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)
Short Url
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.


New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students
Updated 12 sec ago

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

JEDDAH: Integrated solutions provider Johnson Controls Arabia has announced its participation as founding partner in Saudi Arabia’s new Future Industrialists initiative.

Implemented by the Association for Distinguished Initiatives, General Directorate of Education in Jeddah, and the Industrial Council of the Chamber of Commerce in Jeddah, the company announced that it was supporting the scheme as part of its strategic commitment toward empowering young talent in the Kingdom.

The initiative will involve more than 10,000 male and female high school students competing in three categories for awards worth SR100,000 ($26,650).

Thirty student winners will be offered summer internships at the manufacturing plants of companies taking part in the initiative — including the YORK Manufacturing Complex — and training sessions will be run for 1,000 students.

Johnson Controls Arabia provides services including heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, fire and security systems, and building management systems and controls throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.

Mohanad Al-Shaikh, chief executive officer of Johnson Controls Arabia, said: “We are proud to be the founding partners of the Future Industrialists initiative as part of our ongoing commitment and efforts toward fueling innovation and sustainability, especially in the development of talent and future leaders, in partnership with the public sector.

“As a leader in the vital industrial sector on a local and global level, we will be introducing students to the latest innovative and integrated industrial processes and mechanisms used at our YORK Manufacturing Complex, YORK’s largest manufacturing facility in the region.

“Johnson Controls Arabia continues to work toward its long-term objectives of shaping and preparing students with the needed skills and experience to excel in the competitive industrial labor market,” he added.

The Future Industrialists initiative’s creative category award will recognize students who present distinctive ideas to raise a factory’s financial or marketing productivity through the suggestions of quality products.

The discoverer category will reward students with ideas for improvement of daily operations, productivity, and quality assurance, while the ambassador class will celebrate those who develop interesting content on factory output, distinctive products, and the company’s role in servicing the community.

Targeting students at public secondary schools in Jeddah, the initiative aims to broaden young talents’ vision and knowledge through conducting field visits and training at local firms and manufacturing facilities, while educating them on the Kingdom’s industrial potential, mainly in Jeddah.

In alignment with Vision 2030 goals, the Future Industrialists initiative aims to boost the economy through motivating students to join the industrial sector in partnership with the private sector.


TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people

TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people
Updated 2 min 16 sec ago

TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people

TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people
  • NEOM subsidiary seeks proposals in energy, food, mobility
  • Aim to foster global entrepreneurship, new ways of living

RIYADH: TONOMUS, the cognitive multinational subsidiary of NEOM, has announced the launch of its second venture startup competition at LEAP23 in Riyadh.

Led by the firm’s TONOMUS Venture Studio, the competition started on Feb. 6, and is titled “The Next Billion.” It is an initiative that invites participants to consider new technologies and innovations that a billion people in the world would require for energy, food and mobility.

“We’re looking to recreate that here just like they did in Silicon Valley,” said Beverly Rider, CEO of TONOMUS Venture Studio.

The aim is to foster global entrepreneurship that will nurture the environment and create new ways of community living.

Rider added: “TONOMUS Venture Studio has a bunch of different objectives. So it’s a programmatic display of how you bring entrepreneurship and startups to our region. So what we found when we got NEOM is that one of the things we were missing was an entrepreneurial ecosystem and the small businesses that really fuel the economy, and they take the large companies and create the value around them.”

Rider said Saudi Arabia’s entrepreneurial vision and diversification of the economy stemming from Vision 2030 makes it an interesting hub prospect in the world.

“Come to the Kingdom? So actually, you would think that that would be the hard part, but that’s been our easy part. Everybody wants to come. The great thing about having a recession in the rest of the world is that people are really interested in looking into new horizons and new geographies. But more importantly than that, the megaprojects have given us an opportunity to basically, you know, start from the bottom and work our way up,” said Rider.

Up to 20 semifinalist teams will receive individualized coaching by experts from TONOMUS Venture Studio, and up to four winning teams will be invited to a 12-week program to incubate their ideas. The competition will welcome submissions until April 12, 2023.

Rider stressed that creating a community is key. “We asked people to come and talk to us about these solutions, their startup, or their ideas. So at about 100 people showed up yesterday. We’re going to do six more of them next year.”

TONOMUS Venture Studio comprises both established and emerging entrepreneurs. It aims to cement NEOM’s reputation as the epicenter of innovation, and the Kingdom as a place where the world’s brightest minds and top tech talent can bring their ideas to life.
 


Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah

Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah
Updated 14 min 39 sec ago

Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah

Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah
  • Habasha was a major Arab market during pre-Islamic, early Islamic eras

JEDDAH: A Saudi scientific team has located the site of an ancient souq in the Makkah region that served as one of the most important Arab markets during the pre-Islamic and early Islamic eras.

Dubbed Souq Habasha, the site was discovered in cooperation between the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, the Ministry of Culture and its Heritage Commission.

Souq Habasha was an ancient seasonal Arab market and one of the largest in the Tihamah region west of the Arabian Peninsula. The souq was held every year for eight days starting on the first day of Rajab in the Islamic calendar, and was annually held until the Islamic year 197 (813 A.D.).

Fahd Al-Samari, secretary-general of the foundation and head of the scientific committee of Souq Habasha, delivered a statement in a video that was published on Darah’s official Twitter account.

He said: “Documenting historical information must be within a specific methodology. Therefore, the department has entered a number of experiences in documentation, such as documenting the Okaz market, and some sites from the Prophet Muhammad’s biography in the Kingdom. The Habasha market will be an ancient historical and cultural asset for the Kingdom.”

Abdullah Al-Zahrani, a member of the Souq Habasha scientific committee, said: “This collaboration project was made to locate the souq and it is a good example of joint cooperation between many parties as well as researchers, historians, geographers and prophet’s biography experts who will add a lot to verify this site.”

Studies and research projects have attempted to trace the location of the market for more than 40 years, with field sites proposed by the committee finally being inspected last year.

Abdullah Al-Welaie, another member of the Souq Habasha scientific committee, said: “We worked on drawing complete caravan routes, including the coastal road, the Tihama road, peaks of the Sarawat Mountains, as well as the Elephant road. Four tracks were drawn on accurate maps that really helped determine the location of the market and were then handed over to historians.”

Historians said that the market was mentioned in the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, who had taken part in the souq to trade before his mission.

The team conducted studies, verified sources and carried out an archaeological survey, following up discussions with qualified sources to determine the location of Souq Habasha.

Historical markets in the region were typically located in areas with an abundance of water, rainfall and grazing land. Accordingly, Souq Habasha was located on the southern bank of Wadi Qanuna in Ardiyat, a coastal city in the Makkah region.

It is positioned in the middle of a vast floodplain, bound by the Al-Durbat mountains to the east, Al-‘Irm mountains to the west stretching for five km, and Umm Al-Rimth mountains to the south, in a vast area where water sources and plant cover are prominent.

The market also passes through Al-Janad street, which served as one of the most important landmarks in determining the location of the souq.

Souq Habasha offers experts the chance to examine ancient economic, literary and cultural activity, with its integration into Okaz market — which has been revived — becoming a prominent cultural event in the Kingdom and providing benefits in the scientific, cultural and tourism fields.


Saudi startup outlook to be explored at LEAP2023 

Saudi startup outlook to be explored at LEAP2023 
Updated 08 February 2023

Saudi startup outlook to be explored at LEAP2023 

Saudi startup outlook to be explored at LEAP2023 

RIYADH: Unique challenges that startups in the Kingdom face when trying to secure funding will be the subject of a panel discussion on the final day of the LEAP 2023 conference on Thursday.

“The Road to Success: The Journey of Saudi Pre-seeds Starting to Get Funded” will also explore the outlook for startups in Saudi Arabia over the next five years.

Elina Idrisova, regional director of Digital Transformation, who will be part of the panel, told Arab News that the sessions will be about “how government is supporting these initiatives in order to accelerate the transformation and technology adoption.” 

Successful Saudi software startup Elevatus will be included in the discussion. 

Idrisova said that accelerators in Saudi Arabia are actively supporting and mentoring early-stage startups to help secure funding.

The Kingdom is planning to invest more than $25 billion to expand the technology ecosystem, the regional director said.

She said that the session will also discuss ways Saudi startups can attract global investors and scale worldwide.

“I also want to highlight the exceptional support of accelerators and programs such as Venture Studios and different university research centers, which help startups to get more deep research and to understand the market well, to get to know how to conduct the right assessments and to create the product that’s really needed by the market,” she said. 
 


Saudi fund backs employment opportunities for Hail graduates 

Saudi fund backs employment opportunities for Hail graduates 
Updated 08 February 2023

Saudi fund backs employment opportunities for Hail graduates 

Saudi fund backs employment opportunities for Hail graduates 
  • The agreement was signed by Turki Al-Jawini, director general of the fund, and Rashid Al-Sharif, president of the University of Hail
  • Turki Al-Jawini: We look forward to contributing to the development of the skills and capabilities of the Kingdom’s citizens

RIYADH: The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund and the University of Hail have signed a cooperation agreement to support graduates of the future “with the aim of increasing their competitiveness in the labor market and raising the employment rate.”

The agreement was signed by Turki Al-Jawini, director general of the fund, and Rashid Al-Sharif, president of the University of Hail, on the sidelines of the Liaqaat Hail Forum, which was held under the patronage of Prince Abdulaziz bin Saad, the governor of the Hail region.

A statement from the fund said the agreement was a strategic partnership “to achieve their common goals of training, qualifying and employing the university graduates and students expected to graduate, of both sexes, and job seekers, in an effort to develop their skills and provide them with individual and basic skills and experience, in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

The fund provides financial and training support under the agreement, along with incentives to the employment office at the university and its employees, through programs such as “Subol,” the vocational development and guidance platform; “Doroob,” the national e-training platform; “Tamheer,” the on-the-job training program; and “Taqat,” the national labor portal.

Al-Jawini said: “We are keen on holding forums that will develop and empower national capacities, ensuring sustainable employment and motivating the private sector to contribute to Saudization. This will contribute to raising Saudization rates and supporting the participation of national cadres in various fields and specializations of the labor market.

“We look forward to contributing to the development of the skills and capabilities of the Kingdom’s citizens, enabling them to find job opportunities, and to invest optimally in human capital, in compliance with the directives of our wise leadership, and in line with development plans to support the national economy.”