RIYADH: The Riyadh International Book Fair 2023 will feature one of the most diverse cultural programs in the Arab world when it gets underway later this month.
More than 200 events, including seminars, poetry evenings and workshops, will be staged as part of the fair, which will be launched by the Saudi Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission at its new headquarters at King Saud University from Sept. 28 to Oct. 7.
A large area will be dedicated to younger readers, while musical events, as well as local and international theatrical performances, are also expected to be popular.
Titled “An Inspiring Destination,” the fair will be the largest in the Kingdom and Arab world in terms of the diversity of cultural programs and range of activities.
Past fairs have attracted strong participation from publishing houses, cultural bodies and institutions presenting publications and titles to more than a million visitors.
International publishers have also displayed valuable items, including rare books, paintings and manuscripts.
A “Book Talk” segment this year will feature influential thinkers and authors discussing aspects of contemporary culture.
A book signing space will allow readers to meet their favorite authors.
To nurture young Saudi talents, the fair will allocate a corner for self-published authors, displaying more than 400 titles.
For the first time, a poetry recitation competition will be held for children, encouraging poetry writing and the art of recitation.
The fair’s award ceremony will cover five categories for excellence in publishing, with winners receiving a translation grant provided by the fair’s partner, ROSHN real estate development company.
An International Publishers Conference will also be organized on Oct. 4.
Industry leaders talk building grassroots culture at XP Music Futures
Updated 09 December 2023
RIYADH: Investments, events and community interaction are key to growing Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning music industry, a panel at the XP Music Futures conference was told on Thursday.
Music industry leaders and government officials took part in the panel at the event’s third edition, which is being held from Dec. 7-9 ahead of MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm festival.
“What I’ve noticed in Saudi Arabia from my visits is that there are entities who are taking the initiative to set up the grassroots culture … their scope is to teach people how to make music,” said Ramy Al-Kadhi, head of commercial at streaming platform Anghami.
Panelists said that investment is musical education is critical, with the Saudi Ministry of Culture establishing the Music Commission to direct funding into the Kingdom’s homegrown industry.
Creativity hubs for up-and-coming musicians, such as JAX, Riyadh’s art district that hosts spaces for music, fashion and art events, are also working to promote Saudi artists.
“We’re really proud of our community and we’re trying to always bolster their creativity, to keep them all alive, to have them all together in this space. It’s the community — it’s not anyone else but the community,” said Omnia Abdulqadir, communications and marketing director of JAX District.
Events like XP offer creatives a chance to learn and share their experiences, pushing the grassroots scene forward, the panelists said.
Other important steps include using existing cultural spaces, like museums, to initiate collaborations with the music industry, said Dr. Basma Al-Buhaira, managing director of the Center for Fourth Industrial Revolution in KSA.
Inclusivity must also be promoted for people with disabilities, as well as older artists, panelists said.
Other speakers, including CECO founder and creative consultant Dalia Fatania, and The Warehouse founder Mohammad Al-Attas, highlighted the power of technology to bolster musical talent.
The Warehouse also hosts open mic nights and jam sessions to encourage a culture of creativity.
Monetization of work is important for budding artists, the panelists said, encouraging young Saudis in the industry to work with brands, take on educational roles, sell merchandise and collectibles, and collaborate with other industries.
Arab artists must collaborate more for global success: Warner music chief
Reggaeton’s rise is an ideal model, says Alfonso Perez Soto
Strong domestic market needed to grow globally, he adds
Updated 08 December 2023
RIYADH: Artists living in the Middle East and North Africa should collaborate more to boost the industry in the region and globally, says Alfonso Perez Soto, president of emerging markets at Warner Music Group.
Soto was speaking Thursday at the XP Music Futures conference currently underway in Riyadh.
Grammy-nominated Lebanese singer-songwriter Mayssa Karaa moderated the fireside chat titled “The potential of the region and beyond: A conversation with Alfonso Perez.”
Soto highlighted the rising popularity of reggaeton, a blend of Latin American music with hip-hop influences, and said that artists in the MENA region should take inspiration from the genre.
“We need more features and cooperations between and among the local talent in the region. Moroccans with Egyptians, Iraqis with the Saudis … Because when you go back to what I said about reggaeton if you look at the way that they created the sound, and the way that they created this movement it was actually networking with each other,” he said.
The industry must have a “stronger domestic market” in order to grow, said Soto.
“You want to reach a certain level of presence on a global level. We have to define global, it’s about the ability to present your music in many territories, I think that is very doable. Most of the emerging market territories that I manage, they have a strong diaspora so in reality they can really bring in music and play, they have a fan base that work.”
With AI on the rise, Soto said that it would impact the global music industry in positive ways, in creating better sounds and marketing.
Soto encourages aspiring artists to work hard.
“I think that this market is just awaking. You see the numbers and there are some ups and downs in the growth, but I think that up to two or three quarters ago, MENA was the fastest growing market in the world. Then they came a little bit of a plateau, but I think that the growth and the opportunities for the artists are unstoppable.”
XP Music Futures — set to run until Dec. 9 — is the annual precursor to the region’s largest music festival, Soundstorm, organized by Saudi Arabia music platform MDLBEAST.
Escape to Okinawa, Japan’s historic island paradise
The prefecture offers outstanding scenery, plenty of history and culture, and a laidback vibe
Updated 08 December 2023
OKINAWA: Located at the intersection of trade routes that linked Japan, China, south-east Asia and the tiny islands that dot the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa has adopted flavors from all its neighbors, but still managed to remain true to its cultural and historic roots.
Those influences can be tasted in the area’s cuisine and witnessed in its unique architectural styles, festivals and attitudes that are more laidback Pacific than formal Japanese. And local people — descendants of the Ryukyuan Kingdom that was absorbed into Japan in 1872 — still take a fierce pride in being distinct.
Now Japan’s most southerly prefecture, Okinawa consists of more than 150 islands, dotted between southern Kyushu to a point just over the horizon from Taiwan. Some of the more remote islands are uninhabited while others have just a handful of homes in communities that have changed little in generations. Bullocks pull wooden carts across the beach flats and the sound of three-string “shamisen” being plucked floats on the warm evening air.
The lifestyles of those outer islands is quite a contrast to Naha, the regional capital — less than two hours’ flying time from Tokyo and connections to the Middle East.
Kokusaidori runs for more than 2 km through the heart of the city and, while touristy, is still the best place to get your first taste of Okinawa. Cafes, bars, boutiques and gaudy stores selling trinkets are cheek-by-jowl.
Okinawan cuisine is a blend of many influences, with fish abundant in the surrounding waters, pork imported from China when the Ryukyus were still independent and fruits and spices from south-east Asia. For non-Muslims, no visit would be complete without sampling goya champuru, the islands’ signature dish that typically combines pork, tofu, eggs and goya, a green gourd with its own distinctive, bitter taste. Pork belly (rafute), simmered in soy sauce before being glazed with brown sugar, is another favorite, along with the local take on soba noodles.
Just off Kokusaidori is the covered market where many of the restaurants source their ingredients every day. In a warren of narrow alleyways, stalls are also piled high with every conceivable household utensil, local fabrics and electronic gadgets that you never knew you needed.
Naha is overlooked from the east by Shuri Castle. The main elements of the UNESCO World Heritage site were razed to the ground by fire in 2019, but work is underway to rebuild the iconic red structure and it is expected to once again be fully open to visitors by 2026.
Despite the damage, the castle is still worth visiting. The fortified buildings on the site dating back to the 12th century CE, when Shuri was the center of Ryukyuan politics, diplomacy and culture. An earlier version of the castle was designated a national treasure in 1925, but was destroyed in the fierce fighting that took place in Okinawa in the closing stages of World War II.
Its outer fortifications, gateways and courtyards escaped damage in the most recent fire, and their gracefully curving walls of limestone are markedly different from traditional Japanese castles. A series of decorated gateways lead deeper into the complex, their designs reflecting Chinese as well as Japanese and Ryukyuan influences.
Okinawa’s islands are dotted with fortresses that were the power bases of local warlords, with Zakimi Castle another well-preserved example dating from the early 1400s. On the west coast of the main island, it dominates a hill overlooking the town of Yomitan and its thick walls complement the curves of the coastline below.
The islands’ recent history is overshadowed by the brutal battles that took place here in 1945. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum opened in 1975 to give a fuller sense of the human tragedy. Built atop sea cliffs in the far south of the prefecture, on the site of the Imperial Japanese Army’s last stand, the museum’s gardens have rings of tall black stones bearing the names of each of the more than 250,000 men, women and children who died in the fighting here, regardless of nationality. A short walk away, along an avenue lined with memorials to the dead of each of Japan’s prefectures, is the tiny cave where the commanding officer of the defeated defenders committed suicide rather than surrender.
Peace has once more returned to Okinawa and for anyone in search of true tranquility, consider a trip to Iriomote, the second-largest of the islands. It is famous for its unspoiled natural environment and a unique species of wild cat.
Its sparse coastal communities are linked by a single road and the island’s interior is largely untouched — and protected as a national park. Visitors can explore by sea kayak, while a 20-km trail leads through the jungles of the interior and the mangrove swamps of the coast, all providing an enviable escape from the pace of modern city life.
New book tackles climate change for children launched in English and Arabic
Updated 08 December 2023
RIYADH: How do young people feel about climate change? That question is being posed through a new children's picture book, published to coincide with the launch of the climate change conference COP28 in Dubai.
The book, which is available in both English and Arabic, is called "Earth Champs," and it contains 44 diverse artworks made by youngsters aged 5-17 from around the globe.
“We wanted to convey a message about an important cause, like climate change, through art. We wanted to see how children view climate change and we were surprised with the results," Lateefa Alnuaimi, the Emirati founder of LFE Art Culture, the institution that supported the book’s creation, told Arab News. "They know what it’s about, but they don’t how to express it, so we gave them a paper and a pen, and of course, they drew. Each young person expressed what's inside of them."
To gather the work for the book, Alnuaimi put out an open call to international schools in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She received nearly 1,500 entries. The selected pieces range from sculpture to photography and drawing. They depict animals and plants, as well as environments that are in danger. There are elements of both hope and concern.
“What shocked me was their way of thinking and how talented they are with the way they handle a paintbrush or a camera," Alnuaimi said. "They were professional, which indicates how educated they are."
Alnuaimi also mentioned that today's generation of children are more aware of the urgency of climate change.
“It was important to show people that children care about climate change. They’re not a silent voice — they 'spoke' about it through art,” she said.
Thirty copies of the book have already been privately gifted to UAE ministers and sheikhs. After COP28 ends on Dec. 12, Alnuaimi hopes to make "Earth Champs" available to purchase online and in shops. “It’s a book from the UAE to the world,” she said.
She also offered advice about how adults and educational institutions can encourage children in the region to look after the environment:
"It's important to host workshops on climate change, educate students to properly use electricity, and partake in campaigns of cleaning the ocean and the desert," she said.
Abu Dhabi’s Erth eatery was awarded one Michelin star, making it the first Emirati restaurant to earn a star. The restaurants that retained stars are 99 Sushi Bar, Hakkasan and Talea by Antonio Guida, bringing the city’s total star-holding eateries to four.
Two new eateries made it to the Bib Gourmand category: Al-Mrzab and Oii. The eateries that retained their Bib Gourmand status are are Otoro, Almayass, Beirut Sur Mer and T’azal.
The Service Award went to Chandran Thanggaraja at Kopitiam by Chandy’s, the Young Chef Award was awarded to Rigers Cuka at Oii and the Opening of the Year Award was given to James Soo Yong Kim at Les Dangereux.
There were once again no two or three Michelin Star restaurants, and no restaurants lost stars.