Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST Soundstorm is the region’s answer to Tomorrowland

More than half a million people attended the festival, surpassing Tomorrowland — making it the largest music festival in the world. (Supplied)
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More than half a million people attended the festival, surpassing Tomorrowland — making it the largest music festival in the world. (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST Soundstorm is the region’s answer to Tomorrowland
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Updated 19 December 2021

Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST Soundstorm is the region’s answer to Tomorrowland

More than half a million people attended the festival, surpassing Tomorrowland — making it the largest music festival in the world. (Supplied)
  • The music festival played host to a spectacular lineup of some of the world’s celebrated musicians, DJs

RIYADH: Just like that, the second edition of MDLBeast Soundstorm festival came to a close with a bang on Sunday night in Riyadh. The EDM event, which kicked off on Thursday, brought music lovers together for four nights of non-stop entertainment, dancing and electronic tunes.

Bandana-clad festivalgoers flew in from all parts of the world to enjoy a spectacular and diverse lineup of performances. Local talent shared billing with internationally renowned DJs, such as Afrojack, Benny Bennassi and Tiesto; Arab superstars, including Wael Kfoury, Nancy Ajram and Elissa; and regional artists, namely, Dish Dash, Cosmicat and Saud.
Following a pandemic-induced cancellation in 2020, MDL Beast made their eagerness to make up for lost time clear as this year’s event was bigger and better than the inaugural SOUNDSTORM festival in 2019.

FASTFACT

Bandana-clad festivalgoers flew in from all parts of the world to enjoy a spectacular performances.

Chief creative officer Ahmad Alammary, also known as Saudi DJ Baloo, told Arab News: “We work with a lot of passion, because it’s music, and music really does inspire a lot of love. It’s exciting to work in a creative field, but even more exciting to spread joy. Working creatively to spread joy is the perfect combination of ingredients.”
More than half a million people attended the festival, surpassing Tomorrowland — making it the largest music festival in the world.




Balqees Ahmed Fathi

“The venue blew my mind on how big and amazing it was,” said Prince Saud Al-Saud, 25, from Jeddah, who attended the event with his sister, Deema. “I also felt like I was out of Saudi Arabia. It really feels like it can rival Tomorrowland,” he added.
“The music was incredible and it was amazing to see so many people having a lot of fun. The only negative was the amount of walking we had to do to reach the venue. In addition, I’d like to point out the behavior of some of the attendees. It was appalling and shameful to see.”




David Guetta

Daoud Tabibzada, 28, who flew in from Dubai to attend, told Arab News: “The festival was nothing like I expected. From the festival setup to the different types of artists that were booked, it really took me by surprise. I loved the production and the performances. The crowd did get rowdy at times, but it was to be expected at a music festival. I was really looking forward to Future’s set, but unfortunately I missed it. However, Martin Garrix really made up for it. All in all, I would love to attend MDL Beast again next year,” he added.
“To be honest, I’ve been to several festivals in my life outside of Saudi Arabia and I could say that this one was within my top three,” said Widad Taleb, a 24 year old from Beirut. “The ambience was cheerful and positive, the food was great and even the staff on the field were extremely helpful.”
In addition to more stages — the first event had six while this year’s boasts eight, including the Guinness World Record-breaking Big Beast stage — the 2021 SOUNDSTORM festival featured more food options and parking spaces, as well as ramped-up security following disturbing sexual harassment claims from female attendees in 2019.
This year, the festival introduced “Respect & Reset,” an anti-harassment initiative aiming to create a safe and respectable environment for all attendees and making reporting instances of abuse and harassment easier for guests.
“They should have discounted the tickets more for women so there would be at least a 40:60 ratio in there. Because of all the harassment rumors, many women were afraid to come, although I did not experience such a thing,” said Taleb.
The festival got off to a shaky start on the first day, with many festivalgoers left stranded in the middle of the Banban desert after shuttle buses that were meant to transport attendees to and from the venue stopped running.
But organizers made sure to fully compensate ticket holders by increasing parking and replacing park-and-ride transportation with on-site parking for all ticket categories for the next three days, ensuring a seamless experience.
And for ticket categories, music lovers had three options to choose from, in addition to exclusive VIP boxes and table services.
The “Storm Chaser” tickets offered general admission to the grounds, while “Storm Blazer” featured additional perks, such as on-site parking and golden circle access at the main stage.
Meanwhile, “VIB” ticket holders were treated to access to an exclusive VIP area that featured lounges, dance floors, diverse food options, live dance performances, shisha and close-up views of the Big Beast, the world’s tallest and largest stage.
Throughout the four days, the Big Beast played host to a spectacular lineup of some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and DJs, including Tiesto, Martin Garrix, Future, David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren, Steve Aoki, Jason Derulo and Swedish DJ Alesso, who closed the event with an energizing performance that had festivalgoers dancing until the early hours of Monday morning. The Big Beast not only brought together some of the biggest international names in music on one stage, but also beloved Arab stars such as Amr Diab, Balqees Fathi, Tamer Hosny and Myriam Fares, to name a few.

In addition to Big Beast, the SOUNDSTORM 2021 festival featured a closed tent holding an incredibly packed EDM atmosphere called Dance Beast and the Underground area, which catered to those who prefer music that is a little less mainstream.
For those searching for quick respite from the electronic beats, the MDLTOWN section of the festival site offered a selection of art galleries and clothes shops to browse, including MDLBEAST’s own BANI BEAST, the Kingdom’s first homegrown festival-wear brand.
Cosmetic retailer Sephora also set up shop for attendees looking to get festival makeup done or those who simply needed to touch up their glitter.
“I was not expecting at all what I saw, to be frank. It was as if Riyadh was transformed into a beautiful hot spot, because I felt like a tourist in the country I reside in. I was expecting more of a restricted experience, but my friends and I had the most fun we’ve had in so long. It definitely exceeded my expectations,” Taleb said.
Echoing on her statement, Dubai-based Sonia Al-Sowaiegh, 26, said: “As a Saudi, I’m so proud of how far we’ve come. To have a so many people celebrate music together makes me so happy to see.”
Unimaginable just a few years ago in the Kingdom, the second edition of MDL Beast’s SOUNDSTORM is proof of the success of the rapid cultural reforms ushered in by Vision 2030. Now, Saudi music lovers no longer need to hop on an international flight to experience live performances by their favorite artists.


Louvre Abu Dhabi displays Filipino artifacts for first time

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. (Supplied)
The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. (Supplied)
Updated 13 min 18 sec ago

Louvre Abu Dhabi displays Filipino artifacts for first time

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. (Supplied)

DUBAI: The UAE’s Louvre Abu Dhabi unveiled on Wednesday two loans from the Philippines’ Ayala Museum in the first-ever showcase of artifacts from the country.  

In celebration of the touristic attraction’s fifth anniversary, these Filipino artifacts are on display until June 2023. 

The historical items date back to the 10th-13th century. 

The first loan is a gold cup that was recovered from Nabua in the Camarines Sur province of the Philippines. It highlights the striking similarity of Filipino works to the Chinese gold and silverware acquired by Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2019.

(Supplied)

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. It places emphasis on immortality being the universal hope of mankind when faced with death, according to a released statement. This artifact is currently showcased alongside other historical items from the Levant and South America that exemplify this shared tradition.


Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  

Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  
Updated 28 June 2022

Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  

Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  

DUBAI: From French Algerian model Loli Bahia to US Dutch Palestinian sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, Arab models are turning heads on the runway this week. 

The Hadid sisters on Monday walked the runway for US fashion label Marc Jacobs in New York.

The show, which took place in the lobby of the New York Public Library, presented the New York-born designer’s fall 2022 collection. 

Instagram/@gigihadid

Oversized is the key word that represents the show. The models wore colorful large knitwear pieces tied around their heads and waists, voluminous gowns, puffy coats, huge jackets and high platform boots. 

Gigi and Bella stepped out with bleached eyebrows, dark hair and blunt micro bangs. 

On Instagram, Gigi shared a video of her turn around the catwalk as she showed off two oversized knit sweaters with a grey skirt and white platform heels. 

Meanwhile, Bella wore a sheen-heavy black dress that was voluminous and multi-layered. Her look was accessorized with white gloves and chunky heels. 

For her part, Bahia walked the runway for French fashion label Jacquemus that took place in Southern France’s Camargue Park during Paris Men’s Fashion Week. 

The models, including Bahia, presented the brand’s fall 2022 collection on large mounds of salt. 


Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 

Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 
Updated 28 June 2022

Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 

Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 

DUBAI: French-Algerian model Loli Bahia walked the runway for French fashion label Jacquemus in Camargue Park, on France's Mediterranean coast, during Paris Men’s Fashion Week. 

The models, including Bahia, presented the brand’s fall 2022 collection on large mounds of salt set against a breathtaking natural backdrop.

The event was attended by a veritable who’s who of the fashion world, including  Jordanian Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi, British designer Victoria Beckham, French actor Vincent Cassel and his wife Tina Kunakey, Nigerian singer BurnaBoy, British actress Simone Ashley, Cristiano Ronaldo’s partner Georgina Rodríguez and British singer Jorja Smith.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by hadigi (@_hadigi_)

The A-list guests sat on a front row bench that was made out of salt crystal as they watched the models show off a collection marked by monochrome tones and neutral hues.  

Nineteen-year-old Bahia, who is taking the industry by storm, wore a set of bulky beige overalls with large pockets at the waist as she, and the other models, descended from the top of a salt mountain. A white, floor-length tulle was attached to her suit from the back.

“Walking on the moon,” the model wrote on Instagram Stories after the show, referring to the extraterrestrial feel of the unexpected runway with its salt structures, clear pools of water and bright sky.

The show, titled “Le Papier,” featured fluffy coats, puffer vests and cargo pants along with feminine and innovative bridal looks using voluminous tulle, asymmetric cuts and sheer dresses. 

Bahia is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand models in the industry having become a runway fixture in just a couple of months after a breakthrough spring 2022 fashion month, where she walked in 65 shows.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @lolibahiaa

The teenager has taken to the catwalk for a multitude of prestigious fashion houses, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Valentino.

Signed to Women Management Paris, she made her runway debut in 2020 at the Louis Vuitton fall 2021 show and went on to star in the Parisian fashion luxury house’s fall campaign last year.

She has also featured in numerous campaigns for high-end fashion labels, including Saint Laurent, and Max Mara, and has appeared in prestigious fashion publications such as Vogue Italia.


Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom

Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom
Updated 27 June 2022

Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom

Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom
  • Giacomo Mazzariol’s movie screened as part of weeklong European Film Festival
  • 25-year-old says he plans to return and hopes to mentor young Saudi talent

RIYADH: An Italian screenwriter has described Saudi Arabia as having “amazing culture and traditions” after delighting cinemagoers with his very first screening in the Kingdom.

But 25-year-old Giacomo Mazzariol said he was nervous about how people might react to his film, “My Brother Chases Dinosaurs.”

“While sitting and watching your movie from another country, your mind is full of fears and doubts,” he told Arab News.

“‘Will my film be welcomed well? Does everything make sense?’ I then relaxed because I realized that people who watched the film were really satisfied and they had a warmhearted reaction. They felt that it was an honest film, full of true emotions.”

Directed by countryman Stefano Cipani, the movie was screened on June 17 as part of the inaugural European Film Festival, which saw 14 European films shown at The Esplanade VOX Cinema in Riyadh.

Mazzariol said the audience was intrigued with the movie and asked him many questions after the screening.

“The people laughed a lot because the film is full of lightness and humor, but also they took it seriously and they were fulfilled by the dramatic and touching parts.

“The story is about the emotional coming of age of my character (Gio), that goes from the incomprehension of the inner world of Gio to the complete acceptance and understanding of his diversity. The journey goes through rage and shame, surprise and courage, fraternity and solitude, and it starts from the birth of Gio till he grows up and becomes a teenager.”

While in Saudi Arabia, Mazzariol and a delegation from the EU were also set to hold a workshop for local talent in collaboration with the Alkhobar-based Arabia Pictures Group, but the event had to be postponed.

“The Kingdom has amazing culture and traditions that should be communicated more to people all over the world, not only with tourism but also through sharing local stories, through art based on nowadays life and perspectives,” he said.

“Arabia Pictures proposed to me to hold it (the workshop) during this edition of the festival, but we didn’t manage to make it happen this time. That is why I am supposed to come back to the Kingdom, during the next edition of the festival.”

Mazzariol said that on his return he hopes to be able to mentor young Saudis who are interested in the film and screenwriting business.

“I think the second edition will be in the late winter or beginning of spring. The main theme will be the relationship between books and movies based on my experience of creating the script of the movie based on my novel.”

He said he hoped to teach Saudi students how to analyze and compare the two arts of writing and film.

“This can be achieved through watching scenes of movies based on books and comparing them with the scenes of a book — Kafka’s works adapted, Dostoevsky works adapted, etc. — and also obtaining the knowledge to distinguish the unicity of those two forms of art.

“Some books are almost impossible to be shot, like ‘Ulysses’ by (James) Joyce, or the work of Proust. Not just for the number of pages, but because they reach a literary high peak which is very specific to literature,” he said.

Mazzariol said he had always had a passion for writing and loved literature classes in school.

“When I was in high school, with all the imagination and ideas that a teenager can have, I began writing for myself and tried to publish some articles.”

His career as a screenwriting began when he published a short film with his brother Gio on YouTube.

“My brother (Gio) with Down syndrome was in the film. It became viral and the person who would become my future editor contacted me to do a book on the video and my story.”

Speaking about the two days he spent in the Kingdom during the film festival, Mazzariol said: “What impressed me the most were the modern buildings, the skyscrapers, the entertainment areas, because it seems futuristic.

“It was the first time for me to visit Saudi Arabia. I love traveling and discovering new countries and thanks to the festival’s organizers and the embassy of Italy, I could get in touch with Saudis that know Saudi Arabia well.

“In the markets of the old town, I got a sensation of being at the door of another world, because there were incredible products from all over the Middle East and Asia.”

The writer said he spent some time studying in King Fahad National Library before exploring some of the natural desert landscapes the Kingdom has to offer.

“I loved the hot winds, sand as far as the eye can see. It was very inspiring because I have always read books from that scenario, for example, ‘One Thousand and One Nights,’ but never experienced it.

“The hospitality of the European Film Festival was very high standard and well done, I thank them a lot. I hope the festival will have great success also in the next editions. I know for sure it is going to be bigger and bigger.”


International artists named for ambitious AlUla valley installations project

A rendering of Ahmed Mater's work at Wadi AlFann. (Supplied)
A rendering of Ahmed Mater's work at Wadi AlFann. (Supplied)
Updated 28 June 2022

International artists named for ambitious AlUla valley installations project

A rendering of Ahmed Mater's work at Wadi AlFann. (Supplied)

DUBAI: An international lineup of artists has been named as the first group to embark on an ambitious large-scale installations project in AlUla’s Wadi AlFann.

The Royal Commission for AlUla announced that US artists James Turrell, Agnes Denes, and Michael Heizer will be joined by Saudi creative pioneers Ahmed Mater and Manal Al-Dowayan to produce artworks in the new Wadi AlFann valley, covering an area of 65 square kilometers. The projects will be unveiled from 2024.

Meanwhile, the former director of the Whitechapel Gallery in London, Iwona Blazwick, has been named as the chair of the commission’s public art expert panel, that will advise on Wadi AlFann.

She told Arab News that the artists would create, “works that I think will be a 21st-century version of the ambition of the Nabataeans. This is work at such a scale by artists of such global caliber and by artists who have revolutionized sculpture.”

Visual artist Mater’s installation for the valley, “Ashab Al-Lal,” will use a subterranean tunnel and mirrors to give visitors the optical illusion of seeing a mirage, while Al-Dowayan’s “The Oasis of Stories” will be a labyrinthine structure inspired by the mud homes of AlUla’s ancient old town.

Wadi AlFann, AlUla. (Supplied)

Denes, 91, will create a series of soaring pointed pyramids in a bid to explore civilization, advancement, and achievement.

Heizer, known for producing large outdoor earthwork sculptures and for his work with rock, concrete, and steel, will produce lineal engravings in the sandstone rock relating directly to the geology of the area and the varied detail of the Quweira sandstone.

Blazwick said: “He (Heizer) is incising into the rocks at a scale and at a kind of ambition that again relates back to petroglyphs and ancient forms of expressions and civilizations, but in a way that is 21st century.”

Meanwhile, Turrell will build upon the sensorial experience of space, color, and perception by creating a series of spaces within the canyon floor. The viewer will explore these spaces via a series of tunnels and stairs.

A sketch of AlDowayan’s “The Oasis of Stories.” (Supplied)

“If we are looking at these five initial works themselves you have something tremendously monumental but also immersive, resonate, and poetic and these will be destinations in their own rights of such beauty.

“In relation to the drama of the place itself, the works really take us to the sublime. These five commissions are going to be in themselves unique in the world at this scale. Most of these artists we know from single works shown in different parts of the world, so to bring them together is a huge achievement,” Blazwick added.

On the global nature of the artists, she said: “This is a reciprocal relationship — it is not just about artists being parachuted in, but about making works inspired by the place and the people.

“We will see high-profile international artists, but alongside their regional peers. We will see some of the most important artists working in the region take their place alongside these very iconic, high-profile figures from the world of art. I think that reciprocity is crucial to this project,” she added.