RIYADH: Wasla Music Festival, the leading Arab alternative music and arts event, is coming to Riyadh after three years of success in Dubai.
The event is supported by the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA).
The first Wasla festival in Saudi Arabia will take place next month on March 4-5, and will feature Arab and Saudi alternative and indie talents, including headline acts that have dominated the Middle East and North Africa music scene over the last decade.
It will feature Egyptian rock legends Cairokee, indie pop and folklore sensation Hamza Namira, world-famous Algerian singer-songwriter Souad Massi, and renowned Jordanian rock and jazz singer Aziz Maraka, all in the Kingdom for the first time.
With more than 15 bands playing live music each day, the festival will feature hard rock, alternative and indie rock, indie pop, jazz, soul, funk, electro pop and fusion. Many of the performances will be in Arabic, but a minority will be in English.
The festival will host a total of 32 bands from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Bahrain and Austria.
This year, most of the acts are Saudi-based bands, representing some the brightest voices from the Kingdom’s underground music scene, including Al Farabi, Hajaj, Statues of Sinking Men and Fulana.
The festival will be held outdoors in a grass valley outside Riyadh. It will include a barbecue brunch, many food and beverage offerings, workshops, children’s activities, local designer art and fashion installations, and boutiques that all reflect Saudi and Arab cultures from across the region.
On hosting Wasla in the Kingdom for the first time, Omar Ayat, co-founder and music director of the festival, said: “This is the first Wasla is in Saudi Arabia, and we are proud of our diverse lineup this year. We have four regional headliners coming for the first time to Saudi and over 20 Saudi bands that we have scouted over the past two years that cover mostly Arabic and some English pop, rock, jazz and fusion. Almost half of these talents are women, and most of them are Saudi.”
Amr Ramadan, co-founder and CEO of Wasla, said: “For our first festival in Saudi, we are focusing on creating what we call the Wasla experience. There is much more talent on offer than just music. We have a program for the whole family ... that will start from 3 p.m.”
Chairman of the board of Wasla Entertainment Ahmed Halwani said: “We invested in Wasla to bring it to Saudi from Dubai as part of an ecosystem we are building for the Saudi alternative and indie music scene. We moved our headquarters from Dubai to Riyadh for a reason: The amount of talent in our country is incredible and diverse, and we believe that the next big thing in the Arab music world will come from right here.
“This Riyadh edition is a step in the right direction to achieve our vision of making Wasla the biggest Arab alternative music festival in the region. We are already planning the next shows in Jeddah, Dubai and Egypt.”
The maiden Saudi festival will feature diverse indie headliners that have made it to the top of regional music charts for years, including legendary Egyptian rock band Cairokee.
The band will take part in Wasla for the third time, after two extraordinary performances in Dubai during 2018 and 2019. Cairokee’s unique and eccentric Arabic rock music has earned them huge popularity in the Kingdom and the region at large, as well as millions of fans and more than 500 million views on YouTube.
Also on the lineup is Hamza Namira, an artist who reshaped the Arabic pop and folklore scene to develop new and innovative genres. He is an Egyptian (born in Saudi Arabia) singer-songwriter and instrumentalist with many albums and songs that have hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, including “Fadhi Showya,” “Ehlam Maya,” “Esmaani” and “Hatyeer Men Tani.”
Hamza Namira is known for his distinguished style, tackling many realistic and relevant issues in society through his lyrics.
The festival is also proud to present one of the leading artists in Arabic indie and alternative music, Souad Massi. She is a singer-songwriter known for blending traditional tribal music that represents her Algerian upbringing with different styles like rock, country, Portuguese fado and more.
Massi started her singing career in the mid-90s, performing in both Arabic and French. She is known for hit album “Raoui,” which was received positively by critics worldwide.
In addition, the Wasla crowd will get the first chance in Saudi Arabia to see Jordanian singer-songwriter Aziz Maraka, known for creating his own unique music genre, razz, which combines elements of rock and jazz. Amongst his most famous songs are “Meen Allek,” a ballad that made it to the hearts of millions of fans, and “Wa’aef,” which had an emotional impact on fans with its lyrics, which call on people to take a stand against bullying.
Building on the commitment of the GEA and Wasla to support local Saudi talent, the festival will host more than 20 Saudi artists and bands. It will also feature 14 female artists.
Tickets are now on sale at waslafestival.com.