What we are watching today: Elvis

What we are watching today: Elvis
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Updated 28 June 2022

What we are watching today: Elvis

What we are watching today: Elvis
  • The movie dives into an aspect of Presley’s life that has not been talked about enough — his relationship with his manager Tom Parker, played by the talented Tom Hanks

“Elvis,” directed by Baz Luhrmann, might be one of the most well-done biopics of all time. The movie shows the life of megastar Elvis Presley.

Actor Austin Butler, who donned Elvis’ iconic outfits, outdid himself. He transformed himself for the film with so much commitment. The actor did not play Presley — he became Presley. Butler went through two to three years of voice training, perfecting his tones. The actor ended up with a voice so similar to Presley that audiences are convinced that he was lip-syncing.

He also studied Presley during the different eras of the music star’s life and evolved his character during the movie in a way that was true to each era.

The movie dives into an aspect of Presley’s life that has not been talked about enough — his relationship with his manager Tom Parker, played by the talented Tom Hanks. Hanks played the role so well that audiences came out of the movie hating the character, but also understanding why he did what he did.

The cinematography of the movie is stunning. Luhrmann was able to deliver the exact emotions he wanted the audience to feel. Each scene is carefully crafted to make the audience feel something, whether excitement, anticipation, sadness or loss.

The larger-than-life public personality of Elvis Presley was reduced in the movie. The way “The King” worked himself to exhaustion, his genuine love for his mother and his attachment to his daughter is well done and balanced. There are moments we see him break and moments we see him happy — in these moments we see the human side of Elvis that is often forgotten.

The team recreated some of Presley’s most iconic performances, like the “1968 Comeback Special,” in which the star rebelled against racism. Songs featured in the film include “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

Presley’s wife, Priscilla, is played by Olivia DeJonge, who expertly portrays the character and her relationship with Elvis.

Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ only child, watched the movie and praised Butler’s performance as Elvis. The movie received a 12-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and deserved every second of it.

The movie is available for booking in all Saudi cinemas.


French Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar to star in ‘The Equalizer 3’ 

French Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar to star in ‘The Equalizer 3’ 
Updated 12 min 36 sec ago

French Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar to star in ‘The Equalizer 3’ 

French Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar to star in ‘The Equalizer 3’ 

DUBAI: French Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar is set to star in “The Equalizer 3” alongside lead stars Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. 

The film’s plot is being kept under wraps, but it is the third in an action series centered on Washington’s vigilante character Robert McCall. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the first film in the series was released in 2014 and earned more than $194 million worldwide, spurring a 2018 sequel that grossed over $190 million worldwide. 

On Saturday, Deadline reported that Ben Ammar was among six new stars set to join the ensemble cast, including Eugenio Mastrandrea (“From Scratch”), Remo Girone (“Ford v. Ferrari”), Daniele Perrone (“Baaria”), Andrea Scarduzio (“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”) and Andrea Dodero (“Blocco 181”). Italian actress Gaia Scodellaro will also star in the film, as previously announced.  

Ben Ammar has joined the ever-growing list of rising Arab stars working their way up the ladder in Hollywood. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia Ammar (@itsnotsonia)

The 23-year-old recently made her Hollywood debut in the fifth instalment of the “Scream” franchise, which hit theaters on Jan. 14 this year. 

With French Tunisian heritage, Ben Ammar was the first Arab main character in a “Scream” film. 

“I’m just really happy to be a part of it and represent my roots and I’m excited for people to watch it,” Ben Ammar previously told Arab News. 

“I’m really looking forward to films representing more of real life and the people and the places we live in so I am really stoked (about) that,” she added. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia Ammar (@itsnotsonia)

She said that “Scream” was a new experience for her because, unlike the film’s loyal fanbase, she does not like scary movies. 

“Doing something that scares me and being a part of that was interesting,” she said, adding “But I think being part of the behind-the-scenes process of being in it really takes a lot of the scary elements out of it. When I saw the movie (at) the screening for the first time, I was jumping up from my seat.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia Ammar (@itsnotsonia)

Although “Scream” marked Ben Ammar’s first high-profile Hollywood gig as an actress, it is not the Paris-born actress’s first foray into the film industry. 

Ben Ammar, who is the daughter of Tunisian film director Tarek Ben Ammar and Polish-born actress Beata, previously starred in Guillaume Canet’s French-language film “Jappeloup,” as well as the stage musical “1789: Les Amants de la Bastille.” 

Before following in the footsteps of her parents, the multi-hyphenate made headway in the fashion world as a model, fronting campaigns for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu and Chanel. 


Mathew Knowles keen to explore Arab music at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures  

Mathew Knowles keen to explore Arab music at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures  
Updated 27 November 2022

Mathew Knowles keen to explore Arab music at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures  

Mathew Knowles keen to explore Arab music at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures  

DUBAI: Mathew Knowles, the architect of Destiny’s Child and his daughters Beyonce and Solange Knowles’ early solo careers, is more than ready to give his keynote speech at the second edition of Saudi Arabia's XP Music Futures music conference. 

“I’m like a sponge ready to embrace and take in the local culture, food, the streets, art and the people. I want to listen to their music, I want to talk to the talent, I want to understand what moves the community and what impact music has on their lives and their economy,” said Knowles in an interview with Arab News.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SceneNoise (@scenenoise)

This will be Knowles’ first visit to Saudi Arabia and he says he has been hard at work researching the country. “It seems like there’s a lot of growth and inspiration currently taking place which I’m really looking forward to experiencing. I want to be able to walk to different places – whether live events or restaurants – and understand the role that music plays within the Saudi community,” said Knowles.   

“I’m also looking forward to the music conference to be able to meet and engage with policymakers and government representatives and understand the strategy for Saudi Arabia from a cultural and entertainment standpoint,” he added.   

Titled “Reinvention & Relevance: Building Longevity in Your Career with Mathew Knowles,” Knowles keynote speech will feature tips for Saudi and regional talent on how to breathe life into their music and entertainment career. 

“The music industry worldwide is a very tough one. It’s not easy to be an artist and stand out amongst a pool of talent, but with passion, artists are able to fuel their love for building a successful music career. It helps develop those essential traits needed to put in the hard work required for success and reflects in the work ethic and level of patience,” said Knowles when asking what musicians need to do in order to stand out.     

“In Saudi Arabia, there’s a huge opportunity to tear down walls and build bridges to establish those foundations required for a successful music industry so talent can excel and shine on stages, which is what I’m most excited about being part of,” he added. 

Knowles is also keen to understand the scope of Arab music when he visits Riyadh. “I’ve been researching and listening to all types of Arabic music but to me, I couldn’t really define what it meant. I hear a lot of traditional tunes, but is that the direction Arabic music is going in, or is that considered for an older audience? I’ve learnt that half of the population is of 25 years and younger so I’m eager to understand what appeals to them,” he said.   

“I also wonder would (Arab) music be defined by the beats, or the sounds of the instruments, the lyrics or overall melody? For instance, African music has approached the marketplace with new sounds that have excited crowds worldwide: Afro beats or afro pop. From everything I’ve read and seen, I believe there’s huge potential to unlock those unique Arab sounds, if not done so already, which would help local artists connect with global audiences,” he added. 

XP Music Futures is set to take place in Riyadh from Nov. 28-30. 


Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’

Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’
Updated 26 November 2022

Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’

Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’
  • In our latest Arab Icons feature, we profile the Saudi singer, oud player and composer who remains one of Khaleeji music’s biggest draws 

DUBAI: With a career spanning 60 years, Saudi singer and oudist Mohammed Abdu, dubbed ‘The Artist of the Arabs,’ has been an inspiration to many — and not just for his music.  

Abdu was born in Asir province, Saudi Arabia, on June 12, 1949. His father, a fisherman, died when Abdu was just three years old, leaving behind his wife and five other children.  

Mohammed Abdu performing in Kuwait in 2001. (Supplied)

Unable to provide for her children, Abdu’s mother surrendered her children to Ribat Abu-Zinadah — a local Yemenite hospital for orphaned families. She then petitioned King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to find her children places at an orphanage, which he did. Abdu spent the remainder of his childhood in an orphanage in Jeddah. 

“This was really the actual struggle,” Abdu once said in an interview on Rotana’s “Ya Hala” show. “I remember every moment and every detail in my life. God gave me a memory that helps me remember things from when I was one. My struggles were of a child who wanted to be like the rest of the children in his neighborhood. They were all rich. I would see this and dream of reaching this level one day.”  

Saudi singer and oudist Mohammed Abdu, dubbed ‘The Artist of the Arabs,’ has been an inspiration to many. (Getty Images)

This was Abdu’s motive to work hard and build a name for himself. His got his first job when he was only seven, as an assistant to a mailman. He also raised money by helping housewives with their shopping and selling fruit and vegetables on the street.   

While he was interested in music as a kid, Abdu’s dream was to be involved with sailing or seamanship, like his father. He even joined a shipbuilding institute. But eventually, he abandoned the idea of becoming a sailor and turned to his true calling: music.  

Abdu began his music career in the 1960s when Saudi presenter Abbas Faiq Ghazzawi invited him to sing on the radio show “Baba Abbas.” Two songs in particular — “Al-Rasayel” and “Ab’ad” — became extremely popular. Both remain part of his live sets today. 

“Ab’ad” was a hit around the world, with Iranian and Indian translations both garnering airplay, and even European bands performing covers of the track.  

With his strong voice and distinctive style of oud playing — reminiscent of the Syrian-Egyptian virtuoso Farid Al-Atrash, Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, and fellow Saudi Talal Maddah — Abdu toured the world. It was at a concert in Tunisia in the 1980s that he first received the soubriquet “The Artist of the Arabs,” from then-Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. 

At the end of the Eighties, Abdu took an abrupt sabbatical from music after the death of his beloved mother. It would be eight years before he performed or released another track.  

Egyptian singer Carmen Soliman, who partnered with Abdu after winning the first season of “Arab Idol,” releasing the 2014 Khaleeji track “Akhbari.”  (Getty Omages)

Aside from being an acclaimed performer, Abdu is also a talented composer in his own right. He wrote several of his own tracks, including “Al Remsh Al Taweel,” “Ya Shoog” and “Ya Sherouq Al Shams,” but has also written for other stars, including the Egyptian singer Carmen Soliman, who partnered with Abdu after winning the first season of “Arab Idol,” releasing the 2014 Khaleeji track “Akhbari.”  

Soliman told Arab News that composer Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh was the driving force behind this perhaps unexpected partnership. “He wished for a collaboration like that to happen, and he worked a lot until he made it happen,” she said. “I would like to thank him for choosing me. I could not believe it at the time. I felt like I would have a song in my history that would never be forgotten. And everyone would know that this song was composed by Mohammed Abdu. 

“He was my favorite singer to listen to,” she continued. “To me, Mohammed Abdu is a legend (whose like we will not see again). I love his voice. He has an amazing, strong voice. Through it, he can reach the hearts of the audience. I love his music.”  

Soliman cited “Ma’ad Badri,” “Ala El-Bal” and “Shebeeh El-Reeh” as some of her favorite Abdu songs. “His performance in these songs is non-replicable,” she said.  

Soliman also praised Abdu’s humility, which she said is not common among artists these days. “That, and his humor,” she said. “You feel like you are sitting with someone from your family. He is very down-to-earth and close to the heart.”  

Soliman is not the only singer who hails Abdu as an icon. Saudi artist Hassan Eskandarani, who is also a researcher of Saudi songs, told Arab News: “Mohammed Abdu is an independent school. He sang to all categories. 

“I can’t give my opinion on an artist who has (such a long) career,” he added. “Mohammed Abdu lives through three generations from the beginning of the Sixties. He played a pivotal role in expanding Khaleeji music outside of the Kingdom. I hope he keeps singing until he decides to stop.” 

Eskandarani says Abdu is “a stage master,” who has had a major influence on his own live performances.  

“Not everyone who sings a song on stage is a (real) singer,” he said. “Mohammed knows how to choose (songs) the fans like, so they engage with him.” 

Mohammed Abdu signs his record-breaking deal with Rotana on Nov. 8, 2022. (Supplied)

Abdu remains a vital and relevant musician. Only this month, he reportedly broke the record for the biggest acquisition of an artist’s back catalog (which includes an astonishing 122 albums) in the Middle East when Rotana announced on Nov. 8 that it had bought the rights to his works.  

“Rotana signed the largest deal of its kind in the Middle East – the agreement to purchase the full artistic content of Arab artist Mohammed Abdu,” the label announced on Instagram.  

Chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event: “It is a courageous move from Mohammed Abdu to give up (these precious) works that he worked hard on for 60 years. It is similar to someone giving away one of his children. 

“We at the General Entertainment Authority support the archiving of the artistic history of Saudi artists,” he added. “However, Mohamed Abdu remains ahead of the rest of the artists.”  


Saudi rapper creates hip hop podcast in Arabic

 Saudi rapper creates hip hop podcast in Arabic
Updated 25 November 2022

Saudi rapper creates hip hop podcast in Arabic

 Saudi rapper creates hip hop podcast in Arabic
  • Al-Fahad told Arab News: 'I am a big supporter of the hip hop culture in Saudi Arabia'

RIYADH: Saudi music producer, rapper, and composer Bander Al-Fahad has started a podcast in Arabic to provide the latest updates on the Kingdom’s hip hop scene.

In his first podcast “Pure Hip Hop,” released on YouTube in August, other Saudi and Arab rappers shed light on the hip hop culture in the country, its relationship with Saudi society, and the history of the music genre.

Al-Fahad told Arab News: “I am a big supporter of the hip hop culture in the Kingdom. I wish to have a unique style. I am keen for hip hop to appear with Saudi rhythms that distinguish it as Saudi music.”

He first discovered his passion for music while pursuing an undergraduate degree in media communication and revealed that he would soon be dropping two more episodes.

SPEEDREAD

• Bander Al-Fahad first discovered his passion for music while pursuing an undergraduate degree in media communication and revealed that he would soon be dropping two more episodes.

• He collaborates with other Saudi YouTubers such as Ibrahim Basha, Dyler, Faisal Tiger, and Fahad Al- Dokhei to create music and jingles for local organizations. And he also aims to create a go-to platform for the genre.

“Podcasting is the way that I think is best to deliver my message. I had many questions about hip hop, and that’s when I decided to deliver information on it to a Saudi audience,” he said.

Al-Fahad collaborates with other Saudi YouTubers such as Ibrahim Basha, Dyler, Faisal Tiger, and Fahad Al-Dokhei to create music and jingles for local organizations. And he also aims to create a go-to platform for the genre.

“When I receive a campaign, I use their idea and begin creating the music and beats. If they don’t have a specific idea, we begin the creative process, and I initially draw the idea on a piano keyboard before transferring it to the studio, where we can use live instruments and musicians,” he added.

The musician said he was thankful that the Kingdom was placing increased focus on the music industry, especially via the recently established Music Commission.

“With the help of education services in the field of music, the young generation can now turn their passion for music into a career. Musicians can now learn, produce, and have people hear their voice,” he added.

Al-Fahad, who at first could only perform for friends and family, would like to have a lasting impact on the Kingdom’s music scene.

“My future projects include working on my company about content and music production. I’m also working on three singles and a mini album.”

He is also among the cast of “Rise of the Witches,” a Saudi fantasy series being filmed in AlUla.

 


Hip-hop stars Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Future and more to join DJ Khaled at SOUNDSTORM 

Hip-hop stars Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Future and more to join DJ Khaled at SOUNDSTORM 
Updated 25 November 2022

Hip-hop stars Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Future and more to join DJ Khaled at SOUNDSTORM 

Hip-hop stars Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Future and more to join DJ Khaled at SOUNDSTORM 

DUBAI: Calling all fans of rap and hip-hop. Globally renowned hip-hop stars Busta Rhymes and Fat Joe will join Grammy Award-winning American rapper, songwriter and record producer Future, along with Rick Ross and T.I., on the BIG BEAST stage at SOUNDSTORM, taking place in Banban, Riyadh, from Dec. 1-3. 

The legends will perform together with DJ Khaled as part of his “DJ Khaled & Friends” set on Dec. 2.   

Future, is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. (Supplied)

MDLBEAST Chief Operating Officer and Head of Talent Bookings and Events Talal AlBahiti said: “We always aspire to cater for our audiences’ needs, and we are pleased to bring the biggest – ever programme of internationally acclaimed artists to SOUNDSTORM for a roller-coaster of thrilling memories and memorable moments.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

The lineup of performers also includes Bruno Mars, Post Malone, David Guetta, DJ Snake, Carl Cox, Marshmello, Solomun and Wizkid.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MDLBEAST (@mdlbeast)

 

It also features Saudi women DJs including Biirdperson, DJ Cosmicat, Dorar, Kayan and Solskin alongside their peers Dish Dash, Vinylmode and regional star DJ Aseel. 

Last year’s event welcomed more than 730,000 attendees.