Spotify collaborates with Jordanian viral star Issam Al-Najjar

Spotify collaborates with Jordanian viral star Issam Al-Najjar
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Updated 08 April 2021

Spotify collaborates with Jordanian viral star Issam Al-Najjar

Spotify collaborates with Jordanian viral star Issam Al-Najjar
  • Spotify announces second RADAR MENA collaboration with viral chart-topper Issam Al-Najjar alongside international stars Loud Luxury and Ali Gatie

DUBAI: In March 2020, Spotify launched RADAR, an emerging-artist program spotlighting rising talent from around the globe. Spanning across Germany, Japan, Brazil, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and beyond, the program has now surpassed more than 2 billion global streams.

Marking the next chapter of the program in the region, Spotify has collaborated with Jordanian viral sensation Issam Al-Najjar as its latest RADAR artist in the MENA region. The partnership will see the global chart-topper collaborate with Canadian music production and DJ duo Loud Luxury and Iraqi-Canadian singer and songwriter Ali Gatie for the release of “Turning Me Up” (original in Arabic: “Hadal Ahbek”). The new single will be available on Spotify on Friday.

“Our partnership with rising superstar Issam Al-Najjar marks another exciting chapter in our commitment to empowering emerging artists and strengthening their connection to regional and global audiences,” said Wissam Khodur, artist and label partnerships, Spotify MENA. “We have been closely watching Issam’s steady ascent over the past few months — gaining immense popularity as a viral icon and building a vast community of fans in a remarkably organic way.”

The program will further strengthen Al-Najjar’s global popularity with the music streaming company by putting out editorial and marketing support, including billboard placements in New York’s Times Square, as well as a host of social media promotions to help fans from around the world discover his music.




Issam Al-Najjar’s recent single dominated the top spot on Spotify’s Global Viral 50 with more than 30 million streams. (Supplied)

The 17-year-old singer-songwriter’s recent single dominated the top spot on Spotify’s Global Viral 50 with more than 30 million streams. He also landed the No. 1 position in similar viral country charts including the US, UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India and Egypt. 

Al-Najjar said, “‘Hadal Ahbek’ was a turning point in my career. Getting the chance to revisit it in English with Ali Gatie and Loud Luxury is insane. To add to that, having Spotify back me up and include me as part of their RADAR program is a great opportunity not only on a local level but on a global one as well.”

Universal Music, which recently launched Universal Arabic Music for the MENA region, also signed on Al-Najjar.

Since its launch, RADAR’s artists have collectively generated over 100 million hours of listening and have reached more than 112 million listeners. 


The Ray Hanania show compares Ramadan in US and Saudi Arabia

The Ray Hanania show compares Ramadan in US and Saudi Arabia
Updated 15 April 2021

The Ray Hanania show compares Ramadan in US and Saudi Arabia

The Ray Hanania show compares Ramadan in US and Saudi Arabia
  • The Kingdom is using technology to help ensure a more normal holy month than last year, Arab News’s Rawan Radwan tells the Ray Hanania Show
  • Meanwhile there is a growing acceptance among Americans of the importance and significance of this time to Muslims, says US-based professor

Muslims around the world celebrated the start of Ramadan this week, but the experience and traditions of the holy month can vary widely from country to country, especially in the pandemic era.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, the latest technology is being employed to protect the health of worshipers visiting the two most sacred mosques in Islam, Arab News deputy section editor Rawan Radwan explained during an interview on radio program The Ray Hanania Show on Wednesday.

Meanwhile acceptance in the US of Ramadan as an important religious occasion is continuing to grow, according to Saeed Khan, a history professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Radwan said that authorities in the Kingdom have launched two apps to help ensure that only those who have been vaccinated, or are in the process of receiving the shots, can join others to pray and worship.
“Just before the start of Ramadan, the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques issued a series of guidelines and protocols with the relevant authorities involved, as well such as the minster of the interior and the minister of health,” she said.

“All of this is to ensure that every worshiper and all pilgrims that arrive at either the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah or the Grand Mosque in Makkah receive the proper care and attention that they deserve. Their health comes first.”

Radwan said Saudi authorities require visitors to the mosques to provide documents that confirm COVID-19 vaccination status. When this is verified, worshipers are given set time slots for their visit to maximize participation but avoid overcrowding.

“We have gone digital,” she added. “We are digital by default. We have something like a health passport — it’s not a health passport per se, it is an application that will allow you into establishments and commercial establishments across Saudi Arabia.”

The app, called Tawakkalna, displays a barcode along with the name of the user, an ID number and a color that reflects the health status of the individual.

“If you are vaccinated and you are fully immune, then it is a darker green color,” said Radwan. “If you just received one jab then it is a lighter green. If you just arrived from the US it could either be a blue or purple color and that could (mean) you need you to isolate.”

Ramadan last year was severely affected by the start of the pandemic, as lockdowns prevented people gathering to pray and families from getting together for iftar. The latest measures introduced by the Saudi authorities to protect public health, she said, have raised hopes that this year’s Ramadan will be more normal. But there are still precautions that must be followed.

“The rules are very strict, very, very rigid,” said Radwan. “You cannot enter (the mosques) unless you are vaccinated and unless you have recovered. You have to go through certain entryways.

“You can’t even enter with your car. A bus will take you after you prove you have a reservation, and then you can enter. And, of course, you can’t make any reservation except through (the app).”

Those who are eligible to visit the mosques are given scheduled entry times and they can spend up to two hours there.

“Worshipers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah are allowed to perform Umrah all hours of the day, said Radwan. “Those wishing to pray are only allowed in to pray, and then leave. The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah closes after evening prayers (and) reopens about a half hour before the Fajr, or Dawn, prayers. Again, the reason is they have to ensure the people arriving are safe.”

Cleanliness and protecting the health of the public are priorities, she added. More than 10,000 workers have been assigned to the Grand Mosque, which is sanitized 10 times daily. More than 200,000 bottles of holy ZamZam water are distributed to worshipers each day.

In the US, meanwhile, there is a growing recognition and acceptance of Ramadan as an important Muslim religious occasion, said Khan.

“At the same time, Muslim Americans are developing more visibility and more acceptance within broader society, (on) a few different levels,” he added. “Corporate America is certainly recognizing Muslims Americans; we see a lot more companies and stores not only providing Ramadan greetings but also providing Ramadan products, greeting cards and other kinds of Ramadan paraphernalia.

“But I think the most important thing that we are seeing is at the institutional level. Schools are becoming much more accommodating to the needs of young Muslim students, recognizing that maybe students that are fasting during the daylight hours might be operating in a slower gear.

“There is now recognition in the largest public school district in the country, New York City, that the Eid festival will be recognized as a public holiday for school students.”

Khan said that this growing acknowledgment and acceptance of Ramadan is the result of community-based educational efforts, and an understanding by Muslims in the US that when Americans of other faiths ask questions about Islam it is not always intended as a criticism.

“There is always more that can be done,” he added. “Part of the essence of that really is to be neighborly and not to be offended by somebody who is asking a question. Most of the time the questions come from a very good place and good faith, wanting to learn.

“There certainly are people who ask the ‘gotcha’ questions but, generally speaking, we find when it is a neighbor, a coworker or a colleague, they just want to know. We can’t necessarily presume everyone knows, that somehow it is self-evident.”

Khan said the evolving experience of Muslims in the US is similar to that of devotees of other religions in America.

“I always noticed that on Fridays the menu in the cafeteria (in school) was always the same,” Khan said by way of an example. “It was fish sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. I learned later that had to do with Catholic students and meatless Fridays.” Although the rules have changed in some countries over the years, Catholics traditionally are prohibited from eating meat on Fridays and on the main religious holidays.

“So, the US has always had that mechanism to go ahead and accommodate religious minorities. Muslims are no different,” Khan added.

Despite the positive signs of growing acceptance of Muslims and their faith, many still face discrimination, however.

“Unfortunately it seems like it is going to be a challenge that will be with us for quite a while,” said Khan. However he added that this is something that can affect people of all faiths.

“I think it is important to remember that it is not necessarily only directed against Muslims,” he said. “I remember in 2012 when Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and now the senator from Utah, was the presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, there were a lot of people who had a problem with a Mormon being someone running for high office.”

• The Ray Hanania Show, sponsored by Arab News, is broadcast in Detroit on WNZK AM 690, in Washington DC on WDMV AM 700 on the US Arab Radio Network. 

 


UTURN, Facebook sign content partnership for Ramadan

UTURN, Facebook sign content partnership for Ramadan
Updated 14 April 2021

UTURN, Facebook sign content partnership for Ramadan

UTURN, Facebook sign content partnership for Ramadan
  • Launching during Ramadan 2021, exclusive content will be shared across the Facebook pages of the group’s publications
  • Webedia Arabia Group attracts viewership and engagement of 44 million people through its five main publications

DUBAI: UTURN, part of Webedia Arabia Group, has partnered with Facebook to unveil a series of videos throughout the year.

Launching during Ramadan 2021, exclusive content will be shared across the Facebook pages of the group’s publications 3a2ilati.com, Yasmina.com, AtyabTabkha.com, SaudiGamer.com and UTURN.

Webedia Arabia Group attracts viewership and engagement of 44 million people through its five main publications.

With an emphasis on celebrating cultural nuances, it is especially focusing on developing content for its growing number of Generation Z and Millennial users.

“UTURN, part of Webedia Arabia Group’s key strengths in data, reach and ability to localize content for audiences across the Middle East and North Africa, in combination with the unique support services pioneered by Facebook, can lead the market and make a real impact on our regional audiences,” said Bilal Hallab, regional general manager of UTURN.

The campaign will kick off with the launch of 89 long-form videos (over three minutes each) that will be published throughout Ramadan.

Audiences will have access to three videos daily and more than 270 minutes of content during the month. 

More content will be produced and showcased throughout the year as part of the partnership agreement, which will result in exclusive content on topics including beauty, food, parenting, pop culture and gaming.

3a2ilati will share the diaries of a mother and daughter, as well as storytelling formats covering parenting and educational content for kids during Ramadan; Yasmina will focus on beauty topics; Atyab Tabkha will feature food-related content; Saudi Gamer will produce storytelling content revolving around news and happenings in the gaming scene in the Kingdom; and UTURN will broadcast a game-focused line-up with Saudi pop culture at the heart of its content. 

“In today’s digital age, watching video content is no longer a passive experience but a social one,” said Moon Baz, strategic partner manager for Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Through our partnership with UTURN … we are excited to unveil Ramadan-themed content that can encourage viewers to engage in conversations, and become active participants in these stories that can ultimately drive some social good.”


StarzPlay strengthens Turkish content offering with BluTV add-on

StarzPlay strengthens Turkish content offering with BluTV add-on
Updated 14 April 2021

StarzPlay strengthens Turkish content offering with BluTV add-on

StarzPlay strengthens Turkish content offering with BluTV add-on
  • StarzPlay subscribers can watch Turkish content dubbed in Arabic with BluTV add-on free for first 3 months

DUBAI: StarzPlay has launched a new add-on partnership with BluTV, Turkey’s first and largest local subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, which is globally available for all Turkish- and Arabic-speaking audiences.

With this new partnership, StarzPlay subscribers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will have access to BluTV’s Turkish catalogue dubbed in Arabic.

The add-on will be available as a dedicated branded area across all StarzPlay’s existing platforms. The service will be free for the first three months.

The partnership accelerates StarzPlay’s expansion strategy to deliver diversified content for its growing subscriber base.

Earlier this year, the streaming service launched two add-on services in partnership with global brands discovery+ and Ultimate Fighting Championship.

It also ramped up its Turkish content offering just before Ramadan through partnerships with MISTCO, an international brand management and content distribution agency, and Calinos, an Istanbul-headquartered Turkish company that distributes Turkish series, movies and TV programs across international platforms.

“In the highly competitive SVOD sector, it is important to update our content offering continuously and provide diversified entertainment choices that are relevant to our subscribers,” said StarzPlay co-founder Danny Bates.

“Our partnership with BluTV is an extension of our business strategy for 2021 as we continue to make inroads in content aggregation.”

The shows available via BluTV on StarzPlay include “Yarım Kalan Aşklar”, “Gürkan Chef”, “Aşk-ı Memnu”, “Yeşilçam” and “Meryem.”

Aydin Dogan Yalcindag, founder and CEO of BluTV, said: “Our investor, US TV giant Discovery, has an established partnership with StarzPlay in the MENA region, which presented a great opportunity to expand our services into new markets and offer true value to customers.”


Finyal Media launches new branded podcast ‘Al-Silah’

Filmed in Saudi Arabia, the first season of Al-Silah launched on April 13 in time for Ramadan, with two episodes going live per week. (Supplied)
Filmed in Saudi Arabia, the first season of Al-Silah launched on April 13 in time for Ramadan, with two episodes going live per week. (Supplied)
Updated 14 April 2021

Finyal Media launches new branded podcast ‘Al-Silah’

Filmed in Saudi Arabia, the first season of Al-Silah launched on April 13 in time for Ramadan, with two episodes going live per week. (Supplied)
  • Mystery drama podcast series is partnership between GMC Middle East, Next Broadcast Media, Dentsu Aegis

DUBAI: Podcast network Finyal Media, known for its focus on storytelling throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, has partnered with GMC Middle East, Next Broadcast Media, and Dentsu Aegis to create a new mystery drama series.

Eight-parter, “Al-Silah,” is centered on two Saudi brothers embarking on a 13-hour car journey from Jeddah to Dammam in a 2021 GMC Yukon after receiving a cryptic and hurried call from their father asking them to get to Dammam as quickly as possible.

Throughout the drive, the brothers try to piece together the full story from relatives, business associates, and other unexpected sources of information.

Filmed in Saudi Arabia, the first season of Al-Silah launched on April 13 in time for Ramadan, with two episodes going live per week.

Kelly MacDonald, chief marketing officer for General Motors in Africa and the Middle East, said: “The holy month of Ramadan is a period we really cherish at GMC considering our strong connection with the Arab culture.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most important markets for GMC, and we are thrilled to be getting closer to the community through this exciting project featuring our very own 2021 GMC Yukon.”

The new partnership also signified the growth of brand investments in the podcasting industry. Earlier this year, Unilever’s platform Miraa partnered with Finyal Media to release the six-episode podcast series “A Breath, a Step, a Mirror” for International Women’s Day, with more seasons expected throughout the year.

A report last year by UAE-based podcast network, Amaeya Media, found that 50 percent of listeners preferred entertainment-related content, feedback that has been reflected in more brands adopting a storytelling approach to their podcasts.

Leila Hamadeh, co-founder and CEO of Finyal Media, said: “It was really important for us to collaborate with a partner whose brand could authentically and seamlessly integrate into the show in a natural way.

“With the series being the story of a dramatic adventure across the Kingdom, the iconic car brand GMC felt like a very natural fit for the characters in the show.”

Podcasts are becoming a more lucrative advertising opportunity for brands as they offer a complete branding opportunity in a natural and authentic way that is more cost-effective than other platforms.

Lemya Soltani, director of client partnerships at Next Broadcast Media, said: “Podcasts offer our clients the opportunity to reach their audience in a contextually relevant environment where they can get 100 percent of a user’s attention without being intrusive.”

Al-Silah is available for free on Apple Podcast.


Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground
The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago. (Supplied)
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground
  • Philosophers from outside the Arab world contributed to the first issue, specifically from Germany and the US

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal has been issued, with its editor-in-chief saying that the country was witnessing a “tangible philosophical renaissance.”
The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago.
According to its editor in chief, Sarah Al-Rajhi, the principal aim of the journal was to help researchers in the Kingdom, the Arab world and the West to publish their work without any financial cost and in line with accurate scientific standards.
“Philosophy indicates the position of knowledge within any culture,” she told Arab News. “It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is currently witnessing a tangible philosophical renaissance that should have culminated in the launch of a refereed academic philosophical journal. At Mana, we aim to train researchers in philosophical writing and create a kind of accumulation in this regard. We do this on our online platform, and more systematically in our peer-reviewed journal.”
She said that the SJPS advisory board included 12 leading thinkers and philosophers from the Arab world and the West, and that this number was appropriate because each member represented an orientation and school of thought.
The scholars were chosen on the basis of precise criteria, the most important of which were their research, their recognition by the scientific research community, their “abundant philosophical production” and their geographical distribution.
The advisory board includes members from Saudi Arabia, the US, Australia, the UK, Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria.
Al-Rajhi said that the SJPS had received a large number of research papers in different languages from many countries since its launch.
“We subjected this research to close referees as the journal has a list of highly qualified referees. We apologized to some researchers whose research did not meet the required publishing standards, and we provided them with the referees’ reports that include important notes and instructions in order to help them address the deficiencies in their research and develop them.”

FASTFACTS

• The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago.

• The SJPS advisory board includes 12 leading thinkers and philosophers from the Arab world and the West.

• Among the open access articles are a paper from the US-Lebanese philosopher Raja Halwani.

• Another article is from Mohamed Mohamed Madian, philosophy professor at the University of Cairo.

Philosophers from outside the Arab world contributed to the first issue, specifically from Germany and the US.
The first edition of the SJPS was applauded by elite cultural figures and entities, including Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. He tweeted the issue announcement, adding: “Such a great step to enrich Saudi philosophical content.”

Such a great step to enrich Saudi philosophical content. Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan
Saudi culture minister

Al-Rajhi, in turn, expressed her gratitude for the support that the Saudi cultural community received from the ministry.
“With your continuing encouragement and support to the knowledge and cultural movement in Saudi Arabia, the future will even be brighter with more and more steps,” she replied.
She said that some of the journal’s articles were free to access for readers on the Mana platform and that issues would also be sent to Saudi and Arab universities.
Al-Rajhi, who is the co-founder of Mana, said the journal could contribute to strengthening the Kingdom’s philosophical movement and that the encouragement of academic publishing in the field of philosophy was the pinnacle of this movement.
“To write a philosophical paper in a systematic way that adheres to the accuracy and academic standards in writing, and for the scientific community to read what you write, is a great thing and a beginning that can be both built and expanded upon. Moreover, we believe that the international character of the SJPS allows Saudi researchers to learn about the research output of their colleagues around the world.”
Al-Rajhi explained what distinguished the SJPS from other Arab and international refereed journals. It did not just present research papers, but a variety of content.
“This content included an introductory essay on a philosophical topic, an introductory essay about a philosopher, an introduction to a research project, translations of two valuable texts from English into Arabic, and finally a statistical analysis of the publications of the most important international publishing houses in the second half of 2020.”
She said there was a clear philosophical activity in Saudi Arabia that nobody could ignore and that it was part of the country’s general cultural activity, adding that had it not been for the “official institutions’ support of this activity, it would not have appeared this way.”
The next desired step within the Saudi philosophy community was to teach the subject in the country’s universities as an independent academic discipline, she said.
“We have tried to create a kind of intersection between philosophy and academia, and we are hopeful that it will be a step that paves the way toward establishing the first departments of philosophical studies in Saudi universities.”
Among the open access articles are a paper from the US-Lebanese philosopher Raja Halwani, who is a philosophy professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In his abstract for the “Virtue of Integrity,” Halwani writes there is a powerful argument that integrity is not a virtue because it would be a redundant virtue, or what he calls the “redundancy objection.”
He said that integrity was usually tested when the agent was under pressure or tempted to act against their values. A virtuous person was someone who had virtues, including wisdom, and was able to act properly whenever the situation called for it.
Another article is from Mohamed Mohamed Madian, philosophy professor at the University of Cairo’s Faculty of Art.
He discusses Cornel Ronald West, a prominent left-wing African-American thinker, and his writing focuses on three levels expressing the West’s philosophy: Prophetic pragmatism, the philosopher’s concept of democracy, and the problem of racial discrimination.