The new Saudi DJs breaking it down out of lockdown

The new Saudi DJs breaking it down out of lockdown
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Music superstar Enrique Iglesias performs at a 2018 concert held in Riyadh. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic may have hit the music industry but it has failed to dampen the spirits of music lovers in the Kingdom. (Social media)
The new Saudi DJs breaking it down out of lockdown
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Abdulrahman Hakem. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 January 2021

The new Saudi DJs breaking it down out of lockdown

The new Saudi DJs breaking it down out of lockdown
  • Youth praise the local authorities for helping them explore and express their talents

JEDDAH: The lockdown period of 2020 gave many an opportunity to explore new things, and inspired many Saudis to become DJs. Arab News spoke to newcomers in the field and experts with years of experience.

Saudi industrial engineer Abdulrahman Hakem, 30, has been a DJ for almost a year. “I was always interested in music, and I’ve always had a unique taste in music which made me want to explore being a DJ,” he told Arab News
He purchased a small DJ set and started to learn the craft.
“The lockdown period was a golden opportunity for me, to be free for a few months. I learned so much in my free time, from tutorial videos to programs, and I expanded my playlist,” he added.
Pointing to the social reforms and support from the Saudi General Entertainment Authority and Ministry of Tourism, Hakem said they provided local talents with many opportunities to enter the profession.

“Before the social reforms, we never heard of Saudi DJs or Saudis interested in the field of music, they were only a minority. Now we have many events and a DJ’s presence is required at any event,” he said.
He predicted that many Saudi DJs with great potential will emerge.

I think whenever we are given the time or opportunity, we are able to explore our creative side.


“The Kingdom is promoting tourism. We are still in the first step in tourism, a country such as Saudi Arabia is big and will have so many events in different areas,” he said, adding: “I see this as a golden opportunity for us Saudis to prove ourselves in this field.”
He added that tourism “will boost the economy in the coming years and we will constantly enhance the industry.”
Hakem said many Saudis are hesitant about becoming DJs, fearing a negative reaction in society, but he found that everyone he encountered respected him and his efforts. “No one tried to bring me down, I’ve only received love, encouragement and joy.”

No one tried to bring me down. I’ve only received love, encouragement and joy.

Abdulrahman Hakem

Hakem’s first supporters were his friends and family, who encouraged him to be enthusiastic about the field and learn more. He said that does not consider himself as someone who has reached the peak yet as he is still learning and improving himself.
The positive feedback he receives on social media brings him joy and encourages him to strive further. “Anyone who thinks about entering this field has my full encouragement and support.”
Egyptian-Saudi student and social media influencer Farouq Al-Adawi, 20, has been a DJ for seven months.
“In 2020, everyone was looking for new hobbies and activities. I loved music all my life and when it came to quarantine, lockdown introduced me to this new hobby,” Al-Adawi told Arab News.
Latin-Canadian and Saudi DJ Viva has been in the industry for just over two years. She is married to DJ Zerone, one of the first Saudi DJs who began in 1999.
“Quite a few ‘COVID-19 DJs’ were born in 2020,” she told Arab News. “I think whenever we are given the time or opportunity, we are able to explore our creative side and see what talents lie beneath the surface of our everyday lives, and the lockdown period provided that opportunity to many.”
She added: “People began reaching out for lessons in DJing and music production, and simply to inquire about a career.”
The artist highlighted the positive outcomes for music producers in 2020, with many finding it therapeutic. “The lockdown also provided many people who were just starting out with the time to practice and hone their skills, and now it’s great watching those individuals playing live and performing, and that’s an entirely positive outcome of the pandemic.”
DJ Viva recently did a remix collaboration with an artist called Nktorious from Riyadh, who said that she finds exploring the effects on a DJ mixer as “therapeutic in such chaotic times.”
She said she saw a rise in the number of women interested in trying DJing. “I believe it’s their time to shine. The Saudi music and entertainment industry has made leaps and bounds with the country’s new Vision 2030, all in a very short time frame. It’s great to see Saudi talent rising and being more respected.”


Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair
Updated 15 January 2021

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair
  • Works from 100+ artists from the MENA region will be on show in Cairo from Feb. 12-14



This 2020 painting is typical of Zidan’s exuberant, colorful and loving portrayal of the female form (her Master’s degree was on “Human Anatomy for Artists”). The 30-year-old Egyptian artist began depicting plus-size women as a response to the “unrealistic beauty standards” of Instagram, she once told Cairo West magazine. “The most important point is that I portrayed them feeling happy and satisfied. I want every woman to feel accepted and confident about how she looks.” In another interview, with Executive Woman magazine, she said: “We aren’t supposed to look alike. Everyone is different, and every woman is enough the way she is.”



The Cairene multidisciplinary artist has described himself as “much concerned with the changing perceptions and the state of continual metamorphosis that Egypt, as an African, Arab, and Middle Eastern country that was colonized and liberated, has witnessed in the last three decades.” In his paintings, such as this one, he is “obsessed by human movement and the quest for freedom,” and uses bold colors and impressionist techniques to imply that movement.



The 55-year-old artist is one of the most significant figures in Yemen’s art scene and his paintings have sold around the world — particularly to fans of Art Nouveau work. His art is inspired by city life in Yemen before the civil war, depicting simple, colorful urban scenes often featuring female residents. “These cities, and their inhabitants, form a primary reference for my work… the clothing, the weather, the nature and the environment,” Alakel is quoted as saying on “You’ll find that Yemeni women actually form the main inspiration for my work. They are unique in their style, their vision, their dress… and there is also a certain kind of silence in their faces. I see these women as symbols of the larger environment in which they live.”


‘Peacock’ (series since 2018)

El-Masri is a Lebanese artist who was born in Syria and now lives and works in Paris. According to Ayyam Gallery, his practice “revolves around the repeated examination of a single material subject as he explores variations in depth and space through abstracted compositions. … Like Morandi's vases or Cezanne's apples, El-Masri's depictions are less about the objects themselves and more about the possibility of transformation that is derived from paying close attention to the object over time.” El-Masri explained this practice to the Attasi Foundation. “Every time you repeat a shape, you perceive it in a different way,” he said.

“The Peacock” is a series he has been working on for the past few years, reportedly intended as an homage to his father, who was kidnapped in Syria, after which El-Masri stopped painting for some time. When he started again in 2018, the peacock was the first thing he painted, and he has since completed several works on the same theme.



Sudanese multidisciplinary artist Salah El-Mur is based in Cairo, but spent many years traveling throughout East Africa and the Middle East. This, according to a statement from the organizers of the Egypt International Art Fair, “has given him a rich and diverse background, while still maintaining a distinctive and peculiar Sudanese identity, to the extent of becoming a (flag bearer for) Sudanese art.” His vivid and colorful paintings of street life “do not (portray) significant events or actions, but characters — each with a concealed story of their own.”



This painting comes from the UAE-based Syrian artist’s “Family Portrait” series. His expressionist-style works, according to the fair’s organizers, is based on “the inherent psychology of portraiture in compositions that depict a revolving cast of characters” and was “initially inspired by the confessional elements and sense of freedom in children’s drawings.” But the inspiration for this series came from childhood visits with his family to photographers’ studios. “These psychological portraits capture the fatigue and uncertainty experienced by millions,” Maymanah Farhat, director of art at Ayyam Gallery, told Time Out last year. “They remind viewers that the future of countries such as Syria now rests in the hands of displaced youth; children shaped by the trauma of war.”


‘Egyptian Girl’

Abdelwahab is one of Egypt’s most-respected contemporary sculptors. His work is something of an homage to Ancient Egyptian civilization and visual references, and he often uses traditional techniques and materials to create his sculptures. But while he celebrates his country’s heritage, his style is modern — even incorporating Western influences no doubt inspired by his time studying in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, he earned a three-year scholarship in the Rome atelier of the acclaimed Italian sculptor Emilio Greco in the late Sixties.