World premiere of ‘Nine Songs’ fills AlUla with excitement

World premiere of ‘Nine Songs’ fills AlUla with excitement
Chinese American singer-songwriter Rui Fu. (Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 27 November 2022

World premiere of ‘Nine Songs’ fills AlUla with excitement

World premiere of ‘Nine Songs’ fills AlUla with excitement

ALULA: Every seat occupied beneath the vast AlUla sky at the outdoor Wadi AlFann was filled with anticipation and excitement to witness the world premiere of “Nine Songs” on Saturday night.

For two nights only, ending Nov. 27, the vision of artist Rui Fu, and co-artistic director and producer, Farooq Chaudhry, morphed from Mother Nature into life. The audience received a full sensory experience, surrounded by a carefully-curated, modern and inventive interpretation unfurling before them.

The title of the work was inspired by a collection of poems from the ancient Chinese “Songs of Chu,” dated to 300 B.C. The location for the theatrical music performance was fitting, as the ancient landscape of AlUla was incorporated into the visual elements of the show.




Chinese American singer-songwriter Rui Fu. (Huda Bashatah)

Fu blended the sounds of the wind with her own voice and instruments, such as the Chinese dulcimer, Japanese taiko drums, violins, and harps.

The Chinese American singer-songwriter specializes in improvisational singing and composing, and was inspired by traditional Chinese classical aesthetics as well as Chinese ethnic music traditions.

The audience on opening night was a mix of Saudis and non-Saudis, who filled the site, inspired by the natural landscape of AlUla and its geological structures, with light sky, and fairy-lit candles leading them along a steady pathway atop the sand.

Fu did not want the audience to be restricted by the lyrics, wishing to free people of linguistic hurdles that might arise.




Chinese American singer-songwriter Rui Fu. (Huda Bashatah)

Any speaker of any language could follow the story, with the sounds and movements their own form of communication, connecting the sky to the ground and to everything in between. Certain sections of the show blended ancient Chinese, recited in different dialects, in addition to Fu adding her own twist.

“The majority of our show is actually in my own improvised language, and I find that very helpful because it helps us to focus on the emotional essence of the melodies more, without being restricted by cultural barriers, and also language restrictions and limitations and having to figure out what it means and how to say it in order to interact with the musicians,” Fu told Arab News.

“I believe that will be a way to help us all present the music with more passion, with more intuition, and the audience will understand it as well, because it’s not supposed to be a language that you’re supposed to understand intellectually — it is supposed to be a language that you feel, along with the music,” she said.

“This is a humongous, interesting, and diverse blend of cultures. And it’s been a very rewarding challenge to see how we can bring together different perspectives — different ways of interpreting the same story from different angles — so that I believe all of us feel that we’ve expanded who we are as artists and as people as a result of this project,” Fu added.




Chinese American singer-songwriter Rui Fu. (Huda Bashatah)

Jocelyn Pook, the music director and co-composer of this project, told Arab News that it was a thrill to work on “Nine Songs” because of the eclectic group of musicians from all over the world that joined in, as well as the juxtaposition of ancient and modern, of different Chinese and Western instruments, and AlUla.

“We’ve been devising the music together as a group, and it's been a very unusual process and kind of challenging, actually,” Pook told Arab News.

“We’ve got a Chinese dulcimer and a guqin and (an) extraordinary sort of array of percussion taiko drums, and a double bass, (an) extraordinary virtuoso violinist, Preetha, and harps — two harps — (a) Celtic and a gothic harp. It’s created this incredible landscape in the music, and I think it’s quite varied. And of course, Rui, with her extraordinary singing and range of vocal singing, which is sometimes very playful, sometimes quite traditional,” Pook added.

Spearheaded by the Royal Commission for AlUla, Fu was able to invite musicians from around the world from different cultures. There are two Chinese instrumentalists and collaborators from Japan, the UK, India, and the US.

“Nine Songs” is the inaugural activity of the Wadi AlFann’s season-opening, with temporary exhibitions, artist residencies, and symposiums planned. Five new commissioned artworks are due for completion in 2024.

Visit the AlUla and Wadi AlFann websites for more details.


Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors

Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors
Updated 27 January 2023

Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors

Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors

RIYADH: The “Uqair Inscriptions” event held along the banks of the ancient seaport city in Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province concluded on Wednesday with more than 60,000 visitors attending, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
The event, organized by the Kingdom’s Heritage Commission in cooperation with the Culture and Arts Association in Al-Ahsa, included heritage and folklore performances and traditional handicrafts unique to Al-Ahsa through dramatized scenes of life from the past in the historic port.
The scenes also depicted its position as an important commercial gateway on the coast of the Arabian Gulf, from the arrival of sailboats to the port to loading the camel convoys with goods headed toward Al-Ahsa and Najd.
The event also included a photographic exhibition displaying pictures of the founding king in Uqair in 1915.
Uqair is the first seaport in the east of the Kingdom on the Arabian Gulf coast, the economic gateway since the beginning of the establishment of the state, and the main port to reach the east and center of the Kingdom.
During that time, the state worked to develop the port by establishing customs, passports, a principality building, and fortress, and goods and foodstuffs were brought to the heart of the Arabian Peninsula and the capital, Riyadh, through this port.


Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy

Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy
Updated 27 January 2023

Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy

Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy

ROME: Saudi Arabia’s Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili on Thursday began an official multi-day visit to Italy, where he is scheduled to hold talks with a number of high-ranking Italian officials.
Upon arrival at Ciampino Military Airport in Rome, he was received by the Italian Chief of the Defense Staff, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone.
Al-Ruwaili met with Italian Minister of Defense Guido Crosetto and discussed bilateral cooperation and opportunities to bolster joint military coordination.
Al-Ruwaili visited the headquarters of the Defense Staff, where he met with Dragone and discussed a number of topics and means to enhance that cooperation.
The Saudi commander then met with Secretary General of Defense and National Armaments Director Lt. Gen. Luciano Portolano.
During a meeting with Gen. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, commander of Italian Joint Operations Headquarters, Al-Ruwaili also discussed bilateral relations as well as means to enhance defense cooperation with him.
He also toured several companies linked to the Italian defense industry, including Fincantieri shipbuilding company, electronic-warfare specialist Elettronica, Leonardo Defense, and European multinational developer and manufacturer of missiles MBDA, where he was briefed about their military and defense products.


Entertainment authority announces Riyadh Calendar activities

Entertainment authority announces Riyadh Calendar activities
Updated 26 January 2023

Entertainment authority announces Riyadh Calendar activities

Entertainment authority announces Riyadh Calendar activities
  • Activities and entertainment zones will continue until mid-March

RIYADH: Riyadh Season 2022 and its wide range of entertainment options in the capital may have come to an end, but there are reasons to be happy following the General Entertainment Authority’s launch of the Riyadh Calendar.

In a statement to Arab News, the GEA said that Riyadh Calendar activities and entertainment zones will continue until mid-March.

The Groves, Boulevard World, Boulevard Riyadh City and other zones will feature a variety of activities, with different dates and opening times.

Expected events include “Earth Voice Night” on Feb. 1, in honor of the late artist Talal Maddah, at Mohammed Abdo Theater in Boulevard Riyadh City.

Visitors can book for events through the Enjoy platform on the link: https://enjoy.sa/en/

Riyadh Season 2022 kicked off on Oct. 21 with more than 8,500 activities, under the slogan “Beyond Imagination.”

The Groves, Boulevard World, Boulevard Riyadh City and other zones will feature a variety of activities, with different dates and opening times. (GEA)

The third season offered visitors a wide range of entertainment options across 15 zones, each characterized by a variety of activities and events, including stores, cafes, restaurants, games, theaters, and a number of new global experiences.

The zones include Boulevard World, Boulevard Riyadh City, Winter Wonderland, Al-Murabaa, Sky Riyadh, Via Riyadh, Riyadh Zoo, Little Riyadh, The Groves, Imagination Park, Al-Suwaidi Park, Souq Al-Zel, Qariat Zaman, Fan Festival and Riyadh Front.

The Groves zone inside the Diplomatic Quarter offers visitors the experience of living in the North Pole through the ice lounge, the first of its kind in the Kingdom, with temperatures as low as minus 18 C.

Food, fashion and family fun are also available in the zone. Visitors can book tickets via the app.

A 35-meter-tall Light Ball, another highlight of Riyadh Season 2022, has become a new landmark in the capital and is the largest illuminated LED ball in the world, according to Guinness World Records.


Former Saudi national guardsman adds string to bow with archery medals

Former Saudi national guardsman adds string to bow with archery medals
Updated 26 January 2023

Former Saudi national guardsman adds string to bow with archery medals

Former Saudi national guardsman adds string to bow with archery medals
  • Mohammed Al-Shami picked up the sport of archery after losing his right hand in a terrorist attack in 2007 that forced his retirement

RIYADH: A former soldier in the Saudi Arabian National Guard has become a professional archer, winning a number of competitions and awards despite competing with a disability sustained in a terror attack.

Mohammed Al-Shami picked up the sport of archery after losing his right hand in a terrorist attack in 2007 that forced his retirement.

He was treated at King Saud Medical City and was sent to the Rehabilitation Hospital at King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh.

But Al-Shami’s physical disability failed to dent his positive outlook on life.

Ambition cannot stop in the face of “minor problems,” he told Arab News. Instead, Al-Shami believes that problems can give purpose and make people stronger.

Every day, Al-Shami, who usesa prosthetic hand, wakes up with a smile and spreads positivity.

His journey in archery commenced when he registered for the Kingdom Marathon at King Saud University.

“Captain Mishaal Al-Otaibi was explaining to visitors how to shoot … so I went to him and told him I wanted to try it. He looked at me and said ‘come later,’” Al-Shami said.

After waiting for three hours, Al-Shami again went to the captain, who told him to return once more after two hours.

When Al-Shami went back for the second time, he asked the captain: “Can handicapped people throw arrows or not?”

Al-Otaibi then gave a bow and arrow to the former guardsman and told him: “Go ahead, shoot.”

Al-Shami said: “I put the bowstring between my teeth, pulled it and threw it hard, and it settled in the middle of the target, in the bullseye. The captain was impressed. He then taught me how to develop my abilities.”

During the course of his rigorous training, Al-Shami shot 1,000 –1,200 arrows per day to improve his accuracy and technique.

He took part in the 2017 World Championships in Athletics for People with Disabilities at the Dubai Club for People of Determination, winning a gold medal.

Al-Shami also won gold and silver medals at the Sheikh Fazza Championship in the UAE in 2019.

His determination earned him third place in archery in the Kingdom’s My Disability Distinguishes evemt in 2022.

Al-Shami said that archery is the only sport that gives him determination and strengthens his focus.

In the future, he aspires to establish a charitable sports center for archery and taekwondo, where people of all ages can learn the basics of the sports and build bright futures for themselves.

“My biggest professional project is to help put Vision 2030 into action by building the biggest and most ambitious investment and charitable sports center. This will be a one-of-a-kind project with the goal of spreading and graduating professional teams in archery and taekwondo.”

Al-Shami hailed a 2019 decision by the Saudi Paralympic Committee to promote archery for people with disabilities around the Kingdom.


Saudi ministries launch national cultural skills contest

Saudi ministries launch national cultural skills contest
Updated 26 January 2023

Saudi ministries launch national cultural skills contest

Saudi ministries launch national cultural skills contest
  • The scheme will start by identifying talent in public schools, honing their skills and knowledge, providing online training, and then running a series of competitions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to stage its first national cultural skills competition — with a prize-money pot of SR5 million ($1.33 million).

The initiative was launched on Wednesday by officials from the Saudi ministries of culture and education.

Noha Kattan, the Ministry of Culture’s deputy minister of national partnerships and development, and Dr. Mohammed Al-Meqbel, Ministry of Education undersecretary for educational programs, announced details of the contest at a press conference.

Kattan said the competition would cover multiple tracks in various cultural sectors including short films, Arabic calligraphy, visual arts, music, theater, manga and short stories, and folk dance.

Divided into seven stages, the scheme will start by identifying talent in public schools, honing their skills and knowledge, providing online training, and then running a series of competitions.

Finalists will showcase their art or skill at a closing ceremony, which will be subject to voting.

The winners of each sector will receive SR100,000, with runners-up getting SR75,000, and SR50,000 going to those coming third.

Al-Meqbel said the competition aimed to discover and develop the skills of male and female students in the cultural and artistic fields to help preserve the Kingdom’s cultural heritage.

Investing in talented students would empower them through the different stages of the competition, he added.

The contest is part of an ongoing working relationship between the two ministries under a cultural capacity development strategy.

It has been designed to increase the cultural and artistic development of public-school students in the Kingdom, pinpoint their skills, and work to enhance them and encourage new creative energies that contribute to the effectiveness and enrichment of the Saudi cultural sector.