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MDLBeast’s Ahmad Alammary: “Saudis love to dance”

Ahmad Alammary, chief creative officer of Jeddah-based entertainment company MDLBeast, has said the success of its recent Freqways festival further underlines Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a live music market to watch.

Alammary describes MDLBeast (pronounced “Middle Beast”) as an “entertainment and lifestyle experiences brand with a focus on music, art and culture”. Founded by a group of “ambitious professionals [from] various backgrounds and disciplines”, the company’s first event, the MDLBeast festival, took place in December 2019, with performers including Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix and David Guetta, as well as a number of local DJs.

“It was iconic, historic and a truly groundbreaking moment in Riyadh,” recalls Alammary, who also DJs under the name Baloo. “People really enjoyed what we prepared, and we pulled it off in record time.”

In keeping with the times, MDLBeast’s second festival was an all-digital affair: a 12-hour, multi-stage online event that took place from 20 to 21 June. MDLBeast Freqways again featured a mix of international and local talent, with Baloo and compatriots Cosmicat, Antabi Brothers and Jade and Tala rubbing shoulders with the likes of Aoki, Afrojack, Claptone, Maceo Plex and Benny Banassi during the free-to-watch live stream.

Freqways – which ran from 7pm to 7am local time – was seen by more than 650,000 people and recorded 1.2 million total views, with attendees in 185 countries across the Middle East, North America and Europe, according to MDLBeast.

“There are so many talented artists in our region”

The DJs performed live from their own cities, allowing those with an MDLBeast Freqways ‘boarding pass’ to visit destinations including Las Vegas (Aoki), Zurich (EDX), Rotterdam (Afrojack), Beirut (Jade and Tala), Paris (Phil Weeks) and Thee Ain, Saudi Arabia (Baloo).

“We wanted to develop something that anyone could relate to, and that we were all longing for,” explains Alammary. “Discovery, travel, culture, dancing, nature, heritage: all these came into play, and we produced 30 videos in locations around the world.”

“We realised that we needed to give people a sense of escapism,” he continues. “We wanted to remind people, virtually, that there is so much to see around the world, even through a screen – to bring people around the world together through a virtual musical experience.”

A “string of future events” are in the pipeline for MDLBeast, including further Freqways ‘flights’ and more “physical events, once we feel it’s safe again”, according to Alammary.

Events like MDLBeast/Freqways, as well as the growing number of shows in Saudi Arabia more generally, illustrate how “accepting and encouraging of cultural events” Saudi music fans are, he says. (Other recent festival successes include Jeddah World Fest and Winter at Tantora, while artists including Mariah Carey, BTS and Marshmello have played headline shows.)

“It was iconic, historic and a truly groundbreaking moment in Riyadh”

“People all over the world love music,” continues Alammary, and Saudis are no different: “Saudis are musical people; we love to dance!”

While many foreign observers focus on the newfound ability of Saudi Arabia to attract major international artists, Alammary says MDLBeast is committed to using its platform to showcase and developing local talent. “There is a big community of music-lovers in Saudi,” he says, and “Saudi DJs have been seeing great popularity on a local and regional level” after years of playing underground.

“There are so many talented artists in our region,” he concludes, “and we wanted to create a platform that celebrates them and our own perspective of nightlife and entertainment.

“There’s so much more coming, and we’re excited about bringing it to the surface.”

 


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MDL Beast festival to debut in Saudi Arabia

David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Steve Aoki are among acts confirmed for electronic dance music (EDM) festival MDL Beast, the latest addition to Saudi Arabia’s flourishing festival scene.

The inaugural MDL Beast festival is taking place from 19 to 21 December 2019 in Riyadh, home to the 70,000-capacity King Fahd Stadium which recently hosted k-pop stars BTS.

The multi-stage festival will feature 18 international headliners and 28 global dance acts including Afrojack, Camelphat, J Balvin and Tiësto, as well as 24 local and regional performers, such as EDM DJ Cosmicat and local DJ duo Dish Dash.

Steve Aoki, who this summer performed at Roqu Media’s Jeddah World Fest – the first, major, ticketed music festival in the country – comments: “When I got the offer to play at the three-day MDL Beast festival, I was thrilled to become part of it and be back in the region again. It’s go[ing to] be an incredible event with tons of acts and lots of new names.”

“We’re confident MDL Beast will be like nothing seen before and we cannot wait to experience this transformative musical milestone”

Ahmad Alammary, DJ and member of the festival team, adds: “More than just a music festival, MDL Beast is also a platform with multiple [projects] including ongoing seasonal local and global events, online and radio channels, recording studios, and a non-profit foundation promoting music education and therapy.

“We’re confident MDL Beast will be like nothing seen before and we cannot wait to experience this transformative musical milestone.”

“I’m so proud of the fact that we’re hosting this festival in Saudi; it’s a great reflection of the Saudi audience being able to experience the music they love,” comments Cosmicat. “As one of the first female EDM DJs here, I’m excited to be flying the flag and representing women on the scene.”

As Saudi Arabia continues to boost its live entertainment offering and cement its place on the international touring map, criticism is still levelled at artists who opt to play in the kingdom. Nicki Minaj pulled out of Jeddah World Fest following pressure from human rights organisations and BTS’ appearance in the country sparked a mixed reaction from fans.

Fans can register for tickets to the MDL Beast here.

 


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