Swifties in Saudi Arabia gather for listening party

Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who hosted the Taylor Swift listening party, engaged in dialogue with everyone in the room between songs from the new album. (AN photos)
Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who hosted the Taylor Swift listening party, engaged in dialogue with everyone in the room between songs from the new album. (AN photos)
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Updated 21 April 2024
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Swifties in Saudi Arabia gather for listening party

Swifties in Saudi Arabia gather for listening party
  • Fans of the American pop icon are diving deep into ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ double album

ALKHOBAR: Overlooking the city of Alkhobar, with colorful neon lights shimmering in the night sky, Swifties of the Eastern Province came together to listen to Taylor Swift’s anticipated double album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” on the night of its release.

At the very same time the album started playing in Alkhobar’s Trip Lounge, Riyadh hosted its own listening party at Level Up and Jeddah’s Swifties tuned in from Makan.

It was a full house with almost every seat occupied in Trip Lounge. Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who hosted the event, engaged in dialogue with everyone in the room between songs. Only two of the attendees admitted to listening to the album before coming, but still expressed surprise with others when lyrics began to spill from the speakers.




Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who hosted the Taylor Swift listening party, engaged in dialogue with everyone in the room between songs from the new album. (AN photo)

Zamzam and Hashem, each of whom have demanding day jobs, separately release music. Zamzam, who often performs locally at places such as Bohemia, is the lead singer of the indie/folk band also called Zamzam, and Hashem, a dentist, just released a new song, “The Great Divide,” earlier this month.

Both hosts avoided listening to the album, which had been released earlier in the day, before hosting the Taylor Swift Nights experience. They self-identify as Swifties, as fans of the singer are known, and have combed through Swift’s discography with the attentiveness of a fellow musician.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Riyadh hosted its own listening party for Taylor Swift’s new album ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ at Level Up and Jeddah’s Swifties tuned in from Makan.

• The album’s title has been influenced by the cult classic 1989 film ‘Dead Poets Society.’

• Alkhobar Swifties’ unanimous favorite of the night seemed to be ‘Florida!!!’ which featured Florence & The Machine.

They were the ideal guides to fill the gaps between songs.

“We’re here to listen to Taylor’s new double album because there’s a community here that really likes to listen to things together. We’ve done this before and it was successful, and we’ve been planning this since the album was announced; it’s so much nicer of an experience to have people gasp, yell and cry with you,” Zamzam told Arab News.




Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history. (AN photo)

Swift’s latest release is a chaotic but self-aware collection of 31 songs which all sound like signature Swift, while still offering a new sonic collage of stories made of playful, petty and witty narratives. In almost every song there was a lyric, or a few, which made fans groan or applaud in unison.

Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history.

We’ve been planning this since the album was announced; it’s so much nicer of an experience to have people gasp, yell and cry with you.

Zamzam, Musician

Swift said in an Instagram post announcing the release: “This writer is of the firm belief that our tears become holy in the form of ink on a page. Once we have spoken our saddest story, we can be free of it … and then all that’s left behind is the tortured poetry.”

A songwriter since her teens, Swift has always offered a romantic notion to her work, bending across genres, starting with country and experimenting with various styles since. No matter what style she sings in, Swift’s fans consider her a modern poet who combines the soul of the tortured artist with a playful, never-want-to-grow-up Peter Pan millennial attitude.




Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history. (AN photo)

Swift has made a habit of finding poetic ways to revive the voices and stories of people from the past, especially women, such as the “It Girl” of the the Roaring Twenties, Clara Bow, who one of the tracks on the album is named after.

Speculation on the subject of lyrics is a constant pastime for Swifties, who sift through puns and references in her lyrics in search of cryptic meanings. Swift rarely ever confirms who she writes about or why, so it is all open to interpretation.

The album’s title was rumored to have been influenced by the cult classic 1989 film “Dead Poets Society.” The music video for the song “Fortnight” with Post Malone featured cameos by the film’s beloved stars Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles.

“I think Taylor is finally coming into herself … this is my own interpretation of Taylor, but throughout the years, she really likes to reference classic literature and she’d really like to view herself as an American poet,” Zamzam said. “I read one of her speeches (where) she referenced Emily Dickinson as a huge inspiration for her … I think this was her just finally ripping off a band-aid she’s been wanting to rip off for a while, because she tried with ‘Evermore’ and ‘Folklore’ (previous albums) and was just like, ‘You know what? I'm leaning into it’.”

The listening party featured a calm ambience, dimmed lights and seats lined up as if in an intimate concert. Lyrics scrolled down, karaoke-style, on a big screen. Some in the crowd quickly took to the beat and sang along. Some swayed silently.

The crowd’s unanimous favorite of the night seemed to be “Florida!!!” which featured Florence & The Machine.

The double album, which Swift has said took her two years to write, appeared to have strong influences from her previous work.

Zamzam said that hosting the listening party in her hometown was important as it offered a dedicated space for Swifties, many of whom are from the millennial and gen Z generations. It offered Swifties a chance to come together to celebrate their favorite singer and openly discuss her lyrics.

“Hosting Taylor Swift Nights started in 2021 … I didn’t have anything on my mind, didn’t have any expectations or anything. It was just me and my best friend,” Hashem said of the first time they hosted the event several years ago in Jeddah.

“We didn’t have any expectation but we were blown away at how many people showed up! It was like 100 something. I was shocked. And then it was like ‘OK, there (are) die-hard Swifties here in Saudi Arabia.’ I thought I was the only one,” he added.

He connected with Zamzam and the collaborative effort to host an in-person event for Swifties in Alkhobar was born.

“We managed to find Trip Lounge and we hosted our first TS Nights back in August (last year). Having this community is very wholesome. Like Zamzam mentioned before, it’s having a community to experience happiness, grief and all of that. We are going to hand out tissues, just in case someone wants to cry,” he said.

“And we printed a bunch of papers; one paper so they can comment and rate each song, and one where they can write down their predictions for each track. If they got the prediction right, they can cross it out. It’s like bingo. We want to entertain them (attendees). We don’t want them to be bored,” he added.

Sixth grader Ghada Bajaber, the youngest Swiftie in the room, certainly was not bored. She sipped on lemonade in between scribbling fiercely into her Bingo sheet.

“I’m here with my mom — we always listen to Taylor Swift songs, me and my mom. It is what we do together and it’s special for us,” she told Arab News. “I have exams in two days but I still came. I didn’t study, I didn’t do my homework … I just came to memorize Taylor Swift lyrics — not the multiplication table,” Bajaber added.

 


Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan met in Tokyo on Tuesday his Japanese counterpart Masahito Moriyama.

The pair discussed enhancing cultural cooperation between the two countries within the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030.

Prince Badr said the Kingdom’s participation in Expo 2025 Osaka will offer opportunities to learn about the Saudi culture, history, and future vision.

Moriyama thanked Prince Badr for the Saudi ministry’s efforts in opening new horizons to enhance cultural exchange between the two countries.


Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president

Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president

Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president
  • Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian died on Sunday when their helicopter crashed in dense fog

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Waleed Elkhereiji, on Tuesday offered condolences and sympathy to Iran following the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash.

Elkhereiji delivered the message, on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, to the Iranian ambassador to the Kingdom, Alireza Enayatiat, at the nation’s embassy in Riyadh, the Saudi foreign ministry said. He was accompanied by Abdulmajeed Al-Samari, the deputy minister for protocol affairs, who similarly expressed his condolences.

The Iranian president, foreign minister and six other people were killed on Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed amid dense fog in mountainous terrain near the border with Azerbaijan.


Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
  • The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan
  • Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the prime minister of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
Kishida offered his best wishes for King Salman’s health, a gesture that was appreciated by the crown prince.
The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan. Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery and said that he was also looking forward to strengthening the strategic partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo.
As the two countries approach the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the Japanese prime minister expressed his desire to work even more closely with Saudi Arabia. He emphasized the shared goal of realizing peace and stability in the Middle East, a sentiment that was echoed by the crown prince. The leaders agreed to establish a “strategic partnership council” chaired by them to further strengthen bilateral relations.
Kishida expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia’s stable supply of crude oil to Japan over the years. He also expressed his anticipation for Saudi Arabia to continue playing a leading role in stabilizing the global oil market, including through production increases, a sentiment that was appreciated by the crown prince.
Kishida added that he would like to cooperate in establishing a global supply chain for clean energy, such as hydrogen and ammonia, and promote cooperation in the field of mineral resources while using Japanese technology under the “lighthouse initiative” agreed between the two countries in July last year.
The crown prince said that Saudi Arabia would like to cooperate with Japan in various areas, including clean energy, and the Kingdom remained committed to providing a stable supply of crude oil to Japan.
Kishida expressed interest in creating business opportunities in Saudi Arabia, and making direct investments in Japan in a wide range of fields, including construction, power transmission, hydrogen, digital fields, information and communications technology, space, health, medicine, food and agriculture.
He also said that he would like to work together to achieve an early realization of the Japan-GCC free trade agreement. This agreement, once implemented, will significantly boost trade and investment between Japan and the GCC countries, creating new business opportunities and fostering economic growth. Negotiations are scheduled to resume soon.
The crown prince said that he welcomed the resumption of negotiations for the Japan-GCC free trade agreement and cooperation with Japan in fields beyond energy.
On peace and security, Kishida explained Japan’s diplomatic efforts and contributions in Gaza, including humanitarian aid and diplomatic initiatives. The crown prince said that he envisioned continued cooperation with Japan on diplomatic efforts to realize peace and stability, appreciating Japan’s active role in the region.
Kishida said that he would be pleased to hand over the symbolic “torch” of the expo to Saudi Arabia following Expo 2025 in Osaka-Kansai. This act symbolizes the continuation of the spirit of international cooperation and cultural exchange. He added that he would like to encourage cultural exchanges in entertainment, tourism, academia and football.
The crown prince said that Japan was an outstanding country in terms of culture and that he sought to strengthen cooperation with Japan in this area.
Read More: Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo  


Saudi ministry says no truth in circulated information about livestock withdrawal periods and disease in humans

Ministry has emphasized that the withdrawal period for veterinary drugs varies depending on the active ingredient and the method
Ministry has emphasized that the withdrawal period for veterinary drugs varies depending on the active ingredient and the method
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi ministry says no truth in circulated information about livestock withdrawal periods and disease in humans

Ministry has emphasized that the withdrawal period for veterinary drugs varies depending on the active ingredient and the method

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has said that information in the media on the subject of consumption of meat during the withdrawal period and its possible contribution to liver and kidney diseases in humans — which may include cancerous tumors — is inaccurate.

The ministry has emphasized that the withdrawal period for veterinary drugs varies depending on the active ingredient and the method of administering the dose, whether by injection or topical use. 

The ministry detailed that the scientific analysis in classifying drugs is based on infection-control vaccines which have a globally specified withdrawal period; viral diseases’ antibiotics, which have a precise withdrawal period; and external inflammatory diseases’ mastitis-abscess, which are subject to a temporary withdrawal period.

The ministry and the National Center for the Prevention and Control of Plants and Animal Diseases oversee slaughterhouses across the Kingdom to ensure that animals have not been injected with any veterinary products, by inspecting the animals post-slaughter.

This inspection covers more than 380 slaughterhouses across the Kingdom, supervised by more than 1,050 veterinarians who carefully examine over 22,000 carcasses daily to ensure they are safe and free of disease, injuries, or traces of injections, and confirm their suitability for human consumption.

The ministry has urged citizens and residents to have their animals slaughtered in official slaughterhouses that are subject to the supervision of the ministry and WEQAA.

The ministry has further indicated that, in cooperation with WEQAA, it monitors the use of veterinary products in animal health fields and conducts regulatory inspections at outlets selling veterinary products to ensure establishments abide by the necessary standards and requirements and clarify withdrawal periods to consumers.

Regulatory authorities in the Kingdom also play a meticulous role in approving veterinary drugs, with very high standards.

The ministry carries out field inspections of veterinary pharmacies, following specific requirements, to ensure proper drug storage conditions, expiration dates, and the extent of pharmacies’ commitment to precise prescription of medicines, in addition to providing accurate details to the consumer, including the withdrawal period, dosage, amount of time necessary for withdrawal, and method of administration, to raise awareness among breeders.


New world order must combat money laundering, says French senator Nathalie Goulet

Nathalie Goulet, French senator.
Nathalie Goulet, French senator.
Updated 22 May 2024
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New world order must combat money laundering, says French senator Nathalie Goulet

Nathalie Goulet, French senator.
  • French politician stressed the need for sanctions, regulations to address financial crimes

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plays an important role in the fight against money laundering, French politician Nathalie Goulet said during a forum this week in Riyadh on global uncertainties and their impact on the Middle East region.

Fighting money laundering would create a much more favorable business climate, Goulet said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

The forum, held under the patronage of the King Faisal Islamic Studies and Research Center and in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilizations  and the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, covered key themes including the new world order, which will have to face up to several challenges that call for restrictive, even draconian, measures to weaken the action of parallel economies undermining development and peace processes around the world.  

The forum held in Riyadh covered key themes including climate change and its impact on the economies of the Middle East. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Goulet, a senator for Orne since 2007 and a member of the Union of Democrats and Independents, said that money laundering was a global issue that impacted the stability of countries.

She said that money laundering represented 3 percent of gross world product, which amounted to more than $2,000 billion. “Not all money laundering is the financing of terrorism, but the financing of terrorism involves money laundering,” she told Arab News.

The issues of sustainable development, human rights and economic development are linked to the “parallel economy with money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, plant trafficking, animal trafficking and, of course, corruption,” she said.

A few years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a campaign called ‘No Money for Terror.’ It was a first step, a very important first step, and one that was widely followed.

Nathalie Goulet, French senator

Stressing the need for regulations and frameworks to address the problem of financial crimes, Goulet said that migrant smuggling, which not only involved human beings but organ trafficking and drug smuggling, “brings in as much money as Finland’s national product.

“You have to put figures on it,” she added. “When you have figures, things take on a different consistency … So, it’s an absolutely necessary policy.

“Migrant smuggling alone is worth $7 billion. And you can see that the issue of migrant smuggling is disrupting our societies in Europe, in Italy, in France … (it) is driving up the extreme right.”

The fight against money laundering involved the intervention of a large number of international organizations, but it must comply with strict rules and the effective involvement of the legislative powers of governments and international organizations.

Speaking about efforts to combat corruption and money laundering, Goulet said: “Saudi Arabia has just taken a huge step forward. A few years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a campaign called ‘No Money for Terror.’ It was a first step, a very important first step, and one that was widely followed.”

Recently, Saudi Arabia entered a much more practical phase in the fight against corruption and money laundering. The Kingdom now fulfils almost all the obligations of international organizations, and the Financial Action Task Force and Egmont Group, which met a few days ago in Saudi Arabia.

Elaborating on practical measures that can be taken by countries and organizations, Goulet said that it was “important to hit traffickers in the wallet” through sanctions.

“So, we have all these sanctions, which are individual sanctions, we have collective sanctions, we obviously have all the United Nations sanctions on these issues, and then we have nations like France, which is now applying much tougher legislation on ill-gotten gains.”

Goulet added that it was important to “weigh up a number of criteria. For example, can we be a magnet, a hub for cryptocurrencies, but without trying to regulate them? Can we be a hub for ill-gotten gains from the misappropriation of resources in Africa and at the same time meet international criteria? Can we accept dirty money from Russia and at the same time fight for the liberation of Ukraine? And all this is ‘realpolitik.’”

The FATF’s grey list contains jurisdictions that have been placed under increased monitoring due to a country’s strategic deficiencies, which can significantly affect its business climate. The UAE, Goulet explained as an example, was recently taken off the list “because it has signed a number of conventions but remains on the European Parliament’s grey list of countries.”

If a country is on the list, which indicates that it does not comply with all the rules on money laundering, companies that have headquarters in that jurisdiction are more closely monitored and controlled and this significantly impacts the climate for doing business in.

The Kingdom became the first Arab nation to gain full membership of the FATF in 2019, in line with its efforts and financial and economic programs to achieve Vision 2030, which contributes to supporting the development of the national economy and enhancing the efficiency of the financial sector, one of the important objectives of the Financial Sector Development Program under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance.