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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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Nicki Minaj pulls out of Saudi music festival

Rapper Nick Minaj has cancelled her upcoming performance at Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia, citing support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Minaj was billed to perform alongside EDM artist Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne at Saudi Arabia’s largest-ever music festival, which takes place on Thursday 18 July at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium in Jeddah.

“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” the singer said in a statement.

“While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.”

The decision comes after the president of US-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) penned an open letter to Minaj asking her to cancel the appearance “as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”

“After better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression”

HRF president Thor Halvorssen detailed cases of human rights abuses in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which he describes as “one of the most repressive regimes on earth”.

Halvorssen has since praised Minaj’s decision to pull out of the festival, and urged Payne to do the same.

“We are grateful to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt at using her for a public relations stunt,” writes the HRF president.

After years of restrictions on entertainment, Jeddah World Fest signifies the next step in Saudi Arabia’s embrace of live music events.

A post on the festival’s Facebook page states that Minaj had cancelled “due to personal reasons”. A second wave performers will be announced later this week.

The kingdom hosted its first mixed gender music festival in December, featuring artists including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias and David Guetta. A US$2.7 billion fund was established in 2017 to kickstart the entertainment sector.

 


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Nicki Minaj to headline Saudi Arabia’s first major music fest

After hosting its first-ever gender-integrated concert series at the Formula E ePrix last December, the rapidly liberalising kingdom of Saudi Arabia is preparing for its first major music festival, which debuts this month.

Part of the Jeddah Season festival, Jeddah World Fest, organised by Ireland-based Roqu Media International, will take place at King Abdullah Sports Stadium (63,241-cap.) in Jeddah on Thursday 18 July, and feature international performers including Nicki Minaj, Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne.

It is the latest and most significant move by Saudi Arabia’s rulers to open up the conservative Islamic kingdom – which until recently considered secular music haram, or sinful – to touring live entertainment, and comes nearly two years after the General Authority for Entertainment (GEA), the body tasked with driving growth in the entertainment sector, announced a US$2.7 billion fund to attract international partners.

Commenting on the line-up, Roqu’s Robert Quirke says Minaj (pictured) is “an absolute global icon. She has 130 million followers on Instagram, she is considered one of the top 10 female performers of all time, she’s had multiple awards and she’ll have her new album come out this year.

“She is going to get a lot of attention for Jeddah in the most positive way you can imagine. She’s going to be actively on her social media, she’ll be posting right from the stage in Jeddah and at her hotel in Jeddah. Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia.”

“Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia”

Other performers include Ministry of Sound-signed DJs R3wire and Varski, who “will make sure that the crowd stays absolutely pumped” between artist sets, adds Quirke.

The event will also be streamed live internationally, according to Raed Abuzinadah, the director-general of Jeddah Season, who says Jeddah World Fest is set to be “the largest musical festival of its kind in the region, that will be broadcast to a global audience in more than 100 countries,” reports Gulf News.

“There is a stereotype of the kingdom all over the world, and today it is disappearing,” Abuzinadah told reporters recently. “In its place is a new picture of the kingdom that accepts everyone. “This is the first global music festival of this scale in [Saudi Arabia] and is sure to absolutely wow the lucky audience in Jeddah like never before.”

Tickets are being sold via the website of Sharek, Saudi Arabia’s new e-visa system.

 


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Liam Payne and MelodyVR celebrate virtual reality first

MelodyVR last night livestreamed its first show live in virtual reality, with Liam Payne’s performance  at Koko in London broadcast to fans across the world.

The UK-based company’s first ‘Live in VR’ event, announced to huge anticipation earlier this month, saw the ex-One Direction star’s show broadcast in VR in real time via the MelodyVR app. The stream was in a “previously unseen quality for VR”, according to MelodyVR, and featured its ‘jump spot’ technology, which allows viewers to choose their own spot in the venue.

Last night Liam Payne took part in a groundbreaking Virtual Reality live broadcast, where his show at Koko, one of London’s most-loved music venues, was simultaneously broadcast in VR around all over the world, in real time.

“I’m thrilled by the positive response that MelodyVR has received for this event,” says Anthony Matchett, CEO of MelodyVR. “There are so many fans who can’t get close to the artists they love – and when they live on the other side of the world or can’t get into a show, we can put them on stage with the artist from anywhere in the world.

“Giving my fans the ability to see this concert from an angle no one ever sees it from is a really amazing thing”

“We look forward to working with Liam, as well as other artists throughout the next year and beyond, to continue to create and distribute revolutionary content.”

The Liam Payne ‘Live in VR’ event follows the creation of previous (non-live) VR experiences for artists including Post Malone, Bebe Rexha, the Chainsmokers and Payne’s 1D bandmate Niall Horan.

“There are a lot of places around the world I haven’t been to, and so many fans that haven’t seen me perform live and may never get the chance to without MelodyVR’s technology,” adds Payne. “Giving my fans the ability to see this concert from an angle no one ever sees it from is a really amazing thing. It’s better than having an all access pass – they’re right there on stage with me.”

The MelodyVR app is currently available in the UK, US, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium.

 


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MelodyVR announces first live VR broadcast

UK-based music VR company MelodyVR has revealed plans for its first live concert broadcast in virtual reality (VR).

In his only headline show this year, the former One Direction star will perform at a “secret location” in London on 19 December, with the concert streamed live to fans via the recently launched MelodyVR app.

The broadcast, in a “previously unseen quality for VR”, will feature MelodyVR’s ‘jump spot’ technology, which allows viewers to choose their own location in the venue. Those wishing to view the show will need an Oculus Go or Samsung GearVR headset, the MelodyVR app installed and an internet connection.

The ‘Live in VR’ event follows the creation of previous (non-live) VR experiences for artists including Post Malone, Bebe Rexha, the Chainsmokers and Payne’s 1D bandmate Niall Horan.

“It’s a pleasure to invite fans both in London and across the globe to experience this amazing event”

The MelodyVR app is currently available in the UK, US, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium.

Anthony Matchett, CEO of MelodyVR, says: “This is a hugely exciting moment for MelodyVR. We truly believe that virtual reality has the power to connect artists with fans like never before. It has been a pleasure working with Liam, and we’re thrilled to be bringing his headline performance in London exclusively to fans around the world via our platform in virtual reality.

“It’s a pleasure to invite fans both in London and across the globe to experience this amazing event, as well as a whole lot more in 2019.”

MelodyVR earlier this year agreed a deal with Birmingham arena operator NEC Group to offer virtual access to live events in its venues.

 


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