Meet Ahmed Shawly, the man behind Saudi’s new indie label

 Meet Ahmed Shawly, the man behind Saudi’s new indie label
Saudi alternative-rock band Skeleton Crowd have been active on the scene for the past four years or so. (Instagram)
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Updated 04 March 2021

Meet Ahmed Shawly, the man behind Saudi’s new indie label

 Meet Ahmed Shawly, the man behind Saudi’s new indie label
  • Shawly founded Wall of Sound because he could sense ‘a whole scene coming alive’ in the Kingdom

MANAMA: Amid the recent rise of independent music in Saudi Arabia, one record label is doing its part to develop a homegrown platform for local artists. 

Wall of Sound is a label and recording studio founded at a difficult-but-promising time, as industries across the board continue to struggle to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic while a momentous cultural shift continues in the Kingdom. 

The project was conceived by Ahmed Shawly, a seasoned music-industry professional who has spent much of the last two decades learning firsthand how the industry functions through his work with the likes of Rotana and Music Master. Wall of Sound was born from his desire to create something designed by musicians for musicians. Shawly spent time managing record stores, working in music distribution and sales, and eventually overseeing label releases and signing artists. 




The project was conceived by Ahmed Shawly. (Supplied)

“That helped me to know what people what really want and what’s trending or not,” Shawly told Arab News. “At the end of 2019, I felt it was time to do my own thing. I’ve been in music for the past 14 years so I wanted to use my experience, especially now that the country is opening up. You can sense a whole scene coming alive. We wanted to create a place that musicians would love. A place they want to record in, a place they can release their music through.” So he joined forces with three other partners to develop Wall of Sound.

“There are people here who understand the music business and can do justice to the local artists” he added.

Shawly dismisses the perception that record labels or recording studios are obsolete these days, with so many tools and platforms are available to artists online. He believes that the guidance, support and — most importantly — knowledge that a good record label can provide is crucial in pushing artists forward. 




Shawly spent time managing record stores, working in music distribution and sales, and eventually overseeing label releases and signing artists. (Supplied)

“You still need a label to help you, to perfect your PR and to perfect your sound, and give you experience of how to execute the whole project. The whole principle of Wall of Sound is to support local artists that we believe have potential and an original sound that can be taken to the next level. We want to support the local scene.”

To do that, Shawly and his partners realized the importance of building a place that is not only professional and welcoming, but also has the best possible technical setup, from sound systems to interior design.

Wall of Sound brought in experts from Germany to ensure that the acoustics and sound treatment of the studio were the very best. Once they nailed that, the team began further developing the brand, how the label would operate, and their approach to talent hunting and development. 

“At the moment, we have eleven artists signed,” Shawly said. “It’s been three months since we opened and so far we’ve piloted three bands”

Those bands include Saudi alternative-rock band Skeleton Crowd, who have been active on the scene for the past four years or so. The band have already released their debut single under Wall of Sound, “Unus Mundus,” along with a music video, and will release their debut album later this year.

Other artists include EON – a 20-year-old solo artist — and the Jeddah-based alt-pop duo Fulana. 

“We want to push the agenda of focusing on original artists,” Shawly said. “This is a long-term project. Success won’t be immediate. We want to work on consistency, to build a fanbase for the artists.

“I always love to work with an artist who is really committed, especially here,” he continued. “We don’t have a major scene. It’s always been about the artists sitting home, recording and releasing whenever.”

The folks at Wall of Sound want to shift that mentality by focusing on building artists’ sound and identity over a sustained period of time. 

Creativity and teamwork are other qualities they look for in any artist they sign. 

“Taking risks and being experimental is important for us as well,” said Shawly. “We don’t want to go the commercial route; we want to create music we love and our artists love — something authentic and artistic.”


‘Historic night’ as Somalia screens first film in 30 years

Viewers wait for the first screening of Somali films at The Somali National Theatre in Mogadishu, on September 22, 2021, which has been opened for the first time to public after its inauguration in 2020. (AFP)
Viewers wait for the first screening of Somali films at The Somali National Theatre in Mogadishu, on September 22, 2021, which has been opened for the first time to public after its inauguration in 2020. (AFP)
Updated 38 min 19 sec ago

‘Historic night’ as Somalia screens first film in 30 years

Viewers wait for the first screening of Somali films at The Somali National Theatre in Mogadishu, on September 22, 2021, which has been opened for the first time to public after its inauguration in 2020. (AFP)
  • Although Mogadishu was home to many cinema halls during its cultural heyday, with the national theater also hosting live concerts and plays, the seaside capital fell silent after civil war erupted in 1991

MOGADISHU: Somalia hosted its first screening of a movie in three decades under heavy security on Wednesday, as the conflict-ravaged country hopes for a cultural renewal.
Built by Chinese engineers as a gift from Mao Zedong in 1967, the National Theatre of Somalia has a history that reflects the tumultuous journey of the Horn of Africa nation.
It has been targeted by suicide bombers and used as a base by warlords.
And it has never screened a Somali film. Until now.
"This is going to be a historic night for the Somali people, it shows how hopes have been revived... after so many years of challenges," theatre director Abdikadir Abdi Yusuf said before the screening.
"It's a platform that provides an opportunity to... Somali songwriters, storytellers, movie directors and actors to present their talent openly."
The evening's programme was two short films by Somali director IBrahim CM -- "Hoos" and "Date from Hell" -- with tickets sold for $10 (8.50 euros) each, expensive for many.
According to sources contacted by AFP, the evening passed off without any security incidents.
Although Mogadishu was home to many cinema halls during its cultural heyday, with the national theatre also hosting live concerts and plays, the seaside capital fell silent after civil war erupted in 1991.
Warlords used the theatre as a military base and the building fell into disrepair. It reopened in 2012, but was blown up by Al-Shabaab terrorists two weeks later.
The Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group launches regular attacks in Mogadishu and considers entertainment evil.

After a painstaking restoration, the authorities announced plans to hold the theatre's first screening this week.
For many Somalis, it was a trip down memory lane and a reminder of happier times.
"I used to watch concerts, dramas, pop shows, folk dances and movies in the national theatre during the good old days," said Osman Yusuf Osman, a self-confessed film buff.
"It makes me feel bad when I see Mogadishu lacking the nightlife it once had. But this is a good start," he told AFP.
Others were more circumspect, and worried about safety.
"I was a school-age girl when my friends and I used to watch live concerts and dramas at the national theatre," said a mother-of-six, Hakimo Mohamed.
"People used to go out during the night and stay back late if they wished -- but now, I don't think it is so safe," she told AFP.
The jihadists were driven out of Mogadishu a decade ago, but retain control of swathes of countryside.
Attendees had to pass through several security checkpoints before arriving at the theatre, inside a heavily guarded complex that includes the presidential palace and the parliament.
But for some, the inconvenience and the risks paled in comparison to the anticipation of seeing a film in a cinema after such a long wait.
"I was not lucky to watch live concerts and or movies in the theatre (earlier)... because I was still a child, but I can imagine how beautiful it was," NGO employee Abdullahi Adan said.
"I want to experience this for the first time and see what it's like to watch a movie with hundreds of people in a theatre."


Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day
Updated 22 September 2021

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

RIYADH: A host of restaurants in Riyadh are celebrating Saudi Arabia’s National Day in style with special menus and entertainment.

The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh

The hotel is offering its usual festivities with a twist, inviting a Saudi celebrity chef to cook for guests in Al-Orjouan restaurant. Social media-famous chef Abdulelah AlRabiah is set to host a cooking station while guests will be serenaded by live Saudi music.

Lunch will be held from 12:30pm - 5pm, priced at $120 (450 SAR)

The dinner buffet runs from 6:30pm-12am, priced at (450 SAR) $120 for adults and $60 (224 SAR) for children.

Four food trucks will be stationed outside serving coffee, ice cream and burgers along with face painting and gifts for children.

Yauatcha Riyadh

The dim sum restaurant and tea house is offering a special set menu inspired by the Kingdom’s national colors until Oct. 2.

The $66 (250 SAR) per person menu features chicken spinach soup, a section of dim sum, and main dishes consisting of chicken, seabass, and pak choi, as well as dessert.

La Brasserie

Riyadh’s La Brasserie is offering their traditional international brunch and dinner buffets with additional Saudi dishes to celebrate National Day.

The brunch buffet will run from 12:30pm-3:30pm and is priced at $101 (379 SAR).

The dinner buffet will be held from 7:00pm-11:00pm and is priced at $73 (275 SAR), excluding drinks.

Al-Bustan Restaurant

Al-Bustan restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh is offering a dinner buffet that includes a clutch of international favorites, including grilled lamb with traditional Saudi spices.

Running from 7:00pm-12:00am on Thursday, a local performer will entertain guests to celebrate the occasion and dinner priced at $89 (335 SAR) per person.  

Four Seasons

Elements restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh is offering an international buffet with a focus on regional favorites, including lamb kabsa rice, mandi varieties, mixed grills, cold mezze and, of course, Um Ali.

Live music will be played during the Thursday night dinner buffet between 7:00pm-12:00am.  

The dinner buffet is priced at $83 (311 SAR), excluding beverages.  

La, Gais

The Instagram-perfect, newly opened breakfast and specialty coffee spot will offer a selection of Saudi-themed breakfast and brunch items, along with live music.

Perfect for family brunch, the restaurant will be open from 4:30am-7:00pm during the National Day weekend.

Each menu item is priced separately, including tax.


Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week
Updated 22 September 2021

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

DUBAI: Dubai-based label Mrs. Keepa is set to present its Spring/Summer 2022 womenswear collection on the sidelines of Paris Fashion Week, as part of France’s Féderation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s “Welcome to Paris” initiative with the Arab Fashion Council.

The show is slated for Sept. 28 at Paris’s Palais De Tokyo and the label will also take part in Paris Fashion Week’s trade show partner event, TRANOI, which will take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at the same location.

Mrs. Keepa is known for its strong silhouettes and bold colors, as seen in this look from the label's 2019 show in Dubai. (Getty Images)

Helmed by half-Egyptian half-French designer Mariam Yeya, the label is inspired by a patchwork of evolving identities and her own dual heritage, which she explores through fashion.  

Launched in 2016, the label is a regular on the Fashion Forward Dubai circuit — an annual showcase of regional talent — and is known for its celebration of the female form, with a focus on defining silhouettes, voluminous details, striking patterns and kaleidoscopic colors. 

The label is helmed by Egyptian-French designer Mariam Yeya. (Getty Images)

For the Spring/Summer 2022 collection, titled “Harmonious Chaos,” the designer plays with organic shapes and opulent colors. Think cut outs and strappy maxi skirts, wide-leg camouflage cargo pants and larger-than-life sleeves.

 The collection will also feature pieces that traverse the boundary between recognizable separates — kimonos that work as skirts, dresses that can be worn as shirts and scarves that can be styled as waist-synching belts.

The show is slated for Sept. 28 at Paris’s Palais De Tokyo. Pictured is a 2019 show by the label. (Getty Images)

It is not the first time Arab designers have found a platform at Paris Fashion Week. To ensure that regional designers get the recognition they deserve, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode first teamed up with the Arab Fashion Council in September 2020 to host an exclusive showroom and presentation on the official Paris Fashion Week calendar that shines a light on Middle Eastern designers.

“The project is in line with the Arab Fashion Council’s vision to build an Arab economy based on creativity and to promote the Arab talents on a global scale,” said Mohammed Aqra, chief strategy officer of The Arab Fashion Council, in a statement at the time. “This is the first strategic alliance project with our French counterparts,” he added.


Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 
Updated 22 September 2021

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

DUBAI: In celebration of Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) launched a collection of Saudi cultural and heritage programs and activities to highlight the Kingdom’s diversity.

Under the slogan of “Melodies of the Homeland,” the celebratory activities will start on Sept. 22 and will run until Sept. 25. 

The National Day activities aim to present a collection of interactive cultural activities, music and art performances, traditional local crafts, various workshops, knowledge-based games for all age groups and more.   

The activities will include the Coffee Tales exhibition, which will shed light on the practice of farming coffee and the traditions associated with it, particularly in the Jazan region, as well as Saudi Aramco’s efforts to preserve it.

Another exhibition, called Tafaseel, will take its visitors on a cultural journey to embody the unity of the people and their interdependence from north to south and east to west. 

This colorful space will express the diversity of fashion as part of the cultural heritage across the local regions and tell stories about the civilizations that inhabited them.

Arab music sensation Ahmed Alshaiba will perform on Ithra’s stage and is expected to play his unique music that combines Eastern and Western genres.


Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 
Updated 21 September 2021

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

DUBAI: Emirati visual artist Aisha Juma is showcasing her work at an exhibition titled “Beyond Belief” in Berlin, Germany. 

Supported by Abu Dhabi Festival (ADF), Juma is taking part in the exhibition that brings together a variety of artworks from more than 35 artists. 

Aisha Juma is an Emirati visual artist. (aishajuma.com)

Open until Nov. 21, “Beyond Belief” explores the rise of modern-day spirituality, its origins, diverse manifestations and unique contemporary attributes. 

Juma, on her Instagram account, shared images of her drawings that are “inspired by the concept of art and spirituality.

“So happy to be part of this fundamental creative conversation,” she wrote. 

The inauguration of the event was attended by Hafsa Al-Ulama, the UAE ambassador to Germany. 

In her speech at the event, Al-Ulama praised the strong cultural ties between the UAE and Germany, and commended ADF’s commitment to participating in art exhibitions and festivals in Germany. 

She added that the festival’s sponsorship of “Beyond Belief” reflects Abu Dhabi’s role in promoting art worldwide.