RIYADH: The second MDLBEAST’s XP Music Futures conference, platforming regional and international industry leaders and experts, at Diriyah’s Jax District, concludes on Wednesday.
The event kicked off on Monday with an enticing performance by up-and-coming Saudi talents Ntitled and MOT, who opened for various keynote speakers, including Mathew Knowles, Elyanna, Hardwell and Amy Thomson to discuss the evolution of the region’s music industry.
MDLBEAST Chief Creative Officer Ahmad Al-Ammary, also known as Baloo, said that the anuual XP focuses on growing the local scene, nurturing talent, diversifying sound, development, management, label acquisition and scene navigation.
“Last year, it was about the local brands. This year, it’s about the regional brands. We’re expanding to more sounds, more genres. Whatever your sound might be, you have a place for it here,” Al-Ammary told Arab News.
The XP day experience championed engaging educational opportunities across various avenues: revolutionizing regional music, generating hits, music in the Metaverse age, the role of the artist, cultural representation within the global scene, pushing boundaries, utilizing social media and streaming services, and much more in a series of workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities.
The XP night experience, which saw a lineup of over 130 artists throughout the conference, presented a unique glimpse into talents from the Middle East and North Africa’s music scene, from psychedelic minimal techno to R&B and hip-hop.
Also featured were a DJ competition, drum circle and experiences by DJ Shaolin and Zii, Vague, Narratives, Eko and MDLBEAST Records.
The precursor to Soundstorm 2022, the region’s largest music festival, has seen a 46 percent increase from last year’s edition, with 76 sessions across multiple platforms, focusing on key pillars of talent, impact, scene and — most recently — innovation.
“I’m grateful for MDLBEAST, who bring so many different artists and so many different sounds to Saudi Arabia for people who never…felt that kind of energy around them,” Omar Agha, co-founder of record label and music lab KNZ, said.
As the world embraces niche genres from all over the globe, prominently K-pop and Latin pop, industry specialists are predicting that the Middle East’s regional music is next in line for the top charts.
MDLBEAST Senior Creative Strategist Haya Shaath told Arab News: “What I get told a lot is that the global music industry is very hard to please. When they’ve come to Saudi Arabia, they’ve been pleasantly surprised to see what Saudi talent is all about. In a more qualitative sense, there is really good reception of that.”
An overarching theme is navigating authenticity in a global market: How do artists create music that is culturally relevant while also appealing to international audiences?
Prominent Saudi DJ “Vinyl Mode” and Creative Activations Manager Muhanned Nassar told Arab News: “I came up with the concept of ‘vibe generators,’…and it’s about being real when you’re performing, in any form of art, whether painting, playing music. When you are fully present and real about it, this will transform, and it doesn’t need a language, wherever you are in the world. This will reach the people.”
In a time when the MENA region is set to become the next music hub and the fastest-growing music market in the world, industry leaders are embracing the idea of exporting talents rather than simply importing them from abroad.
“You’ll notice, especially in the context of Saudi Arabia, that people are creating because they want to create. They’re not following any kind of formula…Authenticity has become the best ingredient for uniqueness, and that’s what we’re trying to push.
“It takes time for this dish to marinate,” Al-Ammary told Arab News, referring to the developing regional music scene. “I think within two, three years, you’re going to taste a really nice distinct list of music genres out of Saudi.”
The event also established the first MDLBEAST networking session, “Meet the Beasts,” allowing the public to connect with members of the music community, build bridges and explore the inner workings of the ambitious initiatives.
Visitors also shopped for local designs, brands and delicacies at XP’s market and courtyard spaces.