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Lionel Richie, Rod Stewart to play Saudi concert series

Lionel Richie, Rod Stewart and Enrique Iglesias are among acts to perform at Winter at Tantora Festival, an eleven-week celebration of culture in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.

The concerts are taking place as part of Ula season, one of eleven region-specific cultural event series forming part of Saudi Arabia’s new Saudi Seasons initiative. Ula season will run from December 19 to March 7, with performances from Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and Greek pianist Yanni also scheduled.

The live music events will take place every weekend throughout the season at the new 500-capacity, 5,000-square metre Maraya concert hall. Arabic for ‘mirror’, Maraya was completed in January 2019 in the old town of Al Ula. The festival is expected to attract around 40,000 visitors.

Lionel Richie, Rod Stewart and Enrique Iglesias are among acts to perform at Winter at Tantora Festival

Luanched last year, Winter at Tantora 2018/2019 ran from 20 December to 9 February, with performances from Italian singer Andrea Bocelli and French violinist Renaud Capuçon.

The festival is one in a series of major live entertainment events cropping up in Saudi Arabia, including Roqu Media-promoted Jeddah World Fest and an upcoming show by K-pop sensations BTS, which will open Riyadh season on 11 October at the 70,000-capacity King Fahd stadium.

Tickets for the 2019/2020 Winter at Tantora shows will become available early October. The full line-up of artists is yet to be confirmed. More information on tickets and concert dates can be found here.

 


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Saudi Arabia bolsters entertainment offering

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) is pushing forward with its commitment to boosting the live events in the country, forming partnerships with event producers and creating “seasons” dedicated to different kinds of entertainment activities.

The GEA recently launched its own website, calling for applications from event organisers and potential partners ahead of the upcoming Riyadh Season, which is considered the biggest entertainment event in the country’s capital. The deadline for application is at the end of August.

The Saudi Seasons 2019 programme, launched by Saudi Arabia’s Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, divides the year into eleven sections, with cultural events dedicated to a specific region of the country in each one.

Around 20 million visitors are expected to visit the two-month long Riyadh season from 11 October to 15 December, which promises to be the most entertainment-focused yet. The season kicks off with a performance by K-pop stars BTS at the capital city’s 70,000-capacity King Fahd stadium.

A major music event closed the recent Jeddah season, in the form of the Roqu Media-promoted Jeddah World Fest, which took place from June 8 to July 18, constituting the kingdom’s largest music festival to date.

“The GEA has a stated ambition to become one of the top-ten global entertainment destinations”

“The GEA has a stated ambition to become one of the top-ten global entertainment destinations and win back a share of the $20 billion that Saudi nationals spend on the overseas sector each year,” states Dishan Isaac, senior show manager of the Prolight + Sound Middle East exhibition.

According to the Saudi Gazette, the authority has also recently established partnerships with other event producers including National Geographic Encounter, IMG Artists and LuxuryKSA, in its bid to boost the entertainment sector.

“These agreements will require new venues to be built for these entertainment programs, fuelling increased supply opportunities in the country,” adds Isaac.

The Saudi government announced a US$2.67 billion investment in the entertainment sector in 2017, as part of its Vision 2030 economic reform plan.

Since then, the kingdom has seen performances from international artists including Mariah Carey, Jason Derulo and Marshmello, hosted its first-ever major, ticketed music festival and put on its first gender-integrated concert series.

 


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BTS Saudi Arabia concert prompts mixed reaction

K-pop stars BTS have added a date at Saudi Arabia’s 70,000-capacity King Fahd stadium to their 2019 world tour.

BTS are the latest high-profile act to announce dates in Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom continues its bid to put itself on the touring map. The boy band would be the first international group to play a solo stadium concert in the country. The concert is scheduled to take place on 11 October 2019 as part of the band’s Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour.

However, some fans have taken to social media to criticise the decision, questioning the Saudi government’s human rights record.

Nicki Minaj recently cancelled her appearance at the country’s largest-ever music festival, Jeddah World Fest, citing support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the organisation that lobbied for Minaj’s cancellation, is also urging fellow headliner Liam Payne to withdraw from the festival.

“Saudi Arabia is attempting to change the country’s image in part by developing an entertainment industry”

In a statement to Middle East Eye, Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle said that Saudi Arabia was “attempting to change the country’s image in part by developing an entertainment industry and hosting concerts by well-known artists”, and encouraged artists to speak out against abuses.

Others believe the opening up of the live entertainment market is a sign of Saudi Arabia’s growing liberalisation.

Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever gender-integrated concert series last December. The following month, Mariah Carey became the first international female to perform a solo concert at the King Abdullah stadium.

Jeddah World Fest takes place later this week (Thursday 18 July) at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium. All tickets for the event have sold-out.

Tickets for the King Fahd stadium tour date will become available soon.

 


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