020
  • A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to set up arts academies, including two in the next two years, offering a step toward academic qualification and enlarging the Kingdom’s footprint in heritage, arts and crafts, and music.

The initiative is part of the Ministry of Culture’s Quality of Life program. 

The minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, said investment in “capacity building” was one of the most important elements in encouraging the cultural sector, which enjoyed unlimited support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Kingdom was rich in diverse arts, talents and artistic production, Prince Badr said, and the academies would be a first step toward academic qualification in the arts within the Kingdom.

One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020, targeting 1,000 students and trainees in long- and short-term programs. 

A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021.

The music academy in particular will be “the core of music production and talent development in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi musician, composer and producer Mamdouh Saif told Arab News.

The music industry was a large and diverse field, Saif said, and education was crucial. 

“The academy is the right place to launch the music industry in Saudi Arabia, and it will have a significant impact on Saudi youth, and young people in surrounding countries,” he said.

He expects “a very high turnout” for the academy among young Saudis. 

“Due to my expertise in this area, I receive many questions from people who want to learn music, but through private lessons,” he said.

“But the availability of an academy for this purpose, that teaches music in a methodological way, will be the right start for those interested in music.”