The must-see sets at MDLBEAST’s SOUNDSTORM 2021 in Saudi Arabia

The must-see sets at MDLBEAST’s SOUNDSTORM 2021 in Saudi Arabia
This year’s event is preceded by a three-day music conference, called XP. (Getty)
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Updated 10 December 2021

The must-see sets at MDLBEAST’s SOUNDSTORM 2021 in Saudi Arabia

The must-see sets at MDLBEAST’s SOUNDSTORM 2021 in Saudi Arabia
  • Our pick of the EDM lineup for MDLBEAST’s four-day music festival in Riyadh, which starts Dec. 16

RIYADH: Following the success of 2019’s inaugural MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM festival, it’s clear that organizers MDLBEAST haven’t rested on their laurels. The 2021 version of the music festival promises to raise the bar for Saudi’s nascent live entertainment scene still higher, with a stellar lineup of EDM talent that ranges from crowd-pleasing mainstream superstars, through an assortment of seminal OG pioneers that will have even the most precious of hipsters tipping their (on-trend) hats to the programmers, to local talent getting the opportunity to perform on the biggest stage of their lives. On top of all that, there will also be performances from 11 of the Arab world’s biggest pop stars, from Nancy Ajram and Elissa to Tamer Hosny and Amr Diab.




On top of all that, there will also be performances from 11 of the Arab world’s biggest pop stars, from Nancy Ajram and Elissa to Tamer Hosny and Amr Diab. (Supplied)

This year’s event is preceded by a three-day music conference, called XP, which aims to “drive cultural and economic change in the Middle Eastern music industry.” That’s something regional musicians have heard countless times over the past 10 years, with little actually improving for them, so skepticism is understandable. But XP is certainly pulling out all the stops to try and ensure that there’s a different outcome this time around, with major industry players drawn from the region and internationally contributing their expertise in “workshops, panel discussions and roundtables, networking opportunities and music activations.” As promised, the conference will also address cultural topics, including how to tackle the widespread societal perception, regionally, that music isn’t a ‘real’ career.

“We are entering the most exciting time for the music industry in the Middle East, ever,” XP program director Nada Alhelabi said in a press release. “The opportunity is enormous, the potential is being unlocked, and what we need is a moment for the industry to come together to seize this chance with both hands. XP is that moment.”

Exciting though XP is for the industry, it’s SOUNDSCAPE that will be the main draw, of course. Here, we run through our picks of the performances you shouldn’t miss in Riyadh this week. With over 150 artists performing this is just a small selection, but even if you don’t catch anyone else over the three days, these sets will guarantee you a good time.

SUPERSTAR DJs 

The seemingly omnipresent David Guetta (pictured) will, of course, be performing in Riyadh (and probably every other dance festival organized around the world for the next five years). But there’s a reason Guetta features on so many lineups; love him or hate him, there’s no denying the French DJ-producer’s uncanny ability to give the public what the public wants. He’s been straddling the dance-pop divide with unerring skill for well over a decade now, and shows no signs of slowing down, having been named the number one DJ by DJ Mag in both 2020 and 2021. For pure pop thrills on the dancefloor, Guetta can’t be beaten. Dutch trance legend Armin van Buuren has actually topped the DJ Mag annual poll more times than Guetta, with five number one positions to his name, while his compatriot Afrojack (real name Nick Leonardus van de Wall) is one of the most high-profile (relatively) young pretenders to Guetta’s throne. The Dutch dominance of EDM is on show at SOUNDSTORM, with Tiesto (Tijs Michiel Verwest) — often cited as the “Godfather of EDM,” for his mastery of house music — and Martin Garrix (who topped the DJ Mag poll in 2016, 2017 and 2018) also performing. There are big names, too, from the other side of the Atlantic on the bill, with US superstars Steve Aoki and The Chainsmokers, and Canada’s multi-Grammy nominee Deadmau5 (Joel Thomas Zimmerman) all featuring. Someone who doesn’t quite qualify for superstar status yet, but is definitely one to watch, is Russian DJ-producer and singer Nina Kraviz. In a heavily male-dominated scene, Kraviz has made waves with her pristine-but-energetic take on techno and house music.

OLD-SCHOOL LEGENDS

In a region that doesn’t always demonstrate a full appreciation of its cultural imports, it’s refreshing to see that the festival’s programmers have found room in the SOUNDSTORM lineup for a number of DJs widely recognized as pioneers of the dance music scene, and without whose efforts today’s superstars would likely still be playing underground gigs in warehouses, rather than earning millions of dollars a year. Groundbreaking UK DJ-producer Carl Cox (pictured), for example, whose method of three-deck mixing made him one of the figureheads of the British rave scene, in which he became one of the first ‘celebrity DJs.’ His career began in the Eighties, around the same time that — over in America — Kevin Saunderson and Jeff Mills (who became known as The Wizard for his technical skills) were helping to establish Detroit techno as the dominant sound in dance music. Joining them on the SOUNDSTORM roster is Germany’s Sven Vath — a leader not just in his homeland’s underground electronic music scene, but one of those responsible for turning Ibiza into dance music’s go-to party venue.

LOCAL HEROES

Just a few years ago, the only opportunities Saudi DJs and musicians had to play live in the Kingdom were at private parties. At SOUNDSTORM, several local artists will have the chance to showcase their talent on the same stage as their heroes, to a crowd of thousands. The MDLBEAST team deserve credit for recognizing the hard work of artists such as Saudi veteran Tarek Antabi, who’s been championing house music for more than 20 years. Along with fellow Saudis Baloo, Dish Dash, Hats & Klaps, Jeme, and female DJ-producer Cosmicat (Nouf Sufyani, seen here performing at SOUNDSTORM in 2019) as well as Bahrain’s Zone+ and others, he’ll be showing that Khaleejis know how to move a crowd with the best of them.


Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie
Updated 26 May 2022

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie
  • The Emirati filmmaker and the two-time Academy Award-winning composer will collaborate on her upcoming feature, ‘Baab’

CANNES: UAE filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja has teamed up with the multi-award-winning Indian composer A.R. Rahman for her upcoming feature film “Baab.”

“This means the world to me, I feel like he is going to do something extremely unique and unprecedented and I need to match that with a picture, my camera language, and to be honest with my work,” Al-Khaja, herself the winner of multiple awards, told Arab News at the Cannes Film Festival this week.

Rahman — the Oscar-, BAFTA-, Golden Globe-, and Grammy-winning composer of more than 145 film scores — will score Al-Khaja’s upcoming feature film “Baab,” which she describes as her first “art-house” movie.

Al-Khaja (right) on the set of her short film 'The Shadow.' (Supplied)

Al-Khaja is widely recognized as the UAE’s first independent female filmmaker. Her previous work includes short films “The Neighbor,” “Malal,” “Animal,” and “The Shadow.” She co-wrote “Baab” with Masoud Amralla Al-Ali.

“People like her coming and laying the road for younger women is a fantastic thing to do and being a part of it is legendary,” Rahman said. “BAAB” will be his first Middle Eastern project, and he explained why he was immediately attracted to the proposed collaboration.

“For me, it feels like I’m just starting out,” he said. “It feels like it’s the first film for me, because she has a very new vision and she comes from a different place, which I have not been to before. And I always feel good about a clean piece of paper that has nothing written on it.”

The collaboration came about by chance, Al-Khaja explained, sparked by a spur-of-the-moment coincidence that led to a dream partnership.

A. R. Rahman with his two Oscars for 'Slumdog Millionaire.' (Supplied)

“The truth is, (this happened because of) Instagram,” she said. One day — having seen one of Al-Khaja’s Instagram stories in which she mentioned Rahman — her driver jokingly said to her, “Imagine if, one day, he called you.”

“He just put it out into the universe. It was just a casual remark, but two days later I got a call arranging a meeting,” Al-Khaja continued.

The pair both agree that the best collaborations often arise from such spontaneous connections.

“It was completely unplanned,” Al-Khaja said. “But I don’t want to say it was an accident. It was born out of an honest and real place.”

Rahman explained what initially drew him to the production. “I like the nuances,” he said. “There are open and unexplored parts of working with a filmmaker, which is great.”

He went on to explain his composition process: “Talking to a director, I find out the dos and don’ts — their inspiration and level of realism. I do a little bit of research to find sounds, sometimes I use them and sometimes I throw them away. Having it and discarding it is better than not having it when producing,” he said.

Al-Khaja bills the film, which — Variety has reported — follows a girl called Wahida as she investigates the mysterious death of her twin sister, as “100 percent art-house fantasy, and borderline horror.”

Both Al-Khaja and Rahman are hopeful that the film will be something special. (Supplied)

“It’s hard to define,” she said. “It’s intense. There are some creepy parts where it’s extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know that I can classify it (entirely) as a a horror movie, but we have maybe two or three scenes that are over that line. But for the most part, I’d say it’s art-house fantasy.”

One of those “uncomfortable” scenes comes towards the end of the movie, she explained, where one of the characters is hanging inches away from the ceiling.

“She’s tied by her arms and legs with a rope. The ceiling is almost touching (her face) for the whole scene, then (suddenly) one rope rips and she’s hanging there a long time and she’s breathing against the ceiling, it’s quiet and then it snaps. That’s right at the end,” Al-Khaja said.

Shooting on “BAAB” will commence in Ras Al-Khaimah in March, and both Al-Khaja and Rahman are hopeful that the film will be something special — not just in terms of storyline and performance, but with costume design, production, and music.

“We really want to push this as far as we can,” Al-Khaja said.

Decoder

Baab

Baab is an upcoming feature film by multi-awarded Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja, in partnership with Indian composer A.R. Rahman, himself a winner of multiple awards. The film tells the story of a girl named Wahida, who investigates the mysterious death of her twin sister. Shooting on “BAAB” will start in Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE, in March.


French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival

French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival
Updated 25 May 2022

French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival

French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival

DUBAI: French-Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri touched down in Cannes for the premieres of her new films, “Novembre” and “Nos Frangins,” bringing her head-turning style to the annual film festival in the process.

At the “Nos Frangins” photocall earlier this week, the 29-year-old evoked casual-cool wearing a glittering silver shirt and a red miniskirt by Chanel. She chose a similar look at Cedric Jimenez’s “Novembre” photocall, opting for a plain white T-shirt tucked into a pink, fringed tweed skirt also from the Parisian maison. She accessorized the look with layers of pearl necklaces and monochrome Mary Jane pumps.

Lyna Khoudri and her castmates at the ‘Nos Frangins’ photocall. Getty Images

Khoudri, who is a Chanel brand ambassador — she made her runway debut at the most recent Chanel 2023 cruise show in Monaco — saved her most glamorous get-ups for the red carpet.

She attended Rachid Bouchareb’s “Nos Frangins” red carpet premiere, alongside her castmates Samir Guesmi and Reda Kateb, wearing a sheer black embroidered dress from Chanel’s spring 2022 couture collection.

The French-Algerian actress attended the premiere of ‘Nos Frangins’ in Cannes. Getty Images

Meanwhile on the red carpet for “Novembre,” Khoudri turned heads in a grey two-piece Chanel ensemble that consisted of a tweed, slightly-unbuttoned jacket and matching loose trousers. Paired with black Mary Janes, the look felt undecidedly unfussy yet glamorous.

As an ambassador for the label, the rising star is constantly turning heads on the red carpet in Chanel designs.

Case in point, at Tuesday night’s premiere of “L'Innocent,” where the actress showed up wearing a black, embellished halterneck top fresh from the brand’s 2023 resort collection paired with a leather miniskirt and pumps. 

Khoudri wearing Chanel 2023 resort. Getty Images

“Being supported by Chanel, a house with such experience of the festival, had true meaning,” said “The French Dispatch” actress in a recent video interview.

Khoudri, who is currently filming the hotly anticipated “The Three Musketeers” plays a lead role in both “Novembre” and “Nos Frangins.”

In “Novembre,” which tells the story of the terrorist attacks in Paris on the night of Nov. 13, 2015, the actress takes on the role of Samia, a charitable young woman who volunteers at a homeless camp. Her flat mate is bankrolling her cousin, one of the terrorists.

The latter revisits the tragic death of French-Algerian student Malik Oussekine, who died in police custody in 1986. Khoudri plays the role of his sister.

 


Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’
Updated 25 May 2022

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

CANNES: The debut screening of Pakistan’s first entry to the Cannes Film Festival felt like “a dream has come true,” one of its stars, Sarwat Gilani, said after the film received a prolonged standing ovation.

The movie, “Joyland,” seeks to break gender stereotypes in the country.

“It felt like the hard work that people do, the struggles that we face as artists in Pakistan, they’ve all come to be worth it,” Gilani told Reuters this week.

Gilani, a film and TV starplay, plays Nucchi in “Joyland,” which competes in the “Un Certain Regard” section, a competition focused on more art-house films that runs parallel to the main “Palme d’Or” prize.

(FromL) Pakistani actress Sana Jafri, Pakistani actress Sania Saeed, actor Ali Junejo, director Saim Sadiq, actor Alina Khan, Pakistani actor and model Sarwat Gilani, actress Rasti Farooq and film producer Apoorva Charan attend a photocall for the film “Joyland” at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. (AFP)

Nucchi belongs to a household that has long hoped for the birth of a son to continue the family line, with the consecutive birth of her three daughters not enough to please her conservative father-in-law.

And her brother-in-law Haider secretly falls in love with a transgender woman Biba, who fights for her right to work as a performer.
“Joyland” also explores the frustration of women seeking to pursue a profession, when Haider’s wife Mumtaz falls into a depression for being forced to stay at home and do household chores and stop working as a make-up artist.
“It’s not just about a love story anymore. It’s about real-time issues, real life issues that we all go through,” Gilani said. 
She said she hoped Pakistani movie-goers and critics would give “Joyland” as warm a reception as it received in Cannes.
“I’m very positive that at least our people will understand that this is also a kind of cinema that can be successful. If worldwide, then why not locally, nationally,” she said.
The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to 28, with the prizes awarded on the last day. 


Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

DUBAI: Fashion lovers can expect a heavy dose of nostalgia with Saudi-Lebanese-Palestinian designer Talal Hizami’s latest collection, which he released as part of his ready-to-wear menswear brand Pacifism.

His high-school-inspired offering “Alma Mater” is a sartorial tribute to the London-born creative’s educational background and is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back.

“It’s always important for me to try to depict very vivid stories of nostalgia through my collections and my shoots,” he said.

The collection is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Y2K nostalgia is currently a huge trend in Western fashion, much of it driven by a new generation of designers who came of age in the 2000s. Hizami, who turned 29 in February, made a show of it in the lookbook for “Alma Mater,” which was shot by Iraqi-Canadian photographer Cheb Moha against the backdrop of school lockers.  

When it comes to the clothing, the designer transports us back to school with his clever take on looks you might find the average high school student wearing in a school hallway. To start, the designer reinvents the varsity jacket, a symbol of US school jocks, by his utilization of Japanese nylon fabric.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. At Pacifism University, a bird wearing a maroon knit serves as the symbol for the college team’s Peaceful Doves. The word dove is also used to describe someone who advocates for peace, or in other words a pacifist.

The sporty vibe is dialed up with ultra-cozy terry cloth shorts and high socks.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Having studied in both the English and US school curriculum, Hizami wanted to merge all the experiences and essence of his emotions during his formative school years.

In addition to the Ivy League hopefuls and jocks, Hizami’s new collection offers the full high school experience with pieces aimed at the science aficionados and preppy crowd. Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back that spells out “Pacifism” while school uniforms get a streetwear spin in the form of loose black slacks and button-up polo shirts.

But perhaps nothing screams nostalgia more than the collared rugby shirts. Big in the mid-80s, rugby-stripe pullovers have made a huge resurgence, showing up in the collections of J. Crew, Alexander Wang, Koche, and now, Pacifism.

Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

“This collection is fitting, in particular for me, because I wasn’t very good at writing stories in school so this is a way in which I find it comfortable to story-tell,” said the designer, who founded his brand in 2019 and made his London Fashion Week debut a year later. 

The collection is set to release via two drops at the end of the month online on Pacifism’s website and select e-tailers.


Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
  • Hollywood director Brett Ratner reveals plans to visit Saudi Arabia to scout for shoot locations

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez visited the Kingdom’s pavilion during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, to show his support for the burgeoning Saudi film industry.

“Our role is to support the sector with everyone in it. God willing, we will see success soon. Thank you everyone and I wish you a happy opportunity,” he said to a crowd of Saudi and international actors as well as filmmakers who had gathered at the pavilion.

The deputy minister was accompanied by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation CEO Mohammed Al-Turki, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf and US director Brett Ratner, the face behind such hits as the “Rush Hour” film series and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also produced the “Horrible Bosses” film series, “The Revenant” and “War Dogs.”

The deputy minister praised the work being done by Saudi creatives in the Kingdom and their contribution to the expanding industry, before touring the pavilion and meeting with select industry professionals.

Following his tour, Fayez addressed the press and Saudi creatives directly, saying: “You will have a brilliant future and we are ready, present and supportive of you.

“With regional programs that will come together, there will be great opportunities for filmmakers, actors, actors and actresses,” he added.

For his part, Ratner teased a big announcement, before saying that the details were being kept under wraps.

However, he did reveal plans to visit Saudi Arabia in order to scout for shoot locations.

“I am very excited to come to your beautiful country to film. I am going to come next week with his royal highness and friends and I am going to scout the whole country,” the producer said.

“The film is going to be unbelievable. We will be able to create a big buzz,” he added.