LOS ANGELES: Australian singer Olivia Newton-John, who gained worldwide fame as high-school sweetheart Sandy in the hit musical movie “Grease,” died Monday, her family said. She was 73.
The entertainer, whose career spanned more than five decades, devoted much of her time and celebrity to charities after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
Newton-John “passed away peacefully at her ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends,” said a statement from her husband John Easterling posted on her official social media accounts.
Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’
Singer says Saudi Arabia becoming world’s most attractive destination
Updated 27 September 2022
ALULA: In the historical epicenter for cross-cultural exchange, between the majestic mountains of AlUla, popstar Jason Derulo took the stage to deliver a performance unlike any other at the second edition of the Azimuth music festival on Saudi National Day last weekend.
The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including “Swalla” and “Jelebi Baby,” as well as some of his older fan favorites such as “Solo” and “In My Head.”
The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.
“Any time you can come to a place and have an experience … it makes the show so much better because it’s something that’s completely different that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
Historically known as a strategic crossroads for trade and pilgrimage routes, the settlement conceals hidden gems such as the narrow valley oasis and the unique Elephant Rock. As part of the Madinah province, AlUla is a symbol of the cultural richness found throughout the eastern region of Saudi Arabia and beyond.
Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities.
“Coming through the rock and all the sand, it’s almost like it’s a hideaway from everything, and to bring all of this luxury to the middle of the desert is unlike any other experience,” he said.
“Here you get to really see all the stars, you get to see all the rock, the mountains, you get a piece of that world. Then you bring the highest level of luxury to it and it’s just a blend of worlds that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo added.
Derulo has performed throughout the region, headlining in Saudi for the first time in 2018 at the Saudia Diriyah E-Prix alongside Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas, and Egypt’s Amr Diab.
“I’ve been performing for a very long time and I can say that this experience was unique, unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I’ve performed all over the world and even coming here today, I pulled out my phone — I was like, ‘this is amazing,’” he said.
The three-day Azimuth festival is one of several initiatives, forming part of Vision 2030, to position the Kingdom as a tourism hub.
• The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including ‘Swalla’ and ‘Jelebi Baby,’ as well as some of his older fan favorites such as ‘Solo’ and ‘In My Head.’
• The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.
• Jason Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.
“I was actually one of the first performers, if not the first performer, that performed with an integrated crowd between men and women here, and I feel honored and blessed to be a small piece of history.”
“Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities,” Derulo said.
“I love that people from across the world have come here and made this home because it really is a special place. They have a sense of pride, a small piece of ownership even, you would think that they were from here and they know so much about the history,” he added.
The artist believes that Saudi Arabia is on the verge of becoming one of the “biggest” attractions in the world.
“This is something that’s just starting, though people are just now starting to see it, I’m sure this has been in the works for such a long time. There’s still so much room for growth, but it’s already incredible,” he said.
Bringing in a diverse lineup of both local and international artists was a key goal for the event, collaborated by entertainment festival MDLBEAST and the Royal Commission for AlUla.
Ahmed Alammary, the Saudi DJ and chief creative at MDLBEAST, told Arab News that this celebration was a chance to create cultural exchange opportunities with international artists while also catering to a local audience.
Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.
“This is becoming a melting pot, and it’s beautiful to see … I think Saudi is really pushing the envelope in terms of tourism and technology. When you think of arts when you think of entertainment, Saudi has become really high up on the list because they really took a stand and really took a giant leap in that world,” Derulo said.
What We Are Watching Today: Ithra on Saudi National Day
Ithra Studios will provide the chance for visitors wearing traditional outfits to have their picture taken by a professional photographer against a backdrop of one of the Kingdom’s landmarks
Updated 24 September 2022
Ithra’s iconic building has been lit up in green since Wednesday as part of the Saudi National Day celebrations and will be illuminated until Saturday.
The festivities will continue for a full weekend of fun, and local goods and designs will be on sale at a pop-up gift shop inside. Outside, twice nightly, the Parade of Harmony will get visitors clapping as a group of military musicians from the Saudi army march to the beat in the Lush Garden.
Always a promoter of movies, the Ithra Cinema — which recently hosted the Saudi Film Festival — will screen a selection of 30-minute short films directed, produced and acted by Saudis.
Ithra Studios will provide the chance for visitors wearing traditional outfits to have their picture taken by a professional photographer against a backdrop of one of the Kingdom’s landmarks.
The Children’s Museum will feature a range of immersive activities, as will the Children’s Oasis. The Energy Exhibit will offer a storytelling experience where guests are invited to reflect on the various stages of the Kingdom’s prosperity over time.
Expat residents and visitors are also invited to join in the celebrations.
One such guest was Phelia, who is from the US and has been living in the Kingdom for the past seven years. She brought her mother along — who is visiting from the US — after finding out about the event on the Ithra website. They were keen to explore such cultural offerings as tasting Saudi coffee, clapping along to live music and watching the traditional dances.
“We are here at one of the many days events for the Saudi National Day, which is 92-years-old,” she said. “I’m here to see the different festivities that they have. In order for you to know the true feel you have to come and experience it yourself,” she told Arab News.
This Riyadh-based producer and rapper is paving his way in the Saudi rap scene. After releasing his first beat tape album, “Xtra Crispy,” in 2020, Ntitled has been making a name for himself with his unique style of production. He recently produced and was featured in the song “Moya wa Zeit” with WalGz, which was released on Spotify earlier this month and has been streamed thousands of times.
At just 18, this young performer and internet personality is rapidly gaining recognition for her soft, crooning voice. Her song “Shoft El Ngoom” has amassed over a million streams on Spotify while her quirky online vlogs have achieved thousands of views.
After 12 years in the music industry, this English-singing artist has seen it all and reflects his experiences in his tracks. His song “From the Sand” has garnered thousands of likes on Spotify and he continues to inspire his supporters with his global appeal and growing success.
As one of the first female podcasters in the Kingdom, Lubna Khamis is a force to be reckoned with. Her “Podcast Abajora” discusses random topics that audiences can relate to in a short and engaging format. Her storytelling technique and calming voice have helped give her a unique edge.
Part-Lebanese superstar Shakira opens up about Gerard Piqué split
Updated 22 September 2022
DUBAI: Three months after calling it quits, Lebanese Colombian singer Shakira this week opened up about her break up with Spanish soccer player Gerard Piqué.
“I’ve remained quiet and just tried to process it all,” the part-Arab superstar said in an interview with Elle Magazine. “It’s hard to talk about it, especially because I’m still going through it, and because I’m in the public eye and because our separation is not like a regular separation. And so it’s been tough not only for me, but also for my kids. Incredibly difficult.”
The singer said she has paparazzi camping in front of her house.
“There’s not a place where I can hide from them with my kids, except for my own house,” she said. “We can’t take a walk in the park like a regular family or go have an ice cream or do any activity without paparazzi following us. So it’s hard.”
Shakira said that she has been trying to protect her two boys, Milan, 9, and Sasha, 7, but they still come across stories online or hear news from their friends at school that “affects them.”
“Sometimes I just feel like this is all a bad dream and that I’m going to wake up at some point,” she added. “But no, it’s real. And what’s also real is the disappointment to see something as sacred and as special as I thought was the relationship I had with my kids’ father and see that turned into something vulgarized and cheapened by the media.”
“And all of this while my dad has been in the ICU and I’ve been fighting on different fronts,” she said. “Like I said, this is probably the darkest hour of my life.”
Shakira and Piqué announced their split in June, amid a legal battle in Spain that saw the singer accused of tax fraud.
Spanish prosecutors accused her of defrauding the Spanish tax office out of $15.5 million on income earned between 2012 and 2014.
Her defense lawyers said she moved to Spain full time only in 2015 and insist that her “conduct on tax matters has always been impeccable in all the countries she had to pay taxes.”
“It’s clear they wanted to go after that money no matter what,” she said in the interview.
For this week’s edition of our series on Arab icons, we profile one of the Arab world's most popular stars
The Egyptian singer and actress played a bewildering variety of roles during her decades-long peak
Updated 24 September 2022
DUBAI: Even 22 years on from her untimely passing, few stars in the history of Arab cinema captivate the cultural imagination quite like Soad Hosny. The singer and actress known as “The Cinderella of Egyptian cinema” was a key part of the rise of her country’s movie culture, starring in a number of the most popular Arab films of the Sixties and Seventies, working with greats including Omar Sharif and director Youssef Chahine.
But Hosny’s enduring popularity is due to something more than just her talent. As brilliant as she was an artist, it was her bewitching personality — both familiar and always out of reach — that even those who knew her are still attempting to figure out to this day.
“It was like she was split into two different personalities, and you could always see both on her face” famed Egyptian designer Karim Mekhtigian — who knew Hosny from his early childhood, being the nephew of her close friend and frequent collaborator, producer Takfour Antonian — tells Arab News.
“Either in life or in film, Soad’s face could convey opposing feelings simultaneously. It was genuinely remarkable. One eye (could be) full of sadness, the other radiating happiness. She was never one thing. That’s part of what made her talent so remarkable,” he continues.
For Hosny herself, the fact that she took such varying roles over the decades in which she dominated Egyptian cinema while also topping its music charts was simply because she could not force herself to stay in any one mode for too long, growing restless if she felt stagnant creatively.
“By nature, I am bored,” Hosny said in an Egyptian television interview in 1984. “I do not wish to repeat the same thing. I can make political films; I can make entertaining films. Every film will present something new. I can play the naughty girl or the innocent wife. I am always looking to play different personalities. Each character I play has an atmosphere I can present. I want to play women in all their many facets.”
Like many of her contemporaries, part of what made Hosny so suited to the career she chose was the fact that she grew up in an intensely artistic household, led by her father, the famed Islamic calligrapher Mohammad Hosny — a Kurdish artist who had settled in Egypt at the age of 19.
Young Soad, the daughter of her father’s second wife, grew up among 16 siblings and half-siblings, with numerous luminaries of the Arab world’s artistic community shuffling in and out of their home. Each of the children were affected by those interactions in different ways. Her sister Nagat, for example, also became an actress and singer, while her half-brother Ezz composed music for decades. Others played instruments or pursued fine arts, but none reached the heights of their sister Soad.
While that environment was far from a formal means of preparation for a life in the arts, it was, ultimately, all that Hosny needed.
“I came into film unadulterated,” she said in an interview with Qatar TV in 1972, shortly after her career defining hit “Watch Out for ZouZou,” Hassan El-Imam’s classic film about a student who falls in love with her professor. “I did not enter an institute, or anything like that. I never took a lesson.”
Hosny entered the film world early. Her debut, “Hassan and Nayima” (1959) began shooting when she was just 15. Throughout the Sixties, Hosny starred in hit after hit opposite top stars Omar Sharif, Salah Zulfikar and Rushdy Abaza, among others, finally collaborating with Egypt’s top director Youssef Chahine in 1970 with “The Choice,” by which time she had developed from a key collaborator with the film world’s biggest stars to the main draw in her own right.
“Every film I have worked on gave me more education; every experience has taught me lessons. ‘ZouZou,’ for example, was a huge success and people loved it, and if I am to continue on from that success, I don’t need to take lessons in schools to do that,” Hosny told Qatar TV in that same interview.
As the years went on, Hosny pushed for roles that would help define not only who Egyptian women were, but who they could be — pushing boundaries with overtly political films as well as biting satire that deliberately gave voice to the voiceless in Egyptian society, a move that made her a thought leader as well as a beloved cultural figure.
“I love playing the modern girl of Egypt, and expressing her problems, the environment in which she lives, and her psyche. I want to play her hopes, her ambitions, her ideas, and dreams. I want to explore what it means for us to love Egypt, and express all that that means,” she said in 1972.
Hosny was a symbol of Egyptian femininity for many, something that current Egyptian superstar Mona Zaki said she initially struggled to embody when playing her in the 2006 TV series about Hosny’s life, “Cinderella,” co-starring acclaimed Egyptian screenwriter Tamer Habib.
“Soad Hosny was so feminine both in appearance and substance, while I’m a tomboy. I could play Hosny’s character only after much searching. I built a new relationship with my femininity after this series,” Zaki told Vogue in 2021.
“For the Egyptian people, she was like a princess in a fairytale. That is why they dubbed her Cinderella,” Habib tells Arab News. “For two years, we used to talk about everything on the phone for hours. She felt how much I loved her, so she opened her heart to me. I was so lucky — she was truly one of a kind.”
Hosny’s peak lasted for more than two decades. But by the late Eighties she was struggling with illness, ultimately retiring from acting in 1991 at just 48.
Though she stepped away from the screen, Hosny never left the public eye. When she died in June 2001, tragically falling from the balcony of her friend Nadia Yousri’s apartment in London, England, it confounded and saddened all of Egypt, with her funeral attracting 10,000 mourners. Theories as to the exact circumstances of her death still circulate today.
Despite the enduring love Hosny has inspired over the 63 years since she first debuted on the screen, those closest to her still feel that she is misunderstood and underappreciated.
“Soad was incredibly talented. She had the ability to perfectly play any role whether it is comedic or tragic. She had charisma and charm. Yet, she was unappreciated and died alone," actor and friend Hassan Youssef told Egypt Today in 2018.
While the mere fact that interest has never faded from her life or work seems to disprove his blanket statement that Hosny was unappreciated, there is perhaps a kernel of truth in his words. After all, is it even possible to fully appreciate the nuances and variety of a life and career such as Soad Hosny’s?