JEDDAH: Some of the most talented young Saudi musicians showcased their work at Hayy Jameel on Tuesday as part of a project to promote emerging artists in the Kingdom.
The musical experience was a collaboration between the Jeddah-based creative hub, Middle Tennessee State University and Grammy-nominated sound engineer, John Merchant.
Dr. Sean Foley, a professor at the university who specializes in Saudi arts and culture, attended the musical experience, with Merchant managing the sound.
The performers who serenaded the crowd were Ghada Sheri, Hamza Hawsawi, Ahmed Amin and Moe Abdo.
Sara Al-Omran, the deputy director at Hayy Jameel, told Arab News that their goal with the concert was to promote new artists. “We wanted to really amplify and bring forward the emerging artists who are doing something exciting and are trying to explore music as an art form … that’s why we picked these singers.”
Ghada Sheri, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter, performed some of her own innovative Arabic-Indie songs. “I thought that it would be a great experience as Hayy Jameel is a beautiful place with a beautiful community. It was on women’s day as well so it all came together perfectly,” she told Arab News.
Sheri rocked a pink suit while performing songs that she had written herself. She said that after years of singing alone in her room she found a place that she belongs to and a platform through which she can convey her messages. “I want Saudi musicians and artists to know that there is always a place for them, and they should stick to their dreams.”
Abdo, a 30-year-old with multiple musical talents, performed his own composition at the beginning of the concert and then played bass and guitar for the rest of the night with other musicians. Abdo, a Sudanese artist, born and raised in Saudi, said that he has seen how audiences have changed in the country along with shifts in the music scene.
Amin performed several of his own soulful R&B songs and then jammed with other performers with beautiful beats on his drums. Hawsawi, who won the X-Factor Middle East competition in 2015, ended the night by performing an up-beat song that left the crowd buzzing with energy and eager for more.
Hawsawi told Arab News: “These events mean a lot for artists like us because it places us under the spotlight, especially today. This concert allowed us to interact with the people on a semi-personal level because of the intimate setting.
Rakan Farhan, the project manager of the event, hoped that the concert would help to promote the Saudi music industry, to meet international standards, and create a space where local and Western sounds can meet.
“We have a mentality here in our community that if one of us is successful, all of us are successful, that is why we are supporting each other. The songs that we are (composing) show our cultural perspective as musicians to the world,” Farhan told Arab News.
Speaking to Arab News as the performers strutted their stuff, Foley said he was impressed with the artists. “My one goal from tonight was for the people to see how strong the independent music scene is in the Kingdom. I look at the artistic and cultural community with a sense of awe. The artists that I have talked to have opened my eyes to things I have never seen before.”
Foley said that he comes from a family of writers, poets, and performers, but sought to collaborate with Merchant for his deep understanding of the music industry.