Swiss music to be highlighted at Riyadh concert

Swiss artists Marc Aymon and Milla Besson. (Supplied)
Swiss artists Marc Aymon and Milla Besson. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 April 2024
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Swiss music to be highlighted at Riyadh concert

Swiss artists Marc Aymon and Milla Besson. (Supplied)
  • Marc Aymon and Milla Besson performing at event

RIYADH: The Swiss Embassy in Riyadh — in cooperation with the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise — is hosting a music concert on April 18 at the Cultural Palace in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter. It aims to showcase French-language Swiss music through performances by Swiss artists Marc Aymon and Milla Besson.

Born in 1982 in Sion, Switzerland, Aymon has released four albums and his music has reached audiences across South America, Iran, the US, Africa, and the French-speaking world. Aymon has performed at various concerts and festivals, including the Paleo Festival in Nyon in 2006 and 2013.

Aymon and Besson recently gave an exclusive French-language interview to Arab News in which they told of their love of Swiss culture.

Aymon said: “It (Swiss culture) represents the authenticity of nature, elegance, precision, and quality.

“Swiss culture is inspiring just about everywhere. It’s a wonderful country to leave and return to. I believe in movement. I like to be a Swiss artist who arrives on time, who is very precise and fussy, but who doesn’t hesitate to change all the plans and go through the window when all the doors remain closed.”

His passion for music has been recognized on European and global stages. He added: “It’s a passion for memory, for archives, for the emotions we all share.

“I fell in love with an old song from 1890 and thought it was beautiful before I knew it was part of Switzerland's heritage.”

Aymon will be performing for the first time in Saudi Arabia with Besson.

He added: “We’re going to be playing in a magnificent auditorium, a very large room equipped with a great sound system.

“I’m looking forward to unplugging my guitar, in total acoustic mode, (and) asking people to stop filming us with their phones to experience a moment of disarming simplicity.”

Besson, who was born in 2000, is a Swiss singer-songwriter who has been collaborating and composing with singers Aymon and Jeremie Kisling, and the duo Aliose, since 2019.

She said: “We all have important encounters that shape our lives. Marc Aymon was the first person to take my music seriously, to see in me what I didn’t dare to see, and to offer me my first stages and studio experiences. He helped me to make my mark, to become solid and free artistically.

“This is my first time in Saudi Arabia and Riyadh. Like any first time there’s a certain mystery and excitement about it. I'm looking forward to discovering this new country, its people, and its culture.”

The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. on April 18 and free tickets can be obtained from https://dqa-et.e-ticket.app/events/9bac8509-623a-4696-b0ee-e1f988982f2a.

* This article is a translation of an article published on Arab News en francais, click here to read it.


US and Australia envoys laud Saudi women for social, economic achievements

US and Australia envoys laud Saudi women for social, economic achievements
Updated 7 sec ago
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US and Australia envoys laud Saudi women for social, economic achievements

US and Australia envoys laud Saudi women for social, economic achievements
  • Success in tech, finance, diplomacy, says American diplomat
  • Key work with Australia to ‘promote trade and remove barriers’

RIYADH: The envoys of Australia and the US have praised women in Saudi Arabia for their work and achievements across all sectors of the country’s economy.

In a recent interview with Arab News, the US’ Deputy Chief of Mission Alison Dilworth and Australia’s Deputy Head of Mission Kim Ralston reflected on their experiences working alongside Saudi Arabia’s women and witnessing firsthand their perseverance.

“I have been incredibly impressed with the Saudi women I have met here in the Kingdom. From tech and finance to the arts, to diplomacy, Saudi women are achieving new heights, and I am proud to work with them,” Dilworth said.

Each month, in partnership with other embassies, the US Embassy hosts a Women’s Majlis  to celebrate women’s accomplishments, experiences and share expertise in a private and intimate setting.

“Through the Women’s Majlis, a series of monthly events co-hosted with the Australian, New Zealand, German, and British embassies, and with HRH Ambassador Reema bint Bandar, we have explored the themes of ‘Women in Defense,’ ‘Women in Tech,’ ‘Women in the Visual Arts,’ ‘Women in Poetry’ and ‘Women in Shariah Law,’” Dilworth said.

The idea of the majlis was created in 2019 in a collaboration between the American, Australian, British and Canadian embassies in Abu Dhabi.

“We work with Saudi women across all aspects of our work. As an example, Australia and Saudi Arabia enjoy close relations in agriculture and food security, with embassy staff working closely with female counterparts to promote trade and remove barriers,” Ralston said.

Since her arrival in the Kingdom in 2023, Ralston has worked with Saudi Arabia women in the public and private sectors, sports, and the arts.

Ralston said “Saudi women are intelligent and driven. They are open, warm, and passionate about their work. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their goals and objectives, which are not unlike my own.”

“I have particularly enjoyed sharing experiences with women on social policy matters. The talented women at the Quality of Life Program have inspired me as they encourage culture, entertainment, sports, and tourism to flourish in Saudi Arabia,” Ralston added.

She explained how impressed she was by the Kingdom’s focus on ensuring women are represented in areas where they have not traditionally worked, including the military.

When asked how she would characterize the ambitions of the Kingdom’s females, Dilworth said: “Saudi women never stop reaching for the next level.”

“I admire them (they are) fearless,” she added.

She said that when she asks Saudi Arabia women about what they will do next, they immediately say: “I want to run the business, become the next minister, or set the next record.”

The most recent majlis took place in Riyadh on May 21 at the German Embassy and focused on women in the technology sector.

One of the previous events was co-hosted by the US and Australia embassies and titled “Women in Poetry.”

Dilworth said: “We had five outstanding female poets present their original works, which were creative and inspiring. Then, to our surprise, five other women stood up and presented their poems.”

“I was so happy to see women sharing this Saudi pastime and such a key aspect of Saudi culture,” she added.

Dilworth said these events build cooperation between women from Saudi Arabia and the US. “I have witnessed the achievements of US women working in diplomacy over my 27-year career, and I am proud to be a female diplomat.

“Through sharing our stories, and hearing from others, we all add to the journey of women throughout the world who want to achieve and to make the world a better place for all.”

She added that outside the Kingdom and among those who have never visited the country, there are still many misconceptions surrounding Saudi Arabia’s women. People who have not interacted with them are not aware of their successes, drive and ambition.

When asked about her expectations before coming to the Kingdom, Dilworth said: “I did not expect Saudi women to be so prepared, so ready for the next opportunity. I wrongly assumed Saudi women would need to learn various tradecrafts, how to drive, how to run a business.

“What I found was an extremely educated, motivated, and talented workforce of women who had gained experience and knowledge either outside the country or behind closed doors, and when opportunities opened up, they were not only ready but they were also driven to prove what they can do and achieve.”

The US deputy chief of mission said that she encourages those who question the talents and motivations of Saudi Arabia’s women to “come and see for themselves.”

“Come to the Kingdom and meet the women living and working here and advancing Saudi society. Just like there are many misconceptions about the United States that we can correct when visitors come and see our beautiful country, having visitors meet women and interact here in Saudi Arabia is vitally important,” she said.

Ralston said that before arriving in the Kingdom from Australia she knew very little about Saudi Arabia, adding that “it was difficult to find information.

“I arrived with a strong sense of curiosity and was keen to hear about the strides made by women here. I was impressed to hear that Saudi Arabia was recently ranked 15th in the world on wage equality in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2023.”

When asked what her views on the misconceptions, Ralston said: “Misconceptions don’t concern me — they exist in every country.

“Over time, people’s perspectives of Saudi Arabia will be shaped by their own experiences, particularly as more people visit the country. Around the world, Saudi Arabia also has many female ambassadors making a positive impression.”

This includes those working in the private sector, studying abroad and even serving at the Saudi Embassy, Ralston added.


Going above and beyond: Hajar Al-Naim on shepherding local film talent

Going above and beyond: Hajar Al-Naim on shepherding local film talent
Updated 2 min 44 sec ago
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Going above and beyond: Hajar Al-Naim on shepherding local film talent

Going above and beyond: Hajar Al-Naim on shepherding local film talent
  • Saudi producer’s training company nurtures below-the-line creatives

DHAHRAN: It has been a busy month for Hajar Al-Naim, a Saudi film producer paving the way for creatives by building a road map for the region’s burgeoning film industry.

Her company, Studio Production Training, recently made its third appearance at the 77th Cannes International Film Festival in France, taking its Saudi-centric model to new heights.

After earning her master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in the US, Al-Naim returned to her homeland to build the infrastructure that budding local and international filmmakers previously lacked in the Kingdom.

Her company, launched in 2021, connects filmmakers with qualified below-the-line (BTL) talent, the support and film crew teams working behind the scenes on productions. Cinematographers, sound technicians, editors and specialists in makeup, hair and wardrobes play a vital role in film. High-level creative roles, such as screenwriters, directors and producers as well as the principal cast are known as above-the-line talent.

The short courses Al-Naim curates with experts in the field are held in Riyadh. (Supplied)

At SPT, which is headquartered in Riyadh, Al-Naim’s custom program provides training, mentoring, production resources and access to networks within the industry. “We’re on a mission to cultivate a robust infrastructure of BTL talent in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Naim told Arab News.

“The main goal of the fund is to inspire and attract the new generation to join the field of filmmaking, and we will work to train and develop them through our partnerships and initiatives,” Al-Naim said. “We seek to celebrate the voices of professionals in this sector, and we work to build a bridge between young talents and expert filmmakers to develop the industry and enhance the interaction between them, and bring them and their work to the world.

“We are the first of its kind in the Kingdom and I’m so glad that we’re making history, starting from our training program that we’re doing with the Cultural Fund,” she added.

“We’re filling in the gap in the industry where we can take all the participants who want to join the film industry and take them through our ecosystem from education into job placements.”

The short courses Al-Naim curates with experts in the field are held in Riyadh. From there, SPT recruits working professionals to bring them on to film sets. Al-Naim said that professionals of all stripes can find a niche in the industry.

“We want people from different industries to realize that they can use their skills in the film industry. The interior designers, the fashion designers, accountants, project managers … they can use their education and their degree and put it toward the industry,” she added.

The training programs are meant to be intense. Her team curates each course — which usually lasts two to five days — with an instructor, focusing on three pillars: Knowledge, mindset and safety.

“We’re trying to apply a high-caliber, world-class kind of training, because we want those international productions, when they come to the region, to not have to bring their whole crew to Saudi Arabia. They use our crew,” she added.

This year, the Saudi Film Festival returned to the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, in Dhahran. Al-Naim’s company offered prizes to specific filmmakers, all of whom were nominated for the Saudi Film Festival awards, from a fund of SR100,000 ($26,600).

Aside from her CEO duties at SPT, Al-Naim is also a founding member of the Saudi Film Council, which launched in 2018, and the founder and chairwoman of Her Films, a Saudi nonprofit dedicated to the elevation and empowerment of women in film.

This year, the Saudi Film Festival returned to the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, in Dhahran. (Supplied)

“A lot of filmmakers appreciate all the initiatives that we’re doing because they know that it’s coming from me … they know that it’s coming from someone who struggled like them. They appreciate the experience that I went through to be able to step back and try to support them,” she said.

Al-Naim’s face lights up when she speaks about her team. “I met Steve (Stephen Andrew Martin) when I was in (graduate) school. I’ve done my first movie with him, so we have a lot in common — and we love supporting others. And it’s interesting for an American white guy who comes from Texas originally to share the same values with me,” she said of her co-founder.

Martin brings his connections, expertise and passion to SPT.

“Communication is the key in our organization,” Al-Naim added, highlighting the importance of having a clear vision for the organization. “We have a document called ‘Compass,’ and we try to identify where we’re going, why we’re doing what we’re doing, how can we reach the right audience, and how can we leave them with the best feeling and experience.”

SPT’s first collaboration was with streaming giant Netflix as part of a program. Trained professionals that went through the program ended up on Netflix series.

SPT training sessions, for professionals and beginners, are held in-person at the Riyadh location, with class sizes kept to a maximum of 15 people.

Since its launch, about 300 trainees have benefited from SPT’s program.

The organization has previously brought in instructors from the UK and Turkiye, and recently began a collaborative sponsoring program with the US Embassy, for the American Film Showcase.

Despite some of the hurdles and red tape, Al-Naim is hopeful that the Kingdom’s filmmaking industry is bright. With ample opportunities opening for aspiring filmmakers, she sees the sector as a thriving hub to continue telling Saudi stories.

“It’s all going toward the right direction,” Al-Naim said.


Health awareness campaign educates Hajj pilgrims

Health awareness campaign educates Hajj pilgrims
Updated 13 min 26 sec ago
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Health awareness campaign educates Hajj pilgrims

Health awareness campaign educates Hajj pilgrims

RIYADH: A health awareness campaign in several languages has been launched by the Madinah Health Cluster for Hajj pilgrims, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The campaign, being run in conjunction with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Madinah Development Authority, started as the first group of pilgrims arrived in Madinah earlier this month.

The initiative involves 97 smart display screens at locations including Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport, the Haramain High Speed Railway station, shuttle buses, pilgrim reception centers, malls and the health cluster’s facilities.

It also uses various media and social platforms to publish posts in English, French, Urdu, Persian and Arabic. Field tours by health personnel target places frequented by pilgrims, including hotels.

Messages cover issues such as the dangers of direct sun exposure, heat exhaustion, dehydration, food poisoning, first aid, personal hygiene and other health topics.


Saudi cabinet reaffirms its rejection of Israeli violations of international law

Saudi cabinet reaffirms its rejection of Israeli violations of international law
Updated 1 min 58 sec ago
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Saudi cabinet reaffirms its rejection of Israeli violations of international law

Saudi cabinet reaffirms its rejection of Israeli violations of international law

The Saudi Council of Ministers reiterated on Tuesday its firm rejection of Israel's ongoing violations of international resolutions and laws.

The cabinet emphasized the urgent need for international intervention to alleviate the unprecedented humanitarian crisis faced by the Palestinian people.

At the outset of the session, King Salman extended his appreciation to those who sent well-wishes for his health and well-being.

The cabinet then reviewed messages exchanged between King Salman and the President of the Republic of Senegal, as well as communications between the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and leaders from the French Republic and Japan. These communications focused on enhancing bilateral relations and opportunities for development across various fields.

The council commended the success of the Future of Aviation Conference 2024 held in Riyadh, highlighting broad international participation, the signing of over 100 agreements and memorandums of understanding, and investments announced, contributing to advancements in the aviation sector and consolidating the Kingdom's position regionally and globally.

The council also acknowledged new world records achieved by the Kingdom in reducing the cost of wind energy production, supporting efforts to diversify energy sources, export renewable energy, and increase the use of clean energy, aligning with local and international environmental conservation objectives.

 


King Salman issues royal order to host 1,000 pilgrims from families of Palestinian victims

King Salman issues royal order to host 1,000 pilgrims from families of Palestinian victims
Updated 23 min 33 sec ago
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King Salman issues royal order to host 1,000 pilgrims from families of Palestinian victims

King Salman issues royal order to host 1,000 pilgrims from families of Palestinian victims
  • There will be 1,300 pilgrims from over 88 countries

King Salman has issued a royal order to host 1,300 pilgrims from over 88 countries, including 1,000 pilgrims from the families of Palestinian victimes, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

There will also be 22 pilgrims from the families of conjoined twins who were separated in the Kingdom.

Minister of Islamic Affairs, Abdul Latif bin Abdulaziz, extended his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their generous gesture. He emphasized that this reflects their ongoing commitment to the well-being of Muslims worldwide, supporting Islam and fostering unity and brotherhood through Hajj, all funded by King Salman.

The ministry provides comprehensive services in Makkah and Medina to facilitate this initative.

Since the issuance of the royal order, the ministry has prepared to host these pilgrims, creating a strategic plan involving several committees dedicated to assisting the guests from their departure to their return, ensuring they can perform Umrah and Hajj with ease, visit Medina, and pray in the Prophet's Mosque.

Over its 26-year history, the program has hosted more than 60,000 pilgrims.