THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region
The Lebanese dream-pop trio Postcards released a new track “Home is so Sad.” (Supplied)
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Updated 06 May 2021

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region
  • From a Palestinian violinist to Lebanese dream-pop, via Saudi shoe stylings and Syrian artworks


The Lebanese dream-pop trio released a new track “Home is so Sad,” from their upcoming album “After The Fire, Before The End,” due out later this year. The song is apparently inspired by the eponymous Philip Larkin song. It’s a typically atmospheric track — Julia Sabra’s melancholy lyrics floating over a distorted guitar line built over a pounding drum beat. As Sabra sings of “Blood from your nostrils/Blood from your ears” and “There’s a hole where you knee should be/But I am not afraid” it’s not hard to imagine where the Beirut-based band found the inspiration for this song. The accompanying video, by Nadim Tabet, is the first of a series to go with the album, the band explained on social media: “The idea is to have some sort of visual archive of our shared experiences over the last couple of years.”

Lulu Al-Hassan

The Saudi shoe designer has teamed up with regional retailer Shoemart for a limited-edition capsule collection called “Lule Loves Celeste,” which is exclusive to the Middle East. With 28 satin styles — including peep-toe mules, stilettos, slingbacks and platform heels — in a color palette ranging from classic blacks to bright yellows and reds, the collection will be released just ahead of Eid. “Your shoes are your statement, and this collection will translate that into confidence,” Al-Hassan said in a press release.


This exciting Lebanese trio are currently in the process of recording their first EP, and gave us a taste of what to expect recently with a live performance of their song “Statues” for Light FM’s online concert series “Videos in our Studios.” The band describe their sound as “rhythmic prose infused with electronic influences rebirthing heritage, folklore and nostalgia” and “inspired by Kraut, Oriental and Electronica.” “Statues” has something of an Eighties’ vibe, with bassist and vocalist Antonio Hajj’s baritone delivery over layers of looped guitar lines, delivered with subtle skill by guitarist Tony Dauo. Hajj told Arab News, “The track, like the EP, is made up of many rooms; each one is a feeling or a state of mind. It has tension — the ride and the feeling of being suspended in mid-air.” That feeling is mirrored lyrically, he explained: “We talk about how we are taught to internalize and keep to ourselves. The setting we’re in doesn’t help and suffers from an identity crisis itself, so the only way is to keep your ‘light’ and keep going forward.”

Thaier Helal

The UAE-based Syrian artist’s latest solo show, “Abyss,” runs at Dubai’s Ayyam Gallery until May 10. A statement from the gallery says that while the artist’s new work “differs in texture, stepping away from his structural and sculptural approach,” Helal “continues to pose radical questions, (addressing) many subjects concerning our existence, meaning, and current state of bitterness that drains the mind and soul.” His artwork, one example of which — “Behind The Line” — is seen here, falls somewhere between figurative and abstract. “The artist’s technique plays with composition and vantage point,” the gallery continues. “The aim is for each viewer to see something personal that references past experiences, to take the viewer to extremes of imagination.” 

Akram Abdulfattah

The Palestinian violinist, composer and producer recently released his second album, “Monologue.” The blend of traditional Arabic music with pop, jazz, and Indian sounds reflects Abdulfattah’s multi-cultural background: He moved to the US from Palestine aged seven. The album is intended to reflect his life’s journey, as well as the politics of Palestinian life. “The album’s sense of collaboration could be seen as a metaphor for long-standing peace in the region,” according to a press release. According to Abdulfattah, the album “can be imagined as a dialogue with the inner self. It’s about finding unity in the self and discovering similarities in the richness of different music languages and culture.”

Allexa Bash 

Bash, a Dubai-based Ukranian singer-songwriter, released a new single, “Heartbeat,” in late April. It’s a pop track with downbeat, piano-led verses leading to big choruses dominated by dubstep-style synths. Bash is a former contestant on the Ukrainian version of “The Voice” and her vocals are certainly powerful. Lyrically, according to a press release, the song is about “being real, about showing yourself, about listening to thoughts and embracing them. And, finally, letting your heartbeat act as a lighthouse, leading you in the dark, showing you the way.”

Saudi-led fashion label Ramzen presents new collection in Milan

Saudi-led fashion label Ramzen presents new collection in Milan
Updated 27 September 2021

Saudi-led fashion label Ramzen presents new collection in Milan

Saudi-led fashion label Ramzen presents new collection in Milan

DUBAI: Saudi fashion house Ramzen presented its Spring/Summer 2022 collection this week on the sidelines of Milan Fashion Week. 

The collection, according to the brand, celebrates “Gioia di Vivere” which means “the Joy of Life.” 


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The brand’s new offerings for women and men feature luxurious, contemporary designs in bright colors. 

The show was inspired by the new Italy-based brand’s shared “global experience of joy after a difficult time of sacrifice.”


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Earlier this month, the label, who’s designer and creative director is Abdul Al-Romaizan, announced that the US pop singer Jack Gilinsky was selected to be the face of men’s Spring/Summer 2022 campaign. 

The fashion house’s first collection was released for Fall/Winter 2021. It featured casual and formal designs that are inspired by the 80s.


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Al-Romaizan’s brand offers fashion and lifestyle products that are inspired by his early-80s childhood. 

Al-Romaizan was born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Milan and studied in the US.


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“I am driven by passion and filled with optimism as we prepare to unveil this collection, which honors my heritage as well as the current vision for Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Romaizan in a statement ahead of his show. 

“Arab men are powerfully discriminating and elegant in both attitude and appearance; Saudi women were among the first to dress in haute couture, and they have a commanding presence in the fashion and beauty industry worldwide,” he added. “I am fully devoted to defying their expectations for quality of construction, elegance and sheer uniqueness, while offering men and women the world over contemporary evening wear unlike anything they’ve ever worn.”


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According to the label’s website, Ramzen is the first European fashion house to be run by a Saudi designer, “and its debut represents the realization of a long-held dream for Al-Romaizan.”

Sotheby’s to present jewelry, art by creatives in the UAE

Sotheby’s to present jewelry, art by creatives in the UAE
Updated 27 September 2021

Sotheby’s to present jewelry, art by creatives in the UAE

Sotheby’s to present jewelry, art by creatives in the UAE

DUBAI: Auction house Sotheby’s is set to showcase jewelry and artworks crafted by talents in the UAE at a Dubai exhibition titled “Made in the Emirates,” from Oct. 4 to 7.  

Katia Nounou-Boueiz, head of Sotheby’s UAE, said in a statement: “The exhibition brings the best of the Emirates under one roof at the same time as our international auction highlights, in a curated one-stop destination for lovers of art and jewelry alike.”

Promise Me Perfection rings, set with a 0.72-carat tourmaline or a 0.70-carat topaz with diamonds, HASHI. (Supplied)

The jewelry houses being showcased are Savolinna, Gafla, YATAGHAN, Misk, Susana Martins and HASHI, all of whose collections are crafted in Dubai. 

The pieces bring together a range of design influences, from reimagined traditional Emirati symbols and motifs to modern takes on art deco. 

Athier, Cats & Dogs (est. £3,000-4,000). (Supplied)

The artists on view are represented by Engage101, a platform centered around a quarterly sale of non-gallery represented artists based in the Gulf. 

The mission of the co-founders, Munira Al-Sayegh and writer Gaith Abdulla, is to connect emerging artists with collectors and elevate the voice of the arts scene from the region, according to a released statement.

Bella Hadid stars in Lanvin’s latest campaign

Bella Hadid stars in Lanvin’s latest campaign
Updated 27 September 2021

Bella Hadid stars in Lanvin’s latest campaign

Bella Hadid stars in Lanvin’s latest campaign

DUBAI: US-Palestinian–Dutch supermodel Bella Hadid has landed a new campaign. 

The 24-year-old catwalk icon was selected to star in French high fashion house Lanvin’s Fall/Winter 2021 campaign, which was lensed by fashion photography duo Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

The campaign images, released this week, show Hadid wearing three different outfits: A high-neck dress featuring colorful prints, a black number with knee-high boots and sheer sleeves, and a cream suit accessorized with an oversized black belt.    

For the show, styled by creative director Bruno Sialell, the model debuted a straight bob haircut. 


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The images, which Hadid shared with her 46.1 million Instagram followers, feature artworks by contemporary US artist James Rosenquist. 

These include the creative’s 1966 “Yellow Applause,” his 1981 “Ultra Tech,” the 1963 “Morning Sun” and his 2004 “Through a Glass Ceiling” art. 

Hadid starred alongside French singer Luv Resval in the campaign.

Despite being an in-demand model, Hadid recently opened up about the pressure she felt to publicly project a wild image early in her modeling career.

In an interview with Vogue Magazine for its September 2021 issue, Hadid, who made her runway debut aged 17, said: “It’s like there were two Bellas — me, this person in the process of figuring out who she was, and ‘Bella Hadid’ the alter ego, who was, I dunno, a… who goes out every night (sic).

“I have insane social anxiety! Partying is not my thing, but I felt enormous pressure to project that image because I assumed that’s all people wanted from me,” added Hadid, who is the daughter of property developer Mohamed Hadid and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Hadid. 

The fashion icon has walked runways for world-famous brands, including Off-White, Miu Miu, Mugler, Boss, Versace, Fendi, Max Mara, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tom Ford, Jean-Paul Gaultier and many more. 

Despite her busy schedule, the model took time out in September to wish her baby niece a happy first birthday.

“Happy Birthday to the greatest gift our family has ever been blessed with… I didn’t know my heart could grow this big!!!” Bella posted on Instagram earlier this month, alongside a carousel of photos featuring the now-one-year-old, who is the daughter of Gigi Hadid and British singer Zayn Malik.

MDLBEAST, Saudi Music Commission join forces for music conference in Riyadh

MDLBEAST, Saudi Music Commission join forces for music conference in Riyadh
Updated 27 September 2021

MDLBEAST, Saudi Music Commission join forces for music conference in Riyadh

MDLBEAST, Saudi Music Commission join forces for music conference in Riyadh

DUBAI: MDLBEAST and the Saudi Music Commission have partnered to present XP; a three-day music event with a conference and nightlife events in Riyadh.  

Set to run from Dec. 13-15, the event will feature roundtables, networking opportunities, and music activations.

The event will take place just before the SOUNDSTORM music featival, set to take place in Riyadh from De. 16-19.



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Ramadan Alharatani, CEO of MDLBEAST, said: “XP is a first for the region and will serve as the foundation for a thriving music industry across the Middle East. Providing a platform to authenticate and further build the music industry in the region, local and international guests will be embraced by the wealth of possibility offered by this exciting new market over the three days. Through XP, we aim to join the global conversation, and by hosting such an event we will continue to build & accelerate the music infrastructure across the region.”

XP is a three-day music event with a conference and nightlife events in Riyadh. (Supplied)

The event aims to build a foundation for talent development in the region, encourage research into the development of a sustainable music ecosystem, and initiate dialogue around music, mental health, wellbeing, and diversity in the industry.



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Nada Alhelabi, XP program director, added: “Through these conversations, we want it to inspire future generations to consider a career in the industry and promote music as a vehicle for job creation and innovation, making it a sustainable industry from which they can profit. A big focus for us is promoting diversity, wellbeing, and fair working conditions to empower females and give a voice to minority groups within the industry.”

The full schedule of events is set to be released closer to the date.

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards
Updated 27 September 2021

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards
  • Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction
  • Broadway favorite Danny Burstein won a featured acting Tony

NEW YORK: “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie, took an early lead at the Tony Awards, earning seven trophies at the halfway point.
The pandemic-delayed telecast kicked off with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from the original Broadway cast of “Hairspray!”
The optimistic number was performed for a masked and appreciative audience at a packed Winter Garden Theatre. Host Audra McDonald got a standing ovation when she took the stage. “You can’t stop the beat. The heart of New York City!” she said.
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and a featured acting Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut.

Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction of a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”
It is Timbers’ first Tony. The show is about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, updated with tunes like “Single Ladies” and “Firework” alongside the big hit “Lady Marmalade.”
Timbers has been nominated twice before, for directing “Peter and the Starcatcher” in 2012 and directing and writing “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” He has been a production consultant on David Byrne’s “American Utopia,” directed “Rocky” and “The Pee-wee Herman Show” and is directing “Beetlejuice” for the second time next spring.
He picked up a Lucille Lortel Award for directing the off-Broadway production of “Here Lies Love” and went on to direct the show at London’s National Theatre. Other notable off-Broadway credits include the “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in Central Park and the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2016 revival of “The Robber Bridegroom.”
For the Tony, he beat Phyllida Lloyd of “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical” and Diane Paulus of “Jagged Little Pill.”
Burstein, who won for featured actor in a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after the death of his wife, Rebecca Luker, ReDavid Alan Grier won featured actor in a play for his role in a “A Soldier’s Play.” “To my other nominees: Tough banana, I won,” he said.
Lois Smith won her first Tony for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play for “The Inheritance.” And Lauren Patten edged out her co-stars from “Jagged Little Pill” to win the award for best featured actress in a musical.
“A Christmas Carol” was cleaning up with five technical awards: scenic design of a play, costumes, lighting, sound design and score. No one from the production was on hand to accept the awards.
Sunday’s show has been expanded from its typical three hours to four, with McDonald handing out Tonys for the first two hours and Leslie Odom Jr. hosting a “Broadway’s Back!” celebration for the second half, including the awarding of the top three trophies — best play revival, best play and best musical.
While other entertainment industries like TV and film found ways to restart during the pandemic, Broadway was unable until now due to financial and physical impediments. The lifting of all capacity restrictions was crucial to any reopening since Broadway economics demand full venue capacity.
The sobering musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiraling out of control, goes into the night with a leading 15 Tony nominations.
Nipping on its heels is “Moulin Rouge!,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub that has 14 nods.
“Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, earned a dozen nominations, making it the most nominated play in Tony history.
Other shows to keep an eye on are “The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez, which nabbed 11 nominations. It’s a two-part, seven-hour epic that uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century. And “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” which tells the rock icon’s life with songs that include “Let’s Stay Together” and “Proud Mary,” earned 12 nods.
This season’s nominations were pulled from just 18 eligible plays and musicals from the 2019-2020 season, a fraction of the 34 shows the previous season. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories. This year there are 25 with several depleted ones. But theater insiders think an awards show is even more vital now.
“I would argue it’s more important than ever, in a way,” said James Corden, who hosted the Tonys in 2016. “If there’s a year that we should ever celebrate them, it’s this year, where people’s entire lives have just been ripped away and turned upside down.”
Some intriguing races include whether Karen Olivo wins best leading actress in a musical, despite quitting her show, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” in frustration with Broadway.
Six-time Tony-winner McDonald is not just a host. She’s up for best actress award in a play, which, if she won, would give her seven awards, breaking her own record for the most Tonys won by a performer. And something bizarre has to happen to deny Aaron Tveit winning for best leading actor in a musical; he’s the only person nominated in the category. Voting for the nominees was done in March.
The last Tony Awards ceremony was held in 2019. The virus forced Broadway theaters to abruptly close on March 12, 2020, knocking out all shows and scrambling the spring season. Several have restarted, including the so-called big three of “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.”
“Jagged Little Pill” goes into the telecast on the defensive, dogged by two controversies.
A former cast member, Nora Schell, a Black nonbinary actor who made their Broadway debut in the chorus in 2019, posted a statement this week on social media describing repeated instances early in the run of the show in which they were “intimidated, coerced, and forced by multiple higher ups to put off critical and necessary surgery to remove growths from my vagina that were making me anemic.”
“Jagged Little Pill” producers — saying they are “deeply troubled” by the claims — have hired an independent investigator, and the union Actors Equity Association said Sunday it was also commissioning “a thorough, independent investigation” of the show’s workplace.
In another controversy, the show’s producers have apologized to fans for changing a character from gender-nonconforming to cisgender female after the show moved from Boston to Broadway.
Two original stars — Celia Rose Gooding and Antonio Cipriano — have announced that they are leaving after Sunday’s performance, with Cipriano on Sunday citing “the harm that many trans + non-binary, and all marginalized folks, in-stage cast members and off have endured.” He wrote he took responsibility “for being part of the cause harmed.”