RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s music scene is booming and showcasing the depth of talent in the country, according to Arab singer Hager Elkhashab.
Speaking on “The Mayman Show” this week, Elkhashab — an Egyptian national born in Abha — said her passion for music saw her perform at the Asir Festival, in the region she grew up.
Elkhashab praised the Ministry of Culture for helping to create the conditions for the flourishing arts scene in the country. She lauded several initiatives including Riyadh Season, Taif’s music concerts, and ITHRA’s shows in Alkhobar in the Eastern Province.
Elkhashab said she also performed at the ITHRA festival, “an amazing experience” which allowed her to present a fusion of classical Arab and traditional Khaleeji music. “A lot of people came to ITHRA to listen to Arabic classical music. I sang for six successive days, four hours per day. So it was a really different experience for me.”
She said ITHRA events are largely multinational affairs but lacking an understanding of Arabic was not a barrier for the audience. “It was really interesting to see different cultures listening to and enjoying classic Arabic music.”
Elkhashab said the crowd consisted of Indian, Chinese and Japanese people, who spoke to her after her performances, and said they really enjoyed the experience even though they did not understand what she was saying.
She said that her performances at ITHRA’s events boosted her profile as a singer. “You know, I’m so proud of myself that I started here in Saudi Arabia and from that, Cairo or let’s say Opera Egypt, contacted me to have a performance in Cairo. So that was very special for me to have that kind of opportunity starting from here, from Saudi Arabia,” she said.
She is scheduled to perform at the Cairo Opera House in February. “My name was not known in Egypt. But when they saw the video, they saw the quality of the music that we are providing here in Saudi Arabia. They (became) interested (in having) one performance there,” she said.
Elkhashab, whose last performance was at the Asir Festival, said her dream is to perform at the Mariyah Concert Hall in AlUla and other parts of Saudi Arabia, including NEOM and the Abu Bakr Salim and Mohammed Abdou stages.
“You know, I was born and raised here in Saudi Arabia and I can see the revolution happening in every aspect … We can sing freely, we can show our talent.”
Elkhashab said she was also excited to see many talented Saudi women singing and developing careers as musicians.