DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is shaking up the regional music scene with lyrically-driven folkloric songs called Sheilat.
This genre, according to data supplied by music streaming service Spotify, is one of the most ubiquitous and popular styles to come out of the Kingdom.
In an interview with Arab News, Majd Alazem, the vice president of network at digital talent agency Alfan Group – one of the “early adopters of Sheilat,” said: “It used to be a very local, traditional genre — a performance of poetry. It used to be more of a tribal thing within Saudi Arabia, Yemen and some of the GCC countries as well.
“After the digital revolution and when social media came on to the scene, Sheilat started to go viral on YouTube,” he added. “We saw that this genre had potential because its audience is very, very loyal.”
Over time, these songs turned from being poetry that was sung among tribes to “having instruments and every single aspect of typical music (usually found in a) song,” said Alazem.
The musical style is starting to get attention from Gen-Zs and millennials across the region, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait being the top markets listening to the genre, according to Spotify.
Alazem explained that he believes this is because of Sheilat’s upbeat music, “which is very popular among the younger audience.”
The lyrics often use motivational words and “now, with TikTok and the short video form, Sheilat is becoming a massive (part of the) sound library,” he added.
In fact 80 percent of Sheilat listeners on Spotify stream the music while they are gaming.
“People who play these exciting games, like Fortnite, tend to need a motivational sound track to help them perform better within the game,” Alazem theorized.
Wissam Khodur, the artist and label partnerships at Spotify Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News: “We’ve been blown away by the growth of the Sheilat genre on our platform, and it’s truly inspiring to witness it break into the mainstream and be incorporated into a key culture-defining moment such as gaming.”
Fahed Bin Fasla is one of the most famous Sheilat singers from Saudi Arabia, with a stellar 152 million views on just one of his hit songs on YouTube.
When speaking to Arab News, he said: “Sheilat is a great form of art… What makes it special is the lyrics.”
Bin Fasla said the words he sings are easy and simple to understand not just for Saudis, but also for music lovers “in Libya, Syrian, Jordan and elsewhere.”
‘A milestone for Arab cinema’ — director and stars discuss ‘Perfect Strangers’
The first Arabic-language Netflix original movie has been a huge success both regionally and internationally thanks to stellar performances from the cast and its first-time director
Updated 14 sec ago
DUBAI: It’s been a long time since an Arabic-language film has dominated conversation across the Arab world quite like “Perfect Strangers” currently is. The first original Arabic-language Netflix film — an adaptation of the award-winning Italian original of the same name — has been trending across the region since its launch on January 20, inspiring both overwhelming praise for its stellar performances and fierce debate over the questions it poses.
“Perfect Strangers” was helmed by Lebanese director Wissam Smayra and features several of the region’s most-acclaimed actors, including Egypt’s Mona Zaki and Eyad Nassar alongside Lebanon’s Georges Khabbaz, Diamand Bou Abboud, Nadine Labaki, Adel Karam, and Fouad Yammine.
Set during a dinner party held by a group of Egyptian and Lebanese friends, the film revolves around a game in which each person puts their mobile phone on the table, exposing to the rest every call or message that they receive. What starts off as light fun quickly descends into dramatic chaos as painful truths come to light.
“The film touches on taboos, but it’s not about the taboos,” Zaki, the biggest star in Egyptian cinema, tells Arab News. “The main idea is about the privacy we hide in our phones, how we keep secrets from everyone around us, and how — for so many of us — even those who we are closest to know nothing about us.”
Bou Abboud defines the point of the film further: “It’s about exploring the exact limit to which we can reveal ourselves to the closest people around us and not be judged.”
“We tackle each topic without (judgment),” adds Smayra. “We’re not trying to prove anything. We are just going into reality and focusing on the human interactions it inspires.”
The film is a landmark in more ways than one, an eminently accessible mainstream drama that has immediately found a global audience, trending at the top of Netflix in countries including France and proving that Arab film is reaching a turning point both in terms of quality and widespread popularity, regionally and internationally.
“Respect (for Arab film) is starting to really grow. And this is a milestone, I think,” says Labaki, the Oscar-nominated director of “Capernaum.”
To achieve the naturalistic style of “Perfect Strangers,” Smayra approached the film much like a piece of theater, rehearsing the script from start to finish with his actors for weeks on end, and filming the entire project chronologically rather than out of order, as is the norm for most films.
During filming, Smayra and the cast would meet every day out of costume and without make up, running through that day’s 10-minute scene 20 to 30 times in a row for hours until it became second nature, before filming the scene that night.
“This is when you know that you have amazing actors,” says Smayra. “It wasn’t normal — these were crazy, insane geniuses. I was witnessing something magic.
“We worked with two cameras. Each day, we would start shooting for three or four hours until it was done,” he continues. “It was insane. Afterwards I could see they were all drained.”
“And that was even though we were all just sitting around a table!” says Zaki. “It was an emotional drain.”
“It was easy for me, though,” adds co-star Karam, who also starred in the Oscar-nominated film “The Insult,” with a smile.
Part of the reason for most of the cast’s constant exhaustion was that, unlike most films, there were no breaks for the actors. Because of the multiple handheld cameras and the nature of the story, the troupe could never drop out of character.
“The way it was shot was very important. You had to be present the whole time — even if it's not your moment, even if you know you're not going to be talking for a while,” says Labaki. “We were present not only as characters but as ourselves, watching the performance of somebody else that is so real that you really feel you're in it, you really identify, and you start thinking about your own situation. It was really fascinating.”
Smayra, who, like Labaki, got his start directing music videos in Lebanon in the early 2000s, has worked with Labaki in the past, executive producing “Capernaum.” Though it was his first feature-length film, he was a soft-spoken but assured presence, and never leaned on his fellow director in the cast as others have.
“I never felt I was working with a first-time director,” says Labaki. “I felt from the start that this was going to be great; I was in good hands. Because of that, my only concern became doing the best I can for the character, and for everybody else, because you feel like everybody's performing on such a high level. I felt like I needed to be up to the expectations, and up to the standard they were all setting. I really loved this whole adventure.”
For Egyptian star Nassar, what was truly remarkable is how nothing was lost in translation, and all the power he felt in the moment remains on the screen in the final cut.
“I told Wissam, ‘You are a magician.’ As an actor, I knew the subtleties I had introduced while filming and I knew the best moments of the other actors,” he says. “Watching it, there are no missing moments. All the actors’ power was there, nothing lost in the editing. He was seeing everything. I’ve never seen that done so well.”
And Nassar says that, to his surprise, he left the set a changed performer. “After I finished ‘Perfect Strangers’ and got back to Egypt, I had a different style of acting,” he says. “Working with actors such as Georges Khabbaz allowed me to see other schools of acting.”
Khabbaz, Lebanon’s most renowned stage actor, found the film uniquely challenging, though he ends up being the film’s quiet and soulful anchor and has received an outpouring of praise online for his performance.
“I am a man of the stage,” Khabbaz explains. “The stage has vast space, which allows you to express using all tools. This role was different. It was difficult. To do it, I had to keep my emotions closer to my chest, and show them only in reactions. I tried to do this role as an Eastern man but maintaining the Western concept of the movie. For this performance, I became a man of reaction, not a man of action.”
While some of the discussion around the film has focused on why Arab cinema is producing remakes rather than crafting original stories, each cast member made sure that “Perfect Strangers” responded to that concern with gusto, crafting a true piece of art that stands as the best version of the concept — one possessed with a uniquely Arab spirit — rather than a lazy cash-in.
“Throughout the filming, my inner question was: ‘Why are we making this movie?’ We constantly discussed how we could present this material as Eastern people for an Eastern audience,” says Nassar. “The answer lay in how the dilemma the film poses affects Eastern people uniquely. We ended up discovering during the whole filming process why we were doing the Arabic version of this movie. In the end, it was very clear to all of us, and it will be to audiences, as well.”
DUBAI: No one has an affinity for Amina Muaddi shoes quite like Rihanna.
The singer-turned-designer has an unparalleled collection of heels by the Jordanian-Romanian designer, which have become her go-to choice of footwear whether she is attending lavish red carpet events, fundraising galas, taking an off-duty stroll or stepping out to dinner with her reported beau A$AP Rocky.
The Fenty Beauty founder was spotted out on a chilly January night in New York City while heading to dinner at a SoHo restaurant with the rapper, born Rakim Mayers. For the occasion, the superstar put her best foot forward, wearing crystal-wrap Amina Muaddi sandals that she paired with a red Balenciaga puffer coat worn over an oversized jersey. She accessorized the look with a pair of leather ski gloves by Miu Miu, structural diamond earrings and a black baseball cap with an embroidered “R” from R13.
One thing Rihanna and A$AP Rocky seem to have in common is their penchant for the part-Jordanian footwear designer’s creations.
The artists have both collaborated with the designer in the recent past.
In 2020, the Paris-based designer teamed up with the rapper’s creative agency AWGE on a four-piece collection of flared pumps and lace-up heels.
The collection marked A$AP Rocky’s first foray into women’s footwear and was Muaddi’s first collaboration for her own brand, though she also released a limited-edition footwear capsule collection with Rihanna’s Fenty label that same year.
The collaboration was honored as Collaborator of the Year at the 34th edition of the FN Achievement Awards.
Following the sell-out success of the first collection, Barbados-born Rihanna enlisted Muaddi to design yet another collection for Fenty.
According to an interview with British Vogue, Rihanna came by Muaddi’s shoes after her longtime stylist Jahleel Weaver introduced her to early prototypes.
But then she bought a few pairs herself via her personal shopper. She’s such a nice person. She sent me some Fenty clothes when she launched her own label – I feel amazing when I’m wearing them. There’s that swagger, you feel like you are channeling Rihanna,” Muaddi stated.
Review: Netflix’s ‘The House’ shows that home is where the art is
Updated 24 January 2022
LONDON: Netflix is going big on adult animation. Not only has the streaming giant built its own studio in Los Angeles, but it continues to partner with some of the biggest names in the business –its first animated anthology film, “The House,” sees Netflix link up with London’s Nexus Studios to tell a trio of stop-motion stories centered around the mysterious titular house.
In the first, a family makes a Faustian deal with a creepy architect — he will build them a wonderful home if they agree to leave their old house and their belongings behind. As the allure of the creepy building overwhelms the mother and father, only their eldest daughter seems suspicious, investigating the sprawling house in search of clues about their mysterious benefactor.
The second relocates the story to a more modern setting, in which a beleaguered developer (voiced by a charming Jarvis Cocker) struggles to complete the renovation of the same building. The anthropomorphized rat must land a buyer before the bank comes calling, but an interested couple could spell more trouble than the house is worth.
In the final chapter, landlord Rosa (a cat, this time) struggles to keep on top of maintenance, while her rent-shy tenants make plans to flee rising flood waters that edge ever-closer to the house’s front door.
Sure, the three stories feel a bit uneven – the first a gothic nightmare, the second a modern creep-fest, the third a dystopian surrealist study – and the thread that binds them all together, the house itself, shifts from a malevolent entity to an inanimate object and (eventually) a savior figure in a bewildering, meandering arc that is a little hard to decipher. But “The House” remains a stop-motion masterpiece. Even if the stories are unbalanced, and the tone ever shifting, this anthology is a rare, beautiful showcase of animation at its most beguiling and captivating.
According to the brand, the Spring 2022 advertising campaign “portrays the protagonist in the summer wardrobe you have always wished for.”
The collection boasts a wide range of summer-ready styles from reinvented classics and summer-ready essentials to cashmere sweaters emblazoned with butterflies and cotton trousers. Tweed miniskirts, leather pouches and linen blouses are among the other items that jostle for attention in the label’s new collection.
The model has been keeping quite busy. She recently appeared in the holiday campaign for German label Boss, alongside Australian actor Chris Hemsworth.
Attal has forged a position as one of the most in-demand models in the world at the moment — Models.com currently ranks her as one of the top 50 models worldwide.
Based in London and singed to Viva Model Management, Attal has walked for renowned fashion houses such as Prada, Fendi, Dior, Chanel and Versace, to name a few, in addition to appearing in the pages of publications such as Vogue magazine.
Born to Moroccan parents in the UK, the model was first discovered by Jonathan Anderson, founder of the J.W. Anderson label, and shot a campaign for the British fashion house in 2014, before making her runway debut three years later.
Attal is among the growing list of Arab models breaking ground in the industry, including Italian-Moroccan Malika El-Maslouhi, part-Palestinian sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, Moroccan-Egyptian Imaan Hammam and French-Algerian Loli Bahia, to name a few.
Sattom Alasad wanted to use online spaces dominating people's lives to provide a tranquil, otherworldly escape
These digital spaces are also a way for Alasad to express and explore her Saudi heritage
Updated 22 January 2022
LOS ANGELES: Saudi architect Sattom Alasad has expanded from designing physical buildings to virtual ones.
Collectively known as a metaverse, digital spaces like Alasad’s allow users online to immersively interact with the environment and each other, and the technology world is looking at them as the next big thing.
“A lot of big companies are investing millions of dollars to own digital land so it’s only natural that the digital real estate is also going to go up in value and is going to be in demand,” digital artist and architect Alasad said. “So as an architect, I am trying to actively participate in developing and designing that digital world for us.”
Metaverse development has been pushed forward due in part to the increased number of people working and interacting remotely during the pandemic.
Alasad wanted to use the online spaces dominating people's lives to provide a tranquil, otherworldly escape.
“A lot of what was going on in the world around us was weighing down on us, so I wanted to take that as an opportunity to start developing my dream world,” she told Arab News.
“I’m currently working on translating my designs to be sold as NFTs where the owner can choose to host the spaces in the metaverse or the digital world where they can be experienced fully and immersively through virtual reality.”
These digital spaces are also a way for Alasad to express and explore her Saudi heritage, incorporating familiar design elements from her home.
Of all her projects, the one closest to her heart was a collaboration with the charitable collective of MENA region creators, Ya Habibi Market.
“Creating and sharing art is an incredible way to meet and connect with other creatives who live in LA whether they’re from Saudi or other parts of the Arab world.
“So in some ways I found it I would say more empowering to try to connect and understand my culture while being away from it.”