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Travis Scott pyramids concert officially cancelled

After weeks of speculation, Travis Scott’s scheduled concert in front of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt has been officially cancelled.

The Live Nation-promoted event was set to take place tomorrow (28 July) at the Sound and Light area, with an estimated 200 million people tuning into the live stream.

However, last week Egypt’s state-affiliated Musicians Syndicate said that it would revoke a permit for the Utopia show because it “contradicts the identity of the Egyptian culture”.

While the concert’s promoters and Scott himself had insisted the performance would go ahead, Live Nation Middle East published a statement last night (26 July) confirming the cancellation.

“We regret to inform you that the Utopia show, originally scheduled for 28 July at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, is cancelled,” it said. “Unfortunately, despite best efforts, complex production issues meant that the show could not be constructed in the desert. We understand that this news is disappointing and not the outcome any of us desired.”

“Unfortunately, despite best efforts, complex production issues meant that the show could not be constructed in the desert”

Meanwhile, Scott declared on social media that the shows would still take place in the future: “Egypt at the pyramids will happen but due to demand and detail logistics they just need a bit of time to set lay on lands. I will keep u posted on a date which will be soon.”

Scott also added that he was scheduling four more “of these type of experiences” in different locations.

A spokesperson for the Syndicate of Musical Professions exclusively told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the decision was made following deaths that took place in Travis Scott’s previous concerts.

“The syndicate is not against tourism, but against any party that poses a threat to the lives of Egyptians,” he stressed, noting that Jennifer Lopez earlier held a very successful concert in Egypt.

Abdullah added that the local promoter and ticketer for the concert, Ticketsmarche, paid LE300,000 to obtain permits for the concert which will be refunded following the cancellation.

The Ticketsmarche CEO earlier this week said his company has agreed on 10 concerts with renowned international artists in Egypt for the coming months but said they are unlikely to take place if Scott’s concert was cancelled.

Days ago, it was announced that Palm Tree Music Festival, founded by Norwegian producer Kygo and his manager Myles Shear, will be exported to the Pyramids. Other acts that have previously performed at the location include Maroon 5 (2022), Black Eyed Peas (2021) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (2019).

 


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Confusion reigns over Travis Scott pyramids concert

With just days to go until Travis Scott’s scheduled concert in front of the Pyramids of Giza, it is still unclear as to whether the livestreamed performance can take place.

The Live Nation-promoted event, set for this Friday (28 July), has been shrouded in controversy after Egypt’s state-affiliated Musicians Syndicate claimed it was cancelling the licence it issued “to ensure the safety and protection of the audience”.

On 18 July, the Musicians Syndicate said the sold-out concert, scheduled to take place in the Sound and Light area near the pyramid complex, would not be permitted due to “the artist’s positions, images and documented information on the strange rituals he practises, which go against our traditions”.

“The artist’s positions, images and documented information on the strange rituals he practises go against our traditions”

“While the Musicians Syndicate has welcomed various art forms and concerts in recent months, it has set conditions and regulations to safeguard the customs and traditions inherited by the Egyptian people,” said Dr Mohamed Abdullah, in a statement on behalf of the Musicians Syndicate.

“After examining social media opinions and feedback, as well as the news circulating on search engines and social media platforms, which included authenticated images and information about peculiar rituals performed by the star during his performance, contradicting our authentic societal values and traditions, the syndicate’s president and board of directors have decided to cancel the licence issued for hosting this type of concert, which goes against the cultural identity of the Egyptian people.”

Scott hit back in an open letter, saying that such images and information were “bot generated” and “fake information”.

Later that day, Live Nation Middle East maintained that the concert, in support of Scott’s forthcoming album Utopia, was going ahead: “There have been no changes to Travis Scott’s show in Egypt, any reports to the contrary are false. We can’t wait to celebrate Utopia with you in Egypt!”

Confusion deepened when local promoter and ticketer for the concert, Ticketsmarche, days later said Scott’s equipment was seized and the organisers were prevented from entering the pyramids area.

The company’s CEO Mohamed Serag told local media at the time that the concert’s fate was unknown. “We do not know what we will do, especially if the last date for the equipment to enter was Wednesday. However, nothing new has happened given that most state institutions are on official leave until Sunday.

“We have all the permits and we do not know the reason for preventing the entry of the equipment, especially since the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate does not have the authority to cancel the concert, nor does it have the power to prevent the entry of the equipment. It also made it clear that the whole matter is in the hands of the authorities.”

Serag said that the size of the initial losses of cancelling the concert would amount to approximately LE 300 million (€8.7m)

Serag told the Egypt Independent that the size of the initial losses of cancelling the concert would amount to approximately LE 300 million (€8.7m).

However, Serag remains hopeful the Tourism Ministry will give the concert the green light, and Scott has continued to promote the concert on his social media channels. “Love ya more can’t wait to see ya in Utopia,” he tweeted nine hours ago.

If the concert goes ahead it would be broadcast live to about 200 million people, which would be an unprecedented promotion for the pyramids area and Egyptian tourism, said Serag.

He added that about 4,000 confirmed tickets have been booked by foreigners coming, each of whom will stay for at least a week, which means 28,000 nights in Egyptian hotels, all of which will be in foreign currency, which could constitute great profits for the tourism sector in Egypt.

The Ticketsmarche CEO also said his company has agreed on 10 concerts with renowned international artists in Egypt for the coming months but says they are unlikely to take place if Scott’s concert is cancelled.

Days ago, it was announced that Palm Tree Music Festival, founded by Norwegian producer Kygo and his manager Myles Shear, will be exported to the Pyramids. Other acts that have previously performed at the location include Maroon 5 (2022), Black Eyed Peas (2021) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (2019).

 


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Travis Scott to livestream gig from Pyramids of Giza

Travis Scott is planning a performance in front of the ancient Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, in support of his forthcoming album.

Tickets for the Live Nation-promoted event, which will also be live-streamed at 9 pm on 28 July, sold out in 15 minutes.

Premium tickets were priced at EGP 4,000 (USD 129) while VIP tickets were sold for EGP 6,500 (USD 210).

The performance will see Scott premiere Utopia, his first studio album in five years and the first since the deadly crowd crush at his festival Astroworld.

Premium tickets were priced at EGP 4,000 (USD 129) while VIP tickets were sold for EGP 6,500 (USD 210).

Ten concertgoers, aged between nine and 27, died following a crowd surge during Travis Scott’s headline set at NRG Park in Houston, Texas in November 2021. The 50,000-cap festival was promoted by Live Nation and Austin-based Scoremore.

At the end of last month, a Texas grand jury issued six no-bills related to the deaths, meaning that no criminal charges will be filed.

Scott, Live Nation and Scoremore reportedly still face numerous civil lawsuits accusing them of negligence, wrongful death and more.

 

 

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Maroon 5 to embark on maiden tour of Middle East

Maroon 5 have announced their first ever Middle East tour, with three Live Nation-promoted dates confirmed for the region this spring.

The Grammy Award-winning band will perform at The Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt on 3 May before visiting the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE three days later. The run will then wrap up at Ganei Yehoshua Park, Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv, Israel on 9 May.

“We are thrilled to organise the first regional tour for an iconic band like Maroon 5 and finally get back to full capacity live shows,” says James Craven, president, Live Nation Middle East. “Maroon 5 will also be the first major international band to perform at the new Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.”

“This landmark event marks the dawn of a new era”

Guy Beser, CEO of Live Nation Israel, says: “This marks a powerful, shared moment across the region and is of great significance to both the Middle East and Live Nation. This landmark event marks the dawn of a new era, and will ensure an easier process for bringing bands, global artists and festivals to the region.”

Zaed Maqbool, VP – touring & talent, Live Nation Middle East/South Asia, adds: “Having a routed run means bands are able to play for even more fans, rather than playing one-offs that take them out of the market for years. This is a great step to see for the industry, and more regional runs are being planned as we speak.”

Maroon 5 previously became the first major US group to play Canada in 18 months when they played the Budweiser Stage in Toronto last September.

 


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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.

Saudi Arabia
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.”

Egypt
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.

UAE
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!”