Who’s Who: Mohammed A. Al-Ghazal, co-founder and CEO of Noor Energies Group Ltd.

RIYADH: An electronic music festival billed as one of the biggest in the world, and a sign of Saudi Arabia’s growing entertainment industry, drew hundreds of thousands of people to a desert. away from Riyadh for the past three days.

Rave-goers in the third edition of Soundstorm filled the stages, wearing an eclectic mix of local Bedouin clothes, Saudi national clothes, and streetwear in the form of colorful hoodies and clothes with the addition of glitter make-up.

MDL Beast, the Saudi entertainment company that launched the festival in 2019, is one of the most prominent examples of the rapid social change that has swept the Kingdom since the Crown Prince’s reform plan was established Mohammed bin Salman 2030 to 2016.

Last year more than 730,000 people attended the four-day festival, and this year organizers are hoping for even higher numbers for the three-day festival, which ends on December 3. .

Soundstorm demonstrates the power of music to bring people together for shared moments of joy.

“This is about love,” American musician and rapper DJ Khaled shouted from the Big Beast stage on Friday in his first performance in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

With MDL Beast introducing rap and hip-hop to this year’s lineup, rap legends Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Future, Rick Ross and T.I. join DJ Khaled on stage at “DJ Khaled & Friends.”

The inclusion of hip-hop stars also points to Soundstorm’s expansion into music genres, bringing together top Saudi and Arabic artists with international acts – a sign of the Many international artists want to work in the Kingdom.

“The ideas from international talent are very good, and we are seeing more artists from other countries looking to come to our festival to work, in line with our mission to provide fans of the best experience,” said Talal Al-Bahiti, MDL Beast’s managing director, and head of talent bookings and events, in a statement.

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International headliners playing for the first time include Bruno Mars, Marshmello and Post Malone. Also DJs, such as Carl Cox, DJ Snake and David Guetta, lit up the stage, while a strong group of female Saudi DJs, such as Biirdperson, DJ Cosmicat, Dorar, Kayan and Solskin joined along with their partners Dish Dash, Vinylmode and regional star. DJ Aseel, making this year’s lineup unique to date.

“We have strong female Saudi DJs now,” Danah, 27, a Saudi DJ who plays at Soundstorm at VIB, told Arab News.

Saudi music, underground, has become a “beautiful culture of mutual inspiration,” he said.

“A DJ will give me his gear; “We all share and encourage each other,” she said. “It’s a great way to encourage women to encourage women to play music, men to encourage women to play music, and not only that. to fill the gap in the market. We continue to spread this love today.”

“The event shows our great openness,” said Ahmad Alammary, chief development officer at MDL Beast and a DJ known as Baloo.

“If Soundstorm is a middle name, it will be praised,” he said. “We want to improve the way we plan the event. Since last year, we have learned more about people’s behavior, what they want. And there is a lot of room for growth. come with this fast movement and way of life.”

This year’s festival experience has been expanded for Premium and VIB — The Most Important Animal or VIP — who moved from stage to stage to exclusive viewing areas through a connected network of high-speed walkways like big loops.

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The expanded Soundstorm facility also includes open-air seating in the form of park-like spaces combined with food and beverage facilities, as well as on-site parking for pass holders.

The festival, which follows the three-day XP Music Conference at the JAX district of Diriyah, marks Saudi Arabia’s rapid expansion.

“Heading into our third edition of Soundstorm, we are now working with the recognition of the festival’s huge impact in helping to inspire, unite and grow the music scene and with the Ministry of the Government and public areas,” said MDL Beast CEO Ramadan Al-Haratani told Arab News.

After the start of Soundstorm in 2019, “the economic and social impact is unpredictable,” he said.

Soundstorm is fueling the growth of soft power in Saudi Arabia after years of closure. The festival gives Saudis renewed pride in their country through the development and enjoyment of music on a personal and collective level, he said.

“It has provided a platform for many talents in the country and allowed Saudis to discover these unexpected talents.”

According to MDL Beast, 83 percent of young Saudis believe that Soundstorm has increased opportunities for local musicians and producers in the country, with 86 percent of young Saudis saying that it has Their pride in the work and culture in Saudi Arabia grew because of the first festival.

MDL Beast said that demand for international artists is up 36.5 percent for 12 months after the first Soundstorm in 2019, according to the IMS Business Report 2021.

According to Al-Haratani, the festival shows how “the expansion of the music ecosystem can be a major factor in changing the life of the Kingdom, connecting Saudi fans with creating international art they love, and creating new venues and record labels and sustaining the growth of our growing music ecosystem.”

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Among the challenges that MDL Beast faced was how to serve a large crowd of men and women dancing the night away in a country unheard of in several years. passed away.

After several harassment claims during the first and second editions, MDL Beast launched the “Respect and Reset” anti-harassment campaign, and said it would take action against the harasser. or abuse.

Signs with “Respect & Reset” and “Visit our R&R centers for help with abuse” were posted everywhere. A designated white tent was built to help victims of abuse.

Al-Haratani said security has been increased this year to over 3,800 workers at the site, with an estimate of one guard for every 35 visitors. Additionally, the festival was monitored by more than 300 CCTV cameras. Free water is available around the clock everywhere.

Baloo said the festival setup will include “safe dance areas.”

“If someone doesn’t feel safe or just wants to dance alone or with men, then we have created sections in the main stages where women and men can go to dance with pleasure,” Arab News reported. “Everyone is welcome to come.”

“In the last three years, things have changed from zero to 100 here,” Lana Alsherif, 23, the website editor for XP Music Futures, told Arab News .

“It’s great to see this for the music industry. Everything is working now. There are many opportunities and everyone wants to find talent. We want to build relationships with everyone here in Saudi, promote local talent and bring international artists. We want to be the new brand for the music industry.

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