Saudi music fans weigh in on the ‘new normal’ for concerts

Musicians are using the power of livestream to bring people together. MDL Beast’s 12-hour livestream event, Freqways, was exactly the sort of thing fans had been hoping for during the pandemic. (Twitter)
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Updated 17 July 2020

Saudi music fans weigh in on the ‘new normal’ for concerts

  • Livestream concerts are not a new phenomenon, especially in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts routines and lifestyles across the globe, and the collective desire for normal life increases, many have turned to the healing power of music to help them make it through these tough times.
The global music industry, which took a significant blow this year in the face of mass cancellations of tours, concerts and events, is fighting back by offering a new way of enjoying music and connecting with other people through online concerts and livestreams.
From rap to opera, hip-hop to classical, Arabic to Korean, English to instrumental, both small-scale and limited performances of single artists to massive multi-stage offerings such as the Global Citizen concert and MDL Beast Freqways, musicians are using the power of livestream to bring people together.
Livestream concerts are not a new phenomenon, especially in Saudi Arabia. “Up until two or so years ago, when we started having concerts in Saudi Arabia, we had to watch all of our favorite artists from home anyway,” said Arabic music fan Faisal Alsuwaidan. “Before that, we would either watch our favorite artists on TV, or find streams of their concerts online, on YouTube or something.”
Sara Alsaif, a “huge” pop music fan, said that before the pandemic she used to find traveling to attend concerts “an absolute necessity.”
“Generally at least once a year, one of my favorite musicians will be playing in Dubai. I build my whole year around those trips, and I have a special budget for them. I’ve seen Jason Derulo, The 1975, the Backstreet Boys, so many great concerts I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” she said.
But with travel still strictly limited and international borders closed, fans of both Arabic and foreign music remain rooted in place, with large-scale events with big crowds unlikely to make a comeback any time soon.
However, the unexpected benefits of being forced to take concerts online have made themselves clear for a variety of reasons, causing both members of the industry and the fans themselves to rethink their idea of what a concert has to be.
Saudi fan Abdulrahman Alammar told Arab News that his favorite band, The Wonder Years, was unlikely to ever visit Saudi Arabia, as they are a relatively small indie group from America whose success outside of the US is limited. However, the moment he heard that they were having a livestream show, he bought a ticket.
“It’s been my dream to attend one of their shows for more than 10 years now. I finally got a chance to see them performing live, and it was everything I hoped for — even if I was watching them through a screen,” he said. However he did get to enjoy a vital part of the experience regardless of the circumstances ­— connecting with fans after the show.
“The livestream had a chat box we all used to comment on the songs, ask questions, and connect with each other. When fans found out it was my first concert of theirs they all sent welcoming messages and invited me to join their Discord (online chatroom platform) server. After the show we all hung out and chatted for hours. It felt just like being at a real show,” he said.
House music fan Rana Al-Salem told Arab News that MDL Beast’s 12-hour livestream event, Freqways, was exactly the sort of thing
she had been hoping for during
the pandemic.
“I avoided going to the first event (Soundstorm) at the end of last year because I didn’t want to deal with the crowds, and it was so far away from where I live. But the livestream meant I could enjoy all the performances at home, safe, isolated, and comfortable in my pajamas instead of having to dress up for it,” she said.
The question that remains is: Once the pandemic is over, will online concerts become the new norm? Alsuwaidan does not think so. He considers himself lucky to have attended a few shows in Saudi Arabia before the lockdown began, and says that going back to watching concerts on a screen does not hold quite the same
appeal anymore.
“I can’t wait to be able to go to concerts again in person. The energy of live shows is unreal, nothing else can compare,” he said.
Al-Salem says that while she does not believe that online shows will become the new default, she hopes they remain an option for people like her who would prefer to view shows at home in private.
“Personally, I don’t know if I can ever be 100 percent comfortable traveling after this pandemic. Unless they find a cure or a vaccine, I don’t think I would want to put myself at risk like that,” she said.
Alammar says that his dream of attending his favorite band’s show remains very much alive, and that he intends to capitalize on an opportunity to see them live if he finds one.
“When all this is over, I’m attending their first comeback show; I don’t care where it is. This pandemic is really making me think about how unpredictable life is and how we have to fight for the things we want,” he said.


OIC, Arab Parliament condemn latest Houthi drone attack toward Saudi Arabia

OIC Secretary-General Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen. (AFP)
Updated 07 August 2020

OIC, Arab Parliament condemn latest Houthi drone attack toward Saudi Arabia

  • The attacks posed a threat to regional and international security and undermined political efforts to make the Stockholm Agreement succeed

RIYADH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday condemned a Houthi drone attack targeted toward Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-backed Arab coalition forces supporting the legitimate government in Yemen intercepted and shot down a bomb-laden unmanned aerial vehicle launched by the Iranian-backed militia group on Thursday.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen called for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement while condemning the Houthis’ continued use of Hodeidah governorate as a staging point for the launch of terrorist operations involving ballistic missiles and drones.

He said the attacks posed a threat to regional and international security and undermined political efforts to make the Stockholm Agreement succeed.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Arab Parliament, Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami, urged the international community to take a decisive stance against the Iranian regime which, he said, intentionally contravened UN Security Council resolutions by providing the Houthis with weapons and advanced military technology to target neighboring countries.