10k-cap. Kigali Arena ready to open in Rwanda
Kigali Arena, a multi-purpose live entertainment facility with a seated capacity of 10,000, has been completed and is set to open in the Rwandan capital.
The new event space is among the top ten largest indoor venues in Africa, and the biggest in the Eastern Africa region. It is located next to the multi-purpose Amahoro National Stadium (30,000-cap.).
The arena contains 13 cafes and bars, restaurants, a media hall and a fitness centre, covering an area of 28,000 square metres.
The semi-finals and final of the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) will take place in the arena in March 2020, as well as the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Championships in 2021.
The venue will also host concerts, conferences and exhibitions.
“[Prior to the Kigali Arena] we had no proper arena to host big competitions, festivals and concerts”
“[Prior to the Kigali Arena] we had no proper arena to host big competitions, festivals and concerts,” says John Ntigengwa of the Rwandan ministry for sports and culture, adding the venue is “a great addition”.
The arena is a joint venture between the Rwandan government and Turkish investment company Summa.
Kigali Arena joins a host of other indoor arenas throughout the continent, including the 20,000-capacity Cairo Stadium Indoor Halls Complex in Egypt and Ticketpro Dome in South Africa.
French media conglomerate Vivendi has strengthened its presence in Africa over the past few years, opening 13 CanalOlympia venues, which double as cinemas and live performance spaces, across the continent.
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Full of Eastern Promise: The Middle East matures
It wouldn’t be right to paint the Middle East as a group of markets in which every show happens against a stifling backdrop of troubling politics or clashing cultures. Israel is coming off the back of several boom years; Dubai and Abu Dhabi regularly welcome megawatt international stars and are developing infrastructure at a rapid pace; and Saudi Arabia appears to be suggesting that it wants to become a place where a boy and a girl might go to a concert at the weekend.
But while these are markets of great promise for the western live business, they come with varying degrees of geopolitical complexity, too.
In the Saudi Arabia capital of Riyadh in December, just a year after a resort in the southern port city of Jazan was shut down for hosting a mixed-gender concert, the kingdom staged its first-ever unsegregated music festival. The three-day series of concerts featured Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, David Guetta, Egyptian star Amr Diab and others, in front of a mixed crowd as part of the Saudia Ad Diriyah ePrix motor race.
Most would agree that represented welcome progress. But equally, if Saudi Arabia is to be the next market every hungry agent or global promoter wants to get their teeth into, how do they nibble around the apparently state-sponsored assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, or the bloody war in Yemen?
In Dubai in April, after years of prefab arenas, the emirate will get a permanent one, operated by AEG Ogden with a seated capacity of 17,000, to add to the high-culture opportunities of the two-year-old, 2,000-cap. Dubai Opera. An emerging live market with a heavy flow of holidaymakers and expat professionals needs that kind of investment, if only to keep pace with the well-stocked Abu Dhabi down the coast. That said, the imprisonment of a British academic on disputed spying charges last year was a reminder of the UAE’s less liberal side.
“Saudi Arabia opened up a year, 18 months ago, and this year looks set to be big, with the vision that they have”
Or you could look away from the Gulf and over to the shores of the Mediterranean, and the short tour of Israel in January by tribute band the UK Pink Floyd Experience, who had personally been asked by strident pro-Palestine activist Roger Waters to pull the shows. They did so, then reinstated them, before finally a stand-in line-up performed only non- Waters Floyd tunes while a local tribute band played the Waters-penned ’70s favourites.
It was a routine, if colourful example of the eleven-year campaign by the Waters-supported Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Israel – and chiefly Tel Aviv – remains a busy international live music spot and is a home to western corporates including Live Nation and CTS Eventim. The shows go on, but there’s no avoiding that Israel is, for now at least, a more than averagely controversial tour stop.
Not every year is a good one for concerts – in Tel Aviv, there is talk of a likely slow-down in 2019, though Eurovision in May will raise the city’s profile – but over the longer term, activity is generally increasing in all of these markets. But it is Saudi Arabia, coming from a virtual standing start, that suddenly appears to offer the greatest commercial promise.
Awash with wealth and with a population of more than 32 million, Saudi is working hard to show a liberal face to the world, and it represents an enticing market to exporters of western culture. Until last April, when US chain AMC moved into Riyadh at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom didn’t even have a public cinema.
A mixed-gender concert took place that month, too – the first ever to be sanctioned in the kingdom. Then came the Formula E shows and a first Cirque du Soleil show in Riyadh, amid regular reports of a huge state-backed entertainment push, including plans for NBA basketball, bull runs and dozens of concerts.
“We have a population in Egypt of 95 million, but the class of citizens who can afford premium tickets for show is probably 3–5% of the total population”
If these plans come to fruition, Saudi proposes to be the star of the coming few years in the Middle East. Its stated ambition is to become one of the top-ten global entertainment destinations, and to win back a share of the $20 billion that fun-seeking Saudi nationals spend overseas each year.
At the same time, given the turbulence of the region, markets can come and go at startling speed. “There tend to be peaks and troughs in different countries,” says Lisa Ryan, CCO of EFM Global Logistics, which has a clear overview of the region through its work for promoters, event organisers, government ministries and high-net-worth individuals.
“Saudi Arabia opened up a year, 18 months ago, and this year looks set to be big, with this vision that they have. And meanwhile, in Qatar, where it was all happening a few years ago, there has not been anything going on because of their isolation from the rest of the Middle East.”
One of the territories that is slowly developing in the region is Egypt, where the likes of Feld Entertainment, Broadway Entertainment Group, Harlem Globetrotters and WWE have taken their touring productions in recent years.
“We have a population in Egypt of 95 million, but the class of citizens who can afford premium tickets for show is probably between 3–5% of the total population,” states Moussa Abu Taleb, managing director of local events company Event House.
“We put a bunch of shows on sale in 2018 and every single one of them sold out, and that has got to mean something is happening here”
He tells IQ that Alchemy Projects are reportedly launching an Egyptian operation in the near future, which should help further develop the local live entertainment market. And he notes some of the spectacular venues that shows can utilise, making the most of the country’s historic landmarks – recent events include a 15,000-capacity Red Hot Chili Peppers gig, promoted by White Sands Entertainment at the Great Pyramids of Giza, while Richard Clayderman visited the Manara Theatre on 15 February for a Valentine’s classical night.
“There are very high taxes on tickets here: 25%,” continues Abu Taleb. “Egypt can’t pay the same amounts that other countries in the Middle East do for artist fees, while government support is very poor, as they rarely help with events.” Nonetheless, he is optimistic that live music in particular should be an area of growth in coming years. “All the success factors are available if we have a proper list of artists and reasonable artists fees,” he concludes.
Promoters have come and gone in Dubai over the years, some aiming higher than others, often anticipating a profitable boom that has never yet fully materialised. The current line-up chiefly involves Live Nation, veteran Done Events, and a handful of festival and party promoters. Meanwhile, long-serving local promoter Thomas Ovesen, formerly of Done Events and 117Live, in March departed his role as inaugural chief programming officer at Dubai Arena to go back into the promoting game.
Live Nation Middle East, based in Dubai, has enjoyed its best year to date in the region, according to Zaed Maqbool, VP Middle East/South Asia, with George Ezra, Dave Chappelle and French-Canadian-Moroccan comedian Gad Elmaleh all selling out shows in recent months.
“We put a bunch of shows on sale in 2018 and every single one of them sold out, and that has got to mean something is happening here,” says Maqbool. “The message to agents and managers booking in this region is that Dubai is no longer a take-the-money-and-run market but one with real potential as a P&L market. I was guilty of this as an agent when I was selling acts to Dubai, seeing it as a bonus stopover on the way to Japan or Australia. It needs nurturing, but it is a market that will pay dividends. Dubai, Abu Dhabi – it is starting to mature now.”
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Nader Sadek sues over ‘devil worship’ defamation
Nader Sadek, the visual artist, metal musician and concert promoter known for his conflict with the Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate, is suing the union’s head, Hany Shaker, for defamation and libel.
Sadek – who has brought international acts including Sepultura, Aborted, Alkaloid, Inquisition and Dark Fortress to play for Egyptian metalheads – spent time in a Cairo jail last year after Shaker accused him of being part of an “international devil-worshipping network” and promoting music that conflicts with Egyptian “society’s religious beliefs and social traditions”. (Read the full story here.)
He tells IQ he has high hopes of winning his case against Shaker, which will be heard by a Cairo judge on 21 May, “because they [the Syndicate] defamed me live on TV, even after we initiated the lawsuit,” he explains, referencing an appearance by a spokesman for the Musicians’ Syndicate on Al Kahera Wal Nas in April in which he again accused Sadek of devil worship, as well as telling Sadek’s lawyer, Mokhtar Badr, he was only “looking for fame”.
In a bizarre aside, the programme also included an appearance from a ‘high priest of devil worship’ – an actor in impressively realistic prosthetic make-up – designed to ridicule the Syndicate’s accusations of devil worship. “What the channel did with my episode is they brought in this half-man, half-creature thing with horns and interviewed him,” Sadek explains. “Everybody was freaking out – they told people with weak hearts to turn the TV off – and this thing comes in and introduces himself as priest of Satan.
“Later, the ‘priest’ took his mask off and a famous prosthetic artist come out and revealed it was fake: the point being that there is no devil worship and no priests of Satan.”
Sadek is seeking E£1 million in damages to cover the losses from Sepultura, Dark Fortress and Inquisition concerts disrupted by the Syndicate. “The only way he [Shaker] is going to get out of it is by bringing false or fabricated evidence,” continues Sadek. “We didn’t do anything unlawful, so the law is on our side. Additionally, Shaker and the Syndicate are not in any legal or religious position to make claims about myself or my religious practices.”
Sadek says he believes Shaker, who claimed to have infiltrated the Inquisition show and exposed a devil-worshipping ring, was driven purely by self-interest: “When he initially posted on his Facebook page about infiltrating the Inquisition show – which in reality he did not do – he mentions at the end, ‘I saved the youths of Egypt from devil worship’,” he explains. “It was an attempt to make himself look like a hero.”
“It’s not just about metal – it’s about art”
In the event Shaker – one of the Arab world’s most famous singers – does win, Sadek says he and Badr are planning to take the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. “We’re just going to keep going after them.
“Technically I was tortured, as one of the prison guards put out a cigarette on my foot… If I do lose, I’m not stopping. I seek justice, and most in my position would have left the country. But I don’t run – I’m here to stay.”
Sadek emphasises that the repercussions of the case go far beyond beyond metal music, setting a precedent for the protection of artistic freedom throughout Egypt. “It’s not just about metal,” he says. “It’s about art. If some people can’t deal with it, they have two choices: either change themselves from within, or just don’t look at it.
“There are things in our society that we can’t change that we have to accept – they need to do the same.”
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Egyptian promoter arrested over Sepultura show
An Egyptian musician and concert promoter was arrested on Saturday night after police shut down a “satanic party” in Cairo featuring Brazilian death metal band Sepultura.
Witnesses reported that Nader Sadek and two other people, including the owner of the villa where the concert was taking place, were taken into custody and interrogated after police, acting on instructions from the National Defence Council, raided the concert, at which Sadek and other local acts were also due to perform. Giza police chief General Khaled Shalaby said his force received a tip-off that around 60 people were preparing to attend a “satanic” event in Sheikh Zayed, in the Cairo suburbs.
Controversial Egyptian Musicians Syndicate head Hany Shaker, who was initially reported to have stood down after the backlash to a similar controversy involving Sadek in March, stated on Egyptian state TV that “the devil worshippers [Sepultura fans] were dressed in a very weird style and drew their makeup in the shape of a pentagram” and “wore leather jackets with stars on the back, and that is strange.”
“The devil worshippers wore leather jackets with stars on the back, and that is strange”
However, it seems the various Egyptian authorities hadn’t got their stories straight: Ahmed Hegazy, head of the Giza Security Directorate, said the main reason for the cancellation was a lack of proper permits.
Sadek confirmed to IQ on Tuesday 7 June that he had been released from custody.
The show would have been Sepultura’s first in Egypt. Early on Saturday, the band wrote on Facebook: “Cairo, let’s make history tonight!”