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First Riyadh International Jazz Festival announced

Chaka Khan will headline the inaugural event, which will be held from 7-9 February at the Mayadeen Theatre in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

By James Hanley on 31 Jan 2024

Chaka Khan

image © Jo Metson Scott

Iconic American singer Chaka Khan has been confirmed as the headliner of the inaugural Riyadh International Jazz Festival in Saudi Arabia.

Announced at just a week’s notice, the festival will take place from 7-9 February at the Mayadeen Theatre in Diriyah. Set over three evenings, the event will feature renowned international artists performing alongside emerging Arab artists. Tickets start at SAR 120 (€30).

The festival is produced by the Music Commission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of 11 sector specific commissions under the Ministry of Culture. The commission was established to oversee the further development and growth of the Kingdom’s music sector through the launch of various initiatives, educational programs, events, festivals and the establishment of venues such as The Warehouse and the recently announced Royal Diriyah Opera House.

“The first Riyadh International Jazz Festival is a unique opportunity to host some of the world’s most renowned music artists alongside amazing Saudi talents,” says Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Saudi Music Commission. “It is an important step in supporting the further development of the music sector locally.”

Pacifico was CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition and latterly the UK’s Association of Independent Music (AIM), prior to taking on his current role 12 months ago.

The festival lineup includes international musicians such as Chaka Khan, The Cat Empire, Masego, Hiatus Kaiyote, YolanDa Brown and Kokoroko

The festival lineup includes international musicians such as Khan, The Cat Empire, Masego, Hiatus Kaiyote, YolanDa Brown and Kokoroko, alongside up-and-coming artists from the Arab music scene including Garwasha and Majaz.

In addition, it will feature a Jazz Cafe where clarinettist Peter Long and his orchestra will perform each night with a rotating line-up of vocalists, including Saudi artists Nourah Sings & Mazen Lawand, Sarah Alshafie, Loulwa and Abdullah Filfilan.

Metallica performed the first major heavy metal concert in Saudi Arabia last month, headlining the opening night of MDLBeast’s Soundstorm festival in Riyadh.

The country’s ongoing efforts to attract and host A-list live entertainment was documented in IQ‘s recently published Global Promoters Report 2023. There is great interest in the opening up of the once-closed country, despite criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Chaka Khan was unveiled as the curator of this summer’s Meltdown Festival, set to take place at London’s Southbank Centre between 14-23 June, as a celebration of her 50-year career.


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