Spotify hands the mic over to Mideast’s female artists with ‘Sawtik’

Jara is a Saudi rapper. Supplied
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Updated 18 November 2020

Spotify hands the mic over to Mideast’s female artists with ‘Sawtik’

DUBAI: Some of the most prolific female singers in the Arab world, including Umm Kulthum and Fairouz, have paved the way for present superstars such as Nancy Ajram, Elissa and more. Despite their legacy, the number of Arab female artists who have been signed by regional music labels has significantly reduced over the last decade, according to studies by Spotify. 

This is just one of the disheartening statistics uncovered by the music streaming platform through months of comprehensive research which has prompted Spotify to establish Sawtik, a new initiative dedicated to supporting and nurturing the immense talent to be found among Arab women creatives residing in the Middle East and North Africa.

“The diversity and richness of the female creatives in this region is greatly underrepresented,” said Claudius Boller, managing director for the Middle East and Africa at Spotify. “This is why we started Sawtik.”

Sawtik, which translates to “your voice” in Arabic, aims to celebrate and support unsigned female artists from the MENA region and boost their careers by helping them break into the music industry via marketing campaigns, workshops and educational opportunities. 




A Sawtik billboard in Amman, Jordan. Supplied

Meanwhile, the Sawtik playlist on Spotify will serve as the gateway for labels to discover new and emerging female talent. Some of the artists on the playlist include Algerian rapper N1YAH, Egyptian singer Felukah, Dubai-based artist Layla Kardan and many more.

“We looked globally at female versus male representation on the platform, and it is clear that female artists are underrepresented. We decided that we need to get down to what the reason for the underrepresentation is and what can be done about it,” shared Boller.

The initiative debuted with sixteen emerging artists across a different mix of genres hailing from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the UAE. Artists include Saudi Arabia’s Jara, Moroccan rapper Khtek and Emirati singer Almas. 




Almas is a 21-year young rising Emirati talent who sings in Arabic and English. Supplied

Tunisian superstar Latifa was also tapped to help mentor and guide the rising talents. “It’s incredible how passionate and excited Latifa is about Sawtik. From people like Latifa, we can all learn so much. Her expertise here is wonderful and we’re happy to have her on board on this initative,” said Boller.

With over 320 million monthly users globally, Spotify can no doubt provide unsigned female artists with the exposure needed to further their careers as well as opportunities to be discovered by labels internationally and listeners across the world.

“Spotify will continue to find new ways to uplift the careers of female artists from the region,” said Boller. “This is just the beginning.”


Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

Nutrition is the most important part when it comes to bodybuilding, then comes type of exercise, and good rest. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2020

Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

  • Ali Al-Salam, who stopped consuming animal products in 2017, says certain steps must be completed to have an athletic body

JEDDAH: The vegan diet has risen in popularity in Saudi Arabia in recent years and has been a constant topic of debate among Saudis, attracting the interest of many, including athletes.

Ongoing debates about whether the vegan diet is sufficient for normal people, let alone bodybuilders, abound, but one Saudi is answering them physically.
Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.
Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease, but other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.
Speaking to Arab News, 33-year-old Saudi vegan bodybuilder, Ali Al-Salam, who first started his vegan diet three years ago when he was suffering from high blood pressure, highlighted that the consumption of animal products is a deep rooted idea among bodybuilders and athletes.
“We always hear that in order to build muscle, we must consume animal products. In some parts of the world, there are people who can only have a small amount of animal products yet they live their lives healthily and comfortably and are not suffering from malnutrition — on the contrary, they have a lower level of chronic illnesses.”

When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.

Ali Al-Salam, Saudi vegan bodybuilder

He said it also opened his eyes to what goes on in the dairy and meat industry; he began researching in 2016 and decided to become vegan in 2017.
“I was just like every other athlete, I used to consume a high amounts of protein. I remember in the last days before turning vegan, I used to have 10 egg whites and a piece of steak for breakfast to fulfil my protein needs. This made me think, ‘is this the only way to consume protein?’ And from then on, I started researching and got introduced to the vegan diet at a larger scale,” he said.
“When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.”
He explained that bodybuilding does not solely rely on protein, and that there are steps that must be completed in order to reach an athletic body. Nutrition is the most important part, then comes type of exercise, and good rest.
“When we talk about good nutrition, it does not just rely on protein. Yes, it is important, but the amount of calories in general is more important,” he said.
“Let’s say you needed 200 grams of protein, does that mean if you consumed 200 grams of it, you would gain muscle? No. You need all the basic nutrients to reach a certain amount of calories in general,” he added.
He highlighted that as soon as people register for gym memberships, they immediately look for supplements because they think they cannot reach the needed amount of protein.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.

• Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease.

• But other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.

• Vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants.

• Animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.

“I’m talking about non-vegans here too, where their protein intake is already high. Marketing plays a big role here. People link protein to animal products because our society grew up with this idea as well.
“Can a vegan build muscle? Yes, when they eat right, exercise correctly and rest well. The misconception about protein stems from amino acids. People think vegan food lacks amino acids, and only animal products are full of them and that is far from the truth,” he added.
When comparing vegan athletes to regular athletes, he said vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants which helps greatly in recovery, and because “animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.”