SOUNDSTORM 2022: All the must-see acts at Riyadh music festival

SOUNDSTORM 2022: All the must-see acts at Riyadh music festival
Last year’s SOUNDSTORM reportedly welcomed 730,000 attendees. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 November 2022

SOUNDSTORM 2022: All the must-see acts at Riyadh music festival

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

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 COO 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.  

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MDLBEAST (@mdlbeast)

“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. 




The one thing Bruno Mars does have in common with his fellow headliners is his danceability. (Supplied)

GLOBAL STARS

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. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by David Guetta (@davidguetta)

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. 

OLD-SCHOOL LEGENDS 

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.  

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Cosmicat (@cosmicatx)

LOCAL HEROES

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. 


Gigi Hadid dons traditional Indian sari at star-studded event in Mumbai

Gigi Hadid dons traditional Indian sari at star-studded event in Mumbai
Updated 58 min 5 sec ago

Gigi Hadid dons traditional Indian sari at star-studded event in Mumbai

Gigi Hadid dons traditional Indian sari at star-studded event in Mumbai
  • The event was also attended by British actor Tom Holland, Emmy-winning US actress Zendaya and Spanish star Penelope Cruz
  • The Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Center in Mumbai, housed within the Jio Global Center in Bandra-Kurla Complex, aims to preserve and promote Indian arts

DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian supermodel Gigi Hadid attended the opening weekend celebrations of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Center in Mumbai on Saturday in decadent traditional Indian attire by luxury label Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla.  

The model showed off the label’s gold hued Chikankari sari and posed on the red carpet on night two of the opening event. The sari comes courtesy of designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, each a powerhouse in the world of Indian fashion in their own right.  

Gigi Hadid wore a sari by luxury label Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla.  (Getty Images)

“This was a dream!” Hadid captioned a short clip of herself wearing the sari on Instagram Stories.  

Meanwhile, the model showed off a colorful ensemble by couturier Rahul Mishra — the first Indian designer to stage a runway show on the official Paris Haute Couture Week calendar — on the red carpet the night before. 

“Thank you Rahul Mishra and the artisans for your talent and time to make this incredibly intricate and special piece. It is an honor to wear your work and celebrate Indian craftsmanship,” the catwalk star wrote on Instagram. 

The Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Center in Mumbai, housed within the Jio Global Center in Bandra-Kurla Complex, aims to preserve and promote Indian arts. 

Hadid walked the star-studded pink carpet alongside the likes of Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor and Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani. 

The event was also attended by British actor Tom Holland, Emmy-winning US actress Zendaya and Spanish star Penelope Cruz. 

'Spider-Man' actor Tom Holland was also spotted at the event in Mumbai. (AFP) 

Cruz showed off a pink, feathered gown by Tamara Ralph, while Zendaya stunned in a Rahul Mishra sari alongside celebrity stylist Law Roach, who just announced his retirement. 

The center is focused on showcasing Indian art, culture, fashion, performance arts and more. 

“The NMACC is envisioned as a platform to spotlight Indian arts and culture at its best, both for the audience and the artists,” reads a message from its founder Nita M. Ambani on the center’s website. “A truly inclusive centre for performers and visitors, for dreamers and creators, for one and all. With world-class infrastructure and robust programming, our aim is to make the arts accessible to everyone,” she added. 


Gigi Hadid among global celebs at red carpet event in India

Gigi Hadid among global celebs at red carpet event in India
Updated 55 min 52 sec ago

Gigi Hadid among global celebs at red carpet event in India

Gigi Hadid among global celebs at red carpet event in India

DUBAI: Dutch-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid and other A-list stars this week attended the opening of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Center in Mumbai.

The Indian philanthropist’s center, housed within the Jio Global Center in Bandra-Kurla Complex, aims to preserve and promote Indian arts.

Instagram/@gigihadid

Hadid wore a colorful dress by Indian designer Rahul Mishra.

“Thank you Rahul Mishra and the artisans for your talent and time to make this incredibly intricate and special piece. It is an honor to wear your work and celebrate Indian craftsmanship,” the catwalk star wrote on Instagram.

Instagram/@gigihadid

Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra attended the event with her husband Nick Jonas. She opted for a glitzy gown by Lebanese designer Elie Saab that featured a rhinestone-embellished bodice, a petal-covered cape and a sweetheart neckline.

The event was also attended by actors Tom Holland, Zendaya and Penelope Cruz, French fashion designer Christian Louboutin and artist Jeff Koons.


Mytheresa CEO discusses Saudi growth and luxury e-tailer’s formula for success

Mytheresa CEO discusses Saudi growth and luxury e-tailer’s formula for success
Updated 31 March 2023

Mytheresa CEO discusses Saudi growth and luxury e-tailer’s formula for success

Mytheresa CEO discusses Saudi growth and luxury e-tailer’s formula for success

DUBAI: For German luxury e-tailer Mytheresa, the Middle East remains an important market. Aside from already hosting two events in the region this year — one in Riyadh and one in Dubai — Mytheresa also partnered with Saudi influencer Nojoud Al-Rumaihi for its 2023 Ramadan campaign.

Arab News spoke to CEO Michael Kliger to understand Mytheresa’s plans for Saudi Arabia and how the luxury e-tailer continues to be one of the most prominent in the world.

“The Middle East is an important region, with Saudi being the largest market. It has overtaken the UAE, which was not the case three years ago — it’s quite remarkable,” he said.

Michael Kliger. (Supplied)

Kliger added that while Saudi clients continue to order to apartments in Europe, there is a significant increase in domestic demand, too. “I was in Riyadh in January, and it’s clear that the government plans on making the infrastructure in terms of hospitality and retail as good as what the Saudi client is used to when they go to France or Italy — so it’s very exciting. It’s a very fashionable region.”

Mytheresa aims to increase its presence locally through more ground staff (personal shoppers), local PR and events. Kliger feels that face-to-face interaction is essential to understand clients’ needs better.

What started as a standalone multi-brand boutique in Munich in 1987, Mytheresa is now one of the most prominent players in luxury e-commerce and went public on the New York Stock Exchange in January 2021.

Loro Piana x Mytheresa Men. (Supplied)

Mytheresa’s unique business model has shown financial strength during tough times like the pandemic and economic downturns. In February 2023, Vogue Business reported the e-tailer to be more profitable than competitors like Matchesfashion and Farfetch. Kliger believes that Mytheresa’s tightly curated edit and focus on wardrobe-building customers vs. the occasional luxury shopper is key.

“We only have 250 brands in the womenswear category compared to other platforms with thousands. Our role is to inspire, and inspiration doesn’t come without curation. If you’re looking for a floral dress and see 2,000 dresses, you’re not inspired; you’re put off.

“Instead, if you’re shown 160 floral dresses that our buyers believe are the best, it’s more convenient,” Kliger said, adding that the wardrobe-building customer keeps returning to shop with Mytheresa.

Michael Kliger and David Beckham. (Supplied)

“That customer lives a luxury lifestyle and buys many times a year. If you win that customer, they keep returning, which ties to profitability. If you have a customer that only buys one product and doesn’t return, you won’t make money in e-commerce.”

Kliger said that 95 percent of Mytheresa’s revenue comes from customers who started shopping with the e-tailer in 2015.

Last year, the platform added a new category, “Life,” to its range, where customers can shop luxury lifestyle products, including home decor, travel and pet accessories.

Michael Kliger and Bartolomeo Rongone. (Supplied)

“Home and lifestyle is an interesting category – and home is even more overwhelming. For example, if you’re looking for a nice vase, there are so many out there. Here, we have a website that says ‘look, we’ve found 60 of the nicest vases for you.’ So the element of curation in home again is very relevant.”

The platform also thrives on exclusive capsule collections with designers, which Kliger says do especially well in the Middle East. “We have many of those products you can only find on Mytheresa and nowhere else in the world,” he added.


Actor Asser Yassin takes us behind the scenes of his new Ramadan hit ‘Battalion 101’ 

Actor Asser Yassin takes us behind the scenes of his new Ramadan hit ‘Battalion 101’ 
Updated 31 March 2023

Actor Asser Yassin takes us behind the scenes of his new Ramadan hit ‘Battalion 101’ 

Actor Asser Yassin takes us behind the scenes of his new Ramadan hit ‘Battalion 101’ 
  • The actor has won awards at Sweden’s Malmö Arab Film Festival, the Festival International de Cinéma Méditerranée Tétouan and the Carthage Film Festival
  • ‘I’m thinking about the kids whose fathers are gone,’ says the Egyptian star

DUBAI: Egyptian actor Asser Yassin had heard the stories. For much of the last decade, Wilayat Sinai — a radical terrorist organization aligned with Daesh — had turned Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula into hell on earth for many, as they staged attack after attack, leaving scores dead as the group attempted to reshape the country in their image. The people that stood in their way, and ultimately overcame the threat, were the soldiers of the Egyptian Army’s Battalion 101.  

Yassin had heard the stories, but how could he have known how deep their sacrifices went? Their struggles and triumphs remained relegated to news briefs and statistics. No one had really explored what really happened out there. 

“Our nation does not realize the sacrifice given in this sector — how much of their own blood they spilled to protect their country. I feel it’s my duty to be a part of telling those stories, so the world knows exactly what happened,” Yassin tells Arab News. 

Asser Yassin and Amr Youssef in ‘El Keteeba 101.’ (Supplied)

With “Battalion 101,” airing on MBC Shahid throughout Ramadan, that story will finally be told. For Yassin, who stars as a military intelligence officer tasked with undermining Wilayat Sinai — and procuring the knowledge needed to do it, getting into character first required him to learn the real stories of what happened, the human stories, so that he could give this series his all. 

“The thing that has touched me the most while making this show is that, in the intelligence world, you will never hear these stories, because people cannot tell them without risking the lives of others. You cannot say how an intelligence officer died defending his country. His kids may know that he’s a hero, but they can’t put it out to the world because their father died on a secret mission,” says Yassin. 

“I met some of the families, and they know the men their fathers were. They know he was their champion. But they can’t tell the media. But I can put those fathers into my character. I can’t say their names, I can’t say the details, but I can put their spirits into this, in appreciation for the people who secretly died fighting these evils,” Yassin continues.  

Asser Yassin (R) on the set of ‘El Keteeba 101.’ (Supplied)

While Yassin is an accomplished action star, his character in the series, for the most part, is not on a battlefield dodging bullets, or swinging from helicopters. To better understand the intelligence world, Yassin met with officers to learn about the particulars of things such as interrogation, finding that many of the tropes that are present in most films and television are pure fiction. 

“It’s all in the particulars. There’s no fans or distractions in the room, there’s no two-way mirror. The setting is not nearly as dramatic. Usually, the officer, for example, stays sitting behind a desk in a room that’s as basic as can be, with only certain shades of gray because it’s psychologically important,” says Yassin. 

After diving headfirst into the details, the challenge for Yassin was to dramatize this world. When there was so much dedication to telling the story as it actually happened, and following the events to the letter in order to properly honor the people that went through those situations, it was important to keep in mind that the show was being made for an audience looking to be entertained, not to be studied as part of a history course. 

Asser Yassin (L) prepares to shoot a scene for ‘El Keteeba 101.’ (Supplied)

“We had a responsibility to give a proper image of what we were portraying, of course. There are so many facts for us to deliver, but we couldn’t just be informative, we had to be engaging, we had to also make it an Egyptian drama. That can be a huge challenge,” says Yassin.  

Yassin worked closely with the writers and supervisors, including people from the military who were on set as consultants, in order to make sure that the audience was always first and foremost in their minds. 

“We would ask ourselves questions like, ‘Can we not talk about that part? Can we make this terminology simpler?’ It could get very heavy if we didn’t. People don’t care about how you build the rocket, they care about whether the rocket is going to fly, and where it’s flying to. When you focus on that, then you have something suitable for people to watch,” he says. 

Yassin also did that by focusing on his character Khaled, who, as a composite of the many intelligence officers he learned about, was also ripe for drama.  

“Khaled is a guy who manipulates everything with the utmost skill. He gives you the sense that he’s always awake, he’s always around, and he can even be in two places at once,” says Yassin. 

“What made him work as a character though, is not the high level of skill he possesses. Yes, he’s always doing his job right — he never makes a mistake. But that doesn’t mean that things will always work out. Sometimes you can do everything right and things still won’t go the way they’re planned, and his frustration in that gap was fascinating to explore,” Yassin continues. 

Starring opposite Yassin is Amr Youssef, who became one of Egypt’s biggest stars after his turns in projects such as “Sons of Rizk,” 2015’s “The Prince,” and the highly regarded 2016 Ramadan hit “Grand Hotel.” 

“Amr and I have known each other a long time, but we never worked together. It has really been fun, as we have a nice chemistry and we’re really becoming better friends as we work through this challenge together. I can see a lot of collaborations happening in the future, as, even though we’re on similar levels, we’re completely different types, which creates an interesting contrast,” says Yassin. 

Everyone involved was interested in telling the story right, which involved breaking with the usual structure of Ramadan series — they avoided stretching it out to the standard 30 episodes, instead keeping it to 20, so the story could be exactly what it needed to be, and no more. 

“It’s much better for everyone involved. The quality is better, and you can focus more on production, rather than rushing things out. It’s still tight, but compared to the torture of hitting 30 episodes that will air night after night, the pain is a lot more livable,” says Yassin. 

Mainly, though, as Yassin speaks to us from set in the final days of filming, he is most focused on how the real story resonates with audiences now that they can finally learn the truth. 

“I hope that people can appreciate the people who died, and the people who are still out there risking their lives. That’s what touches me most about all of this. I’m thinking about the kids of those fathers who are gone now, and I hope people watching at home will think about them too, and how much they gave so that they could watch a series like this comfortably in their homes all these years later.” 


Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar discusses the new record from his project Interbellum 

Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar discusses the new record from his project Interbellum 
Updated 31 March 2023

Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar discusses the new record from his project Interbellum 

Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar discusses the new record from his project Interbellum 
  • The artist has performed in multiple countries in Europe including Prague and Berlin

DUBAI: Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar was in Berlin writing songs for the third album from his project Interbellum (Mattar and a revolving lineup of his peers from Beirut’s music scene) — “Our House Is Very Beautiful At Night” — when his hometown of Beirut was rocked by a massive explosion at its port on Aug. 4, 2020.  

Inspired by the writings of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Mattar was already exploring the theme of intergenerational trauma as a phantom (“indistinct and blurry, but familiar,” he says) and he notes that some works created by Lebanese artists, including himself, before the blast have become almost premonitory in retrospect. Interbellum’s previous album, for example, included a track called “Some Ghosts.” 

“(The explosion) wasn’t the genesis of the record, but it definitely informed it,” Mattar tells Arab News. “It’s weird how much everything we wrote about before still fits within what’s happening now. And I think it’s because that event didn’t happen out of the blue; it emerged from things that had happened before, almost like a symptom. It’s sad, but it’s almost like it was inevitable. And that’s one of the themes of the record — the cycle of things always repeating and ghosts that have always been there being unlocked. 

“I’ve always been interested in themes of memory and the past and nostalgia. I have my own baggage from childhood that I carry around and I’ve been exploring the idea that we have to learn to live with our respective ghosts,” he continues. “And there is a dimension that personal trauma is mirrored by — or is a microcosm of — societal trauma and the state and society reflecting the nuclear family. It’s like a Russian doll thing.”  

Lead single “Partners” encapsulates these themes, and the haunting instrumentation — with sounds fading in and out throughout, giving the music a patchwork, collage-like effect that is evident across the record — echoes the ghosts Mattar has been talking about.  

“That song’s about an abusive, dysfunctional relationship,” he says. “I was moved by this notion of people who are in such a relationship being tied by this intimate bond. It’s almost beautiful, if it weren’t so horrifying (because of) this idea of how we perpetuate abuse that we lived through and kind of pass it on, and can subconsciously choose a partner to re-enact something we went through. It’s a really sad song, but there’s a beauty to this intimacy that I found poignant.” 

“Our House Is Very Beautiful At Night” will be released April 7.