DUBAI: US rapper Busta Rhymes, British DJ Carl Cox and Italian musical duo Tale of Us are set to headline Saudi Arabia’s new two-day music and arts festival Balad Beast by music and entertainment company MDLBEAST.
The event will take place in Jeddah’s Old Town – known as Al-Balad – on Dec. 9 and 10.
Set against the traditional neighborhood’s historic backdrop — itself a UNESCO World Heritage site — the event will also welcome local artists including Moayad, Jeme, Dafencii, and Anmarz.
Balad Beast features genres including hip-hop, EDM, house, rap and techno. The artists will perform across five different stages that will be known as Mirkaz Square, Roshan Square, Bab Square, Souq Square and Omda Square.
Talal Al-Bahiti, MDLBEAST’s head of talent booking and chief operating officer, said in a released statement: “Jeddah’s Old Town will be transformed into a stage for talents from near and far. This city is full of history, culture, and deeply rooted heritage, and through Balad Beast, we are striving to show the beauty of Jeddah to the world.”
“Given that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, MDLBEAST is coming in with a sustainable approach, eliminating any fireworks or pyrotechnics and replacing it with lightwork using 3D mapping and vibrant projections to bring life to the old buildings,” he added.
Mathew Knowles keen to explore Arab music at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures
Updated 27 November 2022
Shyama Krishna Kumar
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.
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’
In our latest Arab Icons feature, we profile the Saudi singer, oud player and composer who remains one of Khaleeji music’s biggest draws
Updated 26 November 2022
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Al-Fahad told Arab News: 'I am a big supporter of the hip hop culture in Saudi Arabia'
Updated 25 November 2022
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.
• 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
Updated 25 November 2022
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.
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.”
SOUNDSTORM 2022: All the must-see acts at Riyadh music festival
Our pick of the lineup for MDLBEAST’s three-day music festival in Riyadh, which starts Dec. 1
Updated 25 November 2022
RIYADH: The Gulf’s largest music festival returns to Riyadh next weekend for three nights (Dec. 1-3) packed with huge international stars and local up-and-comers. Last year’s SOUNDSTORM reportedly welcomed 730,000 attendees and, according to organizers MDLBEAST, the festival has almost doubled in size this year, with dozens of artists appearing on seven different stages over the course of the weekend.
The festival is once again dominated by EDM DJ sets, although one of the biggest names on this year’s lineup is US singer Bruno Mars, whose fusion of funk, pop, R&B, and soul will be a departure from SOUNDSTORM’s trademark vibe. There are other non-DJ-driven performances lined up too, from acts including veterans of the Arab indie scene Autostrad, and the German-Syrian electronic music duo Shkoon, whose fusion of Arabic-styled instrumentation and Western electro (or ‘Oriental Slow-House’) has established them as one of the most thrilling acts on the Arab electronica scene. As organizers MDLBEAST’s CEO Talal Albahiti explained in a recent press release, the promotion of Arab artists remains an important part of the company’s strategy for its events.
“As well as bringing superstar global headliners to the Kingdom, it is also essential to us that we center our efforts on showcasing unseen talent from across the region,” he said.
Those superstar global headliners include quite a few acts returning from last year — usually a sign that a show has gone well (and/or that the fee is extremely generous) — such as Steve Aoki, David Guetta and Tiesto.
With a few acts still to be confirmed at the time of writing, here are our picks for some of the must-see sets at this year’s SOUNDSTORM.
As mentioned, the French DJ-producer David Guetta will once again be performing at SOUNDSTORM (and at just about every other dance festival that ever happens anywhere), and will doubtless once again prove just why he’s a must-have for almost all EDM promoters around the globe, with his undeniable knack of giving the crowds exactly what they’re there for — Guetta’s unmatched ability to create commercial dance-pop that gets people moving.
While Guetta’s appearance as a headliner is a given, the same certainly can’t be said for Bruno Mars (pictured). But one thing Mars does have in common with his fellow headliners is his danceability. He’s also a consummate old-school showman, whose magnetic live performances have been compared (favorably) with Michael Jackson, James Brown and Elvis Presley for their irresistible charisma. US rapper Post Malone will also be a welcome addition for those who like a little variety at their festivals — his mixture of hip-hop, R&B, and trap will neatly bridge the gap between Mars’ more-commonplace pop and the festival’s mainly electronic vibe.
Elsewhere on the bill, we’re looking forward to seeing another DJ returning for a second year, Tiesto (Tijs Michiel Verwest) — often cited as the “Godfather of EDM” for his mastery of house music — and his compatriot Hardwell; DJ Snake, the French-Algerian producer behind Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album, his huge hit with Lil Jon “Turn Down for What,” and 2019’s viral smash, the reggaeton/EDM crossover “Fuego”; Palestinian-American DJ Khaled, on the bill as DJ Khaled & Friends — a moniker that has, in the past, seen him perform with luminaries including Lil Wayne, Mary J. Blige and Drake, so be prepared for some exciting surprises on the night; the Latin-American infused sounds of Swiss-Chilean DJ Luciano; the bass-heavy grooves of Marshmello; the hugely popular French house DJ Cedric Gervais, who won a Grammy for his 2013 remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness”; and Salvatore Ganacci, the Bosnian-Swiss DJ whose live shows are some of the most thrilling around — as shown by the online popularity of his sets at Tomorrowland in 2018 and 2019. Also returning from last year are US superstar Steve Aoki and another acclaimed Dutch DJ — Afrojack.
As we said before last year’s event, the festival’s programmers deserve plaudits for showing some love to dance-music pioneers, as well as today’s chart-topping big names. UK DJ-producer Carl Cox — renowned for popularizing three-deck mixing in his homeland’s rave scene — was one of the world’s first celebrity DJs, and is returning to SOUNDSTORM for the second year running. Also making his second appearance is Sven Vath (pictured), a hugely important figure in Germany’s influential underground electronic music community, who garnered international recognition as one of the figureheads of Ibiza’s rise to the top of the global party scene. They are joined by Italian dance-music legend Benny Benassi, whose 2002 hit “Satisfaction” played a major part in EDM’s crossover into the mainstream.
Once again, SOUNDSTORM will give local and regional artists a rare opportunity to perform in front of a sizeable crowd. For Saudi DJs and musicians in particular, these are shows to savor, in a country where it was impossible for them to perform in public just a few years ago. Those who played in 2019 and 2021 certainly raised their profiles, and many will be returning this year. Saudis performing include Cosmicat (Nouf Sufyani), Dish Dash, Baloo, Hats & Klaps, Birdperson, Omar Basaad, and Saudi house music champion Tarek Antabi. The aforementioned Shkoon (pictured) and Autostrad will be repping Arab alternative acts, while there’ll be a no-doubt emotional trip home for LA-based Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam. Lovers of deep cuts should also check out the set from Shadi Megallaa, founder of Dubai’s The Flip Side, one of the region’s only independent record stores.