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The DJ and event producer on the success of the digital MDLBeast Freqways festival, the growth of the Saudi live scene and the abundance of local talent
By IQ on 27 Jul 2020
Ahmad Alammary, chief creative officer of Jeddah-based entertainment company MDLBeast, has said the success of its recent Freqways festival further underlines Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a live music market to watch.
Alammary describes MDLBeast (pronounced “Middle Beast”) as an “entertainment and lifestyle experiences brand with a focus on music, art and culture”. Founded by a group of “ambitious professionals [from] various backgrounds and disciplines”, the company’s first event, the MDLBeast festival, took place in December 2019, with performers including Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix and David Guetta, as well as a number of local DJs.
“It was iconic, historic and a truly groundbreaking moment in Riyadh,” recalls Alammary, who also DJs under the name Baloo. “People really enjoyed what we prepared, and we pulled it off in record time.”
In keeping with the times, MDLBeast’s second festival was an all-digital affair: a 12-hour, multi-stage online event that took place from 20 to 21 June. MDLBeast Freqways again featured a mix of international and local talent, with Baloo and compatriots Cosmicat, Antabi Brothers and Jade and Tala rubbing shoulders with the likes of Aoki, Afrojack, Claptone, Maceo Plex and Benny Banassi during the free-to-watch live stream.
Freqways – which ran from 7pm to 7am local time – was seen by more than 650,000 people and recorded 1.2 million total views, with attendees in 185 countries across the Middle East, North America and Europe, according to MDLBeast.
“There are so many talented artists in our region”
The DJs performed live from their own cities, allowing those with an MDLBeast Freqways ‘boarding pass’ to visit destinations including Las Vegas (Aoki), Zurich (EDX), Rotterdam (Afrojack), Beirut (Jade and Tala), Paris (Phil Weeks) and Thee Ain, Saudi Arabia (Baloo).
“We wanted to develop something that anyone could relate to, and that we were all longing for,” explains Alammary. “Discovery, travel, culture, dancing, nature, heritage: all these came into play, and we produced 30 videos in locations around the world.”
“We realised that we needed to give people a sense of escapism,” he continues. “We wanted to remind people, virtually, that there is so much to see around the world, even through a screen – to bring people around the world together through a virtual musical experience.”
A “string of future events” are in the pipeline for MDLBeast, including further Freqways ‘flights’ and more “physical events, once we feel it’s safe again”, according to Alammary.
Events like MDLBeast/Freqways, as well as the growing number of shows in Saudi Arabia more generally, illustrate how “accepting and encouraging of cultural events” Saudi music fans are, he says. (Other recent festival successes include Jeddah World Fest and Winter at Tantora, while artists including Mariah Carey, BTS and Marshmello have played headline shows.)
“It was iconic, historic and a truly groundbreaking moment in Riyadh”
“People all over the world love music,” continues Alammary, and Saudis are no different: “Saudis are musical people; we love to dance!”
While many foreign observers focus on the newfound ability of Saudi Arabia to attract major international artists, Alammary says MDLBeast is committed to using its platform to showcase and developing local talent. “There is a big community of music-lovers in Saudi,” he says, and “Saudi DJs have been seeing great popularity on a local and regional level” after years of playing underground.
“There are so many talented artists in our region,” he concludes, “and we wanted to create a platform that celebrates them and our own perspective of nightlife and entertainment.
“There’s so much more coming, and we’re excited about bringing it to the surface.”
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