RIYADH: During the loudest week in Riyadh, the XP Music Conference takes attendees on a journey through different cultures and musical styles.
The conference, held in Jax, Diriyah in collaboration with the Saudi Music Commission, aims to lay the foundations for a thriving music scene in the Kingdom, with 17 different workshops, meetings, keynotes, and discussion panels to drive cultural and economic change in the Middle Eastern music industry.
One of the showrooms showcased Arabic music and its instruments to bring Arabian heritage to the world, displaying some of the oldest music tools of the Arab world, like the oud, qanun, rubab, and tabla, .
“As Arabs, we have an original taste in music, and we are showing the world our old musical instruments here in the XP cinema showroom,” Salman Hussain, who presented the instruments to visitors, told Arab News.
He provided background to some of the instruments displayed: “The qanun is the mother of all instruments. You can get any notes you want, while the rubab is accessible to all people because it is made from cheap materials like leather and wood.”
Hussein praised the XP Music Conference, saying that he had the chance to meet many people on the occasion and get to know different cultures.
“We combined all tastes and cultures here at the XP, and we all learned about each other. We are different people from different countries, but we are all connected in the same thing, which is the music,” he added.
The XP Music Conference witnessed the gathering of thousands of music industry professionals from around the world.
Following the conference, MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm — the largest music festival in the region — is back for the second time and will offer four days of thrills.
‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ sparks backlash ahead of release
Updated 17 sec ago
DUBAI: Emirati social media influencer Majid Alamry took to social media this week to criticize US cable network Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Dubai,” set to premiere on June 1.
Following the trailer release on May 17, Alamry said that the reality TV show does not represent housewives in the UAE.
The three-minute clip, set in the 11th city in the franchise, offers a glimpse of the six cast-members — Caroline Stanbury, Chanel Ayan, Caroline Brooks, Sara Al-Madani, Lesa Milan and Nina Ali — at luxurious dinners and lunches, fashion shows, vacations and a wedding.
“From the trailer, (there are) women wearing bikinis on beaches, using the nastiest language you can ever think of and they are representing themselves as gold diggers, trying their best to get money from rich men,” he said in a short Instagram video.
“Now, my wife is a housewife, she does not dress like that in public. She does not speak in that manner, and she has achieved a lot in her life,” he said. “The housewives of my country are our mothers, our sisters (and) our daughters. They are the backbone in helping giving our children the proper upbringing.”
“Yes, we are a tolerant country, but that does not mean that others can walk all over our morals and values,” Alamry said. “That series does not represent the real housewives of Dubai.”
Against all odds: Inside Lebanon’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale
The pavilion showcases the country’s cultural power during ongoing political and economic crises
Updated 27 May 2022
Rebecca Anne Proctor
VENICE: Inside an amply lit space in the Arsenale, one of the most prominent exhibition areas at the Venice Biennale, multimedia installations in Lebanon’s pavilion depict the beauty and chaos that has befallen the country after several years of economic and political crises.
There’s Ayman Baalbaki’s arresting 2021 work “Janus Gate” — a two-sided installation (named for the Roman god of beginnings, endings, transitions and time, usually depicted with two faces) covered in the artist’s abstract expressionist brushstrokes, which underlines the idea of a fragmented city. The vibrant front is typical of Baalbaki’s expressionistic painting style; it features the media panels placed on construction sites depicting an artist’s rendition of what the building will look like decorated with neon lights and spray-paint, imposing the lively chaos of the capital city’s present onto corporate promises of a brighter future.
Walk through a doorway to the back side and the visitor is confronted by a dimly lit olive-green monochrome recreation of a watchman’s hut, with a washing line and small table outside. From inside the hut comes a red light showing, Baalbaki explains, “the heat of a living creature.” The olive-green is a deliberate reference to the military, and how the civil wars in Lebanon and Syria turned civilians into soldiers. The red light alludes to the thermal signatures visible through night-vision scopes.
Baalbaki’s installation, like Janus, combines the past, present and future. It gracefully depicts the stoicism and resilience of the average citizen in the face of chaos.
Across from it, a haunting split-screen movie by Lebanese-French filmmaker and artist Danielle Arbid titled “Allô Chéri” (2022) plays. It is shot from inside a car driving through Beirut. The soundtrack is a woman narrating how she is constantly chasing money. That woman is Arbid’s mother.
Arbid was born in Lebanon in 1970. She moved to Paris aged 17. In 1997, she directed her first film. Since then, she has alternated between fiction, first-person documentaries, and video essays, and works as a photographer. Her work has won numerous awards and been the subject of several retrospectives.
For “Allô Chéri,” Arbid installed a recording device in her mother’s mobile phone (with her mother’s consent) and soon discovered that her mother was running her own banking system — a result of Lebanon’s financial collapse and the need for the people to access money through other means than the official economic system.
“I discovered my mother’s turbulent financial life,” Arbid told Arab News. “Secrets of debts that she hid from us, but that we (guessed at), because she was very stressed during this period. My mother’s life resembles the economic life of Lebanon today.”
The film also shows Arbid’s mother wandering the streets of Beirut. Like those around her, she looks for answers and clings on to hope, but clearly carries with her the despair and weight of the tragedies that have befallen her city.
“Allô Chéri” is one of a series of nine films that Arbid has been working on for several years titled “My Lebanese Family.” Each family member has a film focused on them, each in a different genre.
Lebanon’s participation at the 59th Venice Biennale is only the second in its history, and considering all that has transpired in the country, exhibiting in Venice is a feat that goes against all odds.
The pavilion was inaugurated one month before the Lebanese went to vote in the country’s parliamentary elections — ones which resulted in victory for some opposition candidates, spelling momentary celebration for those hoping for change. A desire and commitment to change and to Lebanese heritage and culture can similarly be felt in Venice — but through art.
The Lebanese state provided no money to stage the show; it was entirely privately funded by generous Lebanese art collectors and patrons.
“The private sector wanted to make sure that Lebanon was well-represented,” Lebanese art collector and patron Basel Dalloul, one of the pavilion’s funders, told Arab News. “The exhibition does represent Beirut’s contemporary art movement. It portrays a commentary on the two sides of Beirut echoing the ancient Roman god of Janus and his two two-faces.”
The Lebanese Visual Art Association (LVAA) organized the Lebanese Pavilion under the patronage of the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, who mandated Nada Ghandour to curate the show. The two artists — Arbid and Baalbaki — were chosen to provide two different but connected viewpoints on contemporary Beirut. Arbid has witnessed her country’s travails from the diaspora, whereas Baalbaki lives and works in Beirut.
“This year, the Lebanese Pavilion comes to life in spite of the extremely challenging times that Lebanon is going through, and the political, economic, and social turmoil that the Lebanese are facing,” Ghandour told Arab News. “By placing the Lebanese Pavilion in the Arsenale, I wanted to show that Lebanon still exists on the world art map and also to send a strong message to artists in Lebanon to encourage and motivate them; to show them that there is support for them, and also promote Lebanon’s contemporary art scene, an important sector for the country.
“The exhibition invites viewers on a symbolic journey into our contemporary world through a theme, a city, and two artists who maintain a political and aesthetic dialogue from a distance, by presenting artworks which are so far and yet so close,” she continued.
Paris-based Lebanese architect Aline Asmar d’Amman, who designed the pavilion.
“My first intuition was to express a powerful message of hope and unity from Lebanon to the world,” d’Amman told Arab News. “The circular brutalist egg-shaped envelope is a symbolic gesture, a tribute to the cinema of Joseph Karam in Beirut and the experimental theater by Oscar Niemeyer in Tripoli, both monuments that became ruins during the civil war. The structure is open like an oculus, revealing the magnificent wooden framework of the Arsenal. Ayman’s monumental sculptural installation and Danielle’s energetic images travelling through the streets of Beirut, framed in the circle, incarnate the dialogue and the deep plunge into our beloved city.”
Through their artworks, those two artists poignantly — and at times painfully — relay the beauty and decay of the city of Beirut and life as they once knew it in Lebanon.
Baalbaki, born in 1975 — the year the Lebanese Civil War started — has long been one of Lebanon’s most acclaimed artists, known for his work that focuses on political and social issues relating to Lebanon and the Arab world, particularly the conflicts that have ravaged the region.
“The city of Beirut for me is just as Foucault says: ‘A heterochronic space,’ meaning within one space there are several other spaces — utopian and real at the same time,” Baalbaki explained. “You feel like Beirut stretches forward and backward. Janus has two heads: one head faces backwards and another forward. He symbolizes the beginning and the end of time. And, with time, there is a promise of the future.”
‘Weapons of Mass Hilarity’ comedy show fires up again
Updated 27 May 2022
DUBAI: Born in the UK to a Palestinian father and an Iraqi mother, Jenan Younis is a colorectal surgeon by day and a stand-up comedian by night.
“I think I see creativity as escapism,” Younis told Arab News. “I like being able to switch off and do something completely different and be someone completely different.”
Comedy is just as much a calling for Younis as medicine. From telling jokes in her living room to her childhood friends, she is now the founder of a unique festival called “Weapons of Mass Hilarity,” which began in 2017.
Its seventh iteration will take place between June 2 and 4 in London and will be a showcase for comics of South-West Asian and North African origins, whom Jenan feels are under-represented in Britain’s alternative-comedy scene.
“I’ve been searching online to see if this has been done before and I can’t find anything in the UK, not even in Europe. . . I think this is going to be a first and hopefully not the last,” she said.
The featured comedians will take on a variety of topics, from the personal to the political. “One thing that I used to worry about is that the title’s quite an outdated political reference, but when I think about it, it’s just as relevant now as it was when that expression first came out,” she said.
The upcoming edition will feature Irish-Palestinian and British-Surinamese duo Shirley & Shirley, Egyptian-American entertainer Maria Shehata, Iraqi-Syrian performer and writer Yasmeen Audisho Ghrawi, and Younis. The festival’s founder believes that comedy can help soften the edges when speaking about serious matters, like war and identity.
“That’s something I’m exploring with a new show that I’m writing at the moment: How do you present difficult topics in a way that doesn’t sound like you want to preach your opinion? I think the one thing that I’m trying to do is find those themes in my own personal experiences every day and present that in my comedy,” said Younis. “I think people are much more likely to listen to something if they think it’s a personal story and you can subliminally get your point of view across.”
What We Are Reading Today: ‘Two Essays on Analytical Psychology’
Updated 27 May 2022
“Two Essays on Analytical Psychology” is a behavioral science book written in 1966 by award-winning Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.
Volume seven of “The Collected Works” of Jung, the book is considered to contain two of his most influential essays.
It comprises two chapters or essays, “The Psychology of the Unconscious,” and “The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious.
In “The Psychology of the Unconscious” Jung discusses going beyond merely addressing symptoms, drawing on his studies of the psyche through observing and analyzing the subconscious aspect of patterns and dreams.
“The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious” section of the book is divided into two subchapters in which he focuses on his Jungian methodology to actively engage with psychic and cognitive phenomena, while suggesting that “collective consciousness” is a byproduct of nature rather than nurture.
Jung is widely revered as the psychiatrist that introduced analytical psychology, and his ideas influenced a spectrum of fields of anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, and religion.
He was influenced by great minds such as those of Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, and German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Immanuel Kant, and was a research scientist under Bleuler at the Burgholzli psychiatric hospital in Zurich.
Throughout his career and contributions, Jung received honorary doctorates from universities all around the world including Clark University in 1909, Harvard University in 1936, the University of Benares in 1937, the University of Oxford in 1938, the University of Geneva in 1945, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1955.
Ray Liotta’s publicist in Los Angeles confirmed his death, saying the actor died in his sleep and that there were no suspicious circumstances
Liotta, whose turn as mobster Henry Hill in Scorsese’s crime masterpiece, ‘Goodfellas,’ won universal admiration, was shooting a film in the Dominican Republic when he died
Updated 26 May 2022
LOS ANGELES: Actor Ray Liotta, who starred in Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic “Goodfellas,” has died in the Dominican Republic, the country’s cinema authority said Thursday. He was 67.
Liotta, whose blistering turn as real-life mobster Henry Hill in Scorsese’s crime masterpiece won universal admiration, was shooting a new film in the country when he died, a spokeswoman for the Dominican Republic’s General Direction of Cinema said.
“We understand that he was accompanied by his (fiancee) and that the (fiancee) asks that you please respect her grief,” the spokeswoman told AFP.
Liotta’s publicist in Los Angeles confirmed his death, saying the actor died in his sleep and that there were no suspicious circumstances.
He was working on a movie called “Dangerous Waters” at the time of his death.
Liotta’s breakout came in 1990 when he was cast alongside Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in what is widely considered one of the greatest films of the 20th century.
“Goodfellas” won one Oscar, and was nominated for five others, and scenes from the movie continue to resonate as cultural touchstones more than three decades later.
A year before “Goodfellas,” Liotta had played baseball star “Shoeless Joe” Jackson in beloved sports movie “Field of Dreams,” opposite Kevin Costner.
The film was nominated for three Oscars, including best picture.
Tributes began to be paid soon after news of Liotta’s death broke, with “Goodfellas” co-star Lorraine Bracco, who played his on-screen wife, Karen, saying she was “utterly shattered to hear this terrible news.”
“I can be anywhere in the world & people will come up & tell me their favorite movie is Goodfellas,” she tweeted.
“Then they always ask what was the best part of making that movie. My response has always been the same... Ray Liotta.”
Despite branching out to show his breadth as an actor, Liotta had recently returned to the world of mob films, with roles in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” and “The Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark.”
Liotta was born in Newark, on the US East Coast, in December 1954.
Variety reported he was left at an orphanage at birth and adopted when he was six months old.
At the University of Miami he performed in musicals, and after graduating landed a role in a soap opera that would provide him with three years’ work to 1981.
His first movie came in 1983, but it wasn’t until 1986’s “Something Wild” opposite Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels that he came to wider attention.
The comedy-action-romance was screened at Cannes and scored Liotta a Golden Globe nomination for supporting actor.