Giant puppets’ musical show hits high note among Saudi festivalgoers

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AN photos by Huda Bashatah
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AN photos by Huda Bashatah
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The Tanween puppets are putting on theater performances for the first time, accompanied by a traditional Saudi band, providing different experiences to visitors. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 19 October 2019

Giant puppets’ musical show hits high note among Saudi festivalgoers

  • Activities of Tanween Season in Eastern Province are aimed at all ages and are designed to be family friendly

ALKHOBAR: A musical show involving giant puppets has been hitting a high note among visitors to a popular Saudi festival. The models, standing 12 meters tall, have drawn big audiences to Alkhobar Corniche where performances have been taking place as part of Tanween Season.
Three huge puppets made up a family consisting of the father, donned in a white thobe and traditional Arabic head piece, the mother in a black abaya, and their son wearing a green Tanween T-shirt.
Children watching the show sang along to Saudi folk songs as puppeteers using special machinery brought the giant characters to life.
Tanween Season, in the Eastern Province, is a 17-day event that runs until Oct. 26, with talks, workshops, discussion panels, and performances built around this year’s theme of “play.” Activities are aimed at all ages and are designed to be family friendly.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Tanween puppets are putting on theater performances for the first time, accompanied by a traditional Saudi band.

• Saudi, French, Belgian and Spanish talent have combined to stage the show at Alkhobar Corniche until Saturday.

“There’s a wide range of different experiences for visitors when they visit Ithra (the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, in Dhahran) or the installations outside. Our goal is to deliver a message: How to use play in a different, creative way that introduces a myriad of ideas and culture,” the event’s head of performance, Anas Al-Ratoee, told Arab News.
Spanish delights
The Tanween puppets are putting on theater performances for the first time, accompanied by a traditional Saudi band. Saudi, French, Belgian and Spanish talent have combined to stage the show at Alkhobar Corniche until Oct. 19.
“The Giant Puppets is a Spanish band, known as Carros de Foc, that usually performs traditionally in parades and festivals, where these 12-meter giants walk among people.
“We added the Saudi culture to it through traditional music performed by a local band. We wanted to depict a scene from a normal day in the life of a Saudi household; the dynamic between a father, mother and child,” added Al-Ratoee.
Muna Hassan, from Dammam, said her younger brother had thoroughly enjoyed the performance. “I was very happy to see him so excited and to see events like this catering to his age group.”


Return of ‘Captain Majid’ announced at Anime Expo in Riyadh

Updated 23 min 1 sec ago

Return of ‘Captain Majid’ announced at Anime Expo in Riyadh

  • Part of Riyadh Season, Anime Expo brings together creative minds for a first-of-its-kind agreement

RIYADH: The Anime Expo in Riyadh —  part of Riyadh Season — already had regional fans excited, being the largest such event to be held so far in the Middle East. But even better news emerged at Thursday’s press conference to launch the event.

Saudi Arabia and Japan have signed an agreement to bring “Captain Tsubasa,” created by Yoichi Takahashi, back to the small screen. The cartoon, known as “Captain Majid” in the Arab world, is an old-school favorite in the Middle East. The anime is expected to air on Dec. 1 on MBC, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Faisal Bafarat, announced.

Riyadh Season is holding the largest Anime Expo in the Middle East, bringing together collaborations between GEA and Captain Tsubasa creator, Yoichi Takahashi, musical collaborations between both Arab and Japanese giants, and more.

Japan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tsukasa Uemura, told Arab News: “It’s amazing to see good energy among the young people, ladies and gentlemen of Saudi Arabia.” Uemura was struck by how deep the relationship between Japan and Saudi Arabia was, thanks to anime from the 60s and 70s.

“This relation is now coming to fruition, and I hope that the young Saudi generation won’t only observe but also create, from now, starting a new industry in Saudi Arabia — I see a lot of potential here.”

Arab News met three musical acts who will perform together for the first time on Saturday at the event’s closing ceremony: Lebanese singer Sammy Clark, who performed Arabic versions of anime favorites including “Grendizer” and “Treasure Island” (Takarajima), and Japanese voice actors and singers Isao Sasaki and Ichiro Mizuki.

Clark was excited to meet the two men he dubbed his “twin brothers,” — the original voices behind the animations he has worked on. “I’m honored to be here with them,” he said. “I only traveled to Japan once, in 1987. It’s a beautiful country and their people are some of the kindest in the world.”

Clark explained that he and Sasaki were supposed to sing together at Comic Con in Dubai five years ago, “but it didn’t work out.”

“Today, I’m ecstatic to say that I won’t sing with Sasaki alone but also with Ichiro Mizuki, who sings the original opening song for ‘Mazinger.’ We’ll be performing five songs for fans, and one of the surprises we’ve prepared is that I’ll sing something in Japanese and they’ll sing in Arabic,” Clark said.

He added that he never imagined the theme songs would be so successful and resonate with people for so long. “Generations of fathers have played these songs to their kids, and they all enjoy it so much. We’ve managed to touch thousands through an anime song,” he said.

Mizuki told Arab News that his first time in Saudi Arabia has been amazing so far. “Being in the industry for 50 years, I’ve traveled all over the world, but I consider my first performance in Saudi Arabia to be a big deal, especially as an officially orchestrated event. I feel honored to be here,” he said.

Sasaki echoed his words: “Being a first generation anime singer, I’m not getting any younger, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to perform here in Saudi Arabia,” he said.