Why the birthplace of Islam is hosting one of the world’s biggest music concert

RELIGIONS NEWS AGENCY (REDNA) – Electronic music, strobe lights, glittered faces and a whole lot of hundreds of folks in mixed-gender gyrations are all half of a brand new sort of ritual in Saudi Arabia that didn’t exist simply three years in the past.

The kingdom’s Soundstorm music festival, which started in 2019, is again once more for its fourth 12 months and can begin on Thursday.

In simply 5 years since Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on musical occasions, the kingdom’s live performance scene has arguably outshined even that of Dubai, lengthy seen as the Gulf area’s premier leisure hub.

The nation that has been higher generally known as the birthplace of Islam than a rave capital has gone by means of a tremendous makeover since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (generally known as MBS) took management of the on a regular basis running of the kingdom in 2017. Soundstorm is an attention-grabbing image of that change.

For three days each winter, a whole lot of hundreds of folks from throughout Saudi Arabia and the area descend on a desert web site exterior the capital Riyadh to take heed to some of the high Western and Arab acts.

The rave is a manifestation of the ethos behind Saudi Arabia’s socioeconomic transformation, in response to Anna Jacobs, a senior analyst at the Crisis Group assume tank. “(It) is a particularly powerful example because it seeks to bring together young people and women from across Saudi Arabia and the world,” she stated.

David Guetta, Post Malone and Bruno Mars are only a few of the stars acting at this 12 months’s occasion, which prides itself as being “the loudest festival in the region,” aiming to “amplify the unseen” because it helps native and worldwide music in the Middle East. Tickets price between 149 riyals (round $40) for a single day and 6,699 riyals (round $1,800 ) for a three-day VIP therapy.

The pageant reportedly welcomed 730,000 partygoers final 12 months. By distinction, Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival, thought-about North America’s biggest dance music pageant, had an attendance of over 400,000 this year.

An occasion like Soundstorm was inconceivable in the nation simply six years in the past, when the infamous spiritual police would roam the streets and censure Saudis for mixing with the reverse intercourse or flouting social norms. But it is now half of a liberalization initiative spearheaded by MBS, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. It accompanies a sequence of steps to calm down social guidelines, together with lifting the ban on girls’s driving and reining in the religious police.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia established the General Entertainment Authority in tandem with Vision 2030 – the crown prince’s plan to diversify its economy past oil, which accounts for greater than half of the authorities’s income. Among its objectives was to nearly double family spending on cultural and leisure actions inside the kingdom. Riyadh is now seeing greater than $64 billion in leisure funding, reported Arab News, with a big proportion of that going to the reside music business.

Why the birthplace of Islam is hosting one of the world’s biggest music concert

Vision 2030 prides itself on providing “world-class entertainment” and says that it has organized as much as 3,800 leisure occasions in the nation, attended by greater than 80 million folks.

“The whole principle about allowing festivals is to provide youth with domestic entertainment and local tourism opportunities so they don’t need to travel abroad in search of fun,” stated Ali Shihabi, a Saudi writer and analyst.

Some conservatives could discover the pageant unacceptable, Shihabi stated, however on condition that youth make up the majority of the nation’s inhabitants, they continue to be the major beneficiaries.

Around two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s inhabitants is 34 years previous or youthful, in response to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics. Analysts say it’s the youth that MBS must placate, not the conservatives.

Alcohol continues to be banned in the kingdom, as are sexual relations between males, and single {couples}.

The pageant is not, nevertheless, with out worldwide criticism and accusations of whitewashing the kingdom’s human rights report. Last 12 months, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that performers ought to both “speak up” about Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations or not attend the pageant in any respect.

“Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars hosting massive entertainment and cultural events in a deliberate (attempt) to whitewash the country’s abysmal human rights record and the Soundstorm music festival is no different,” Joey Shea, a researcher at HRW informed CNN. “The creation of the country’s local entertainment industry was accompanied by waves of arbitrary arrests of dissidents, activists, human rights defenders and ordinary Saudi citizens.”

Shihabi rejects the argument that the pageant whitewashes the nation’s rights report, saying that it “has little to do with any global image and is purely focused on servicing local needs.”

Some nevertheless argue that opening up nations to worldwide norms and values can permit for higher dialogue on human rights shortcomings.

“I think there is a way for these major international events – whether that be the World Cup in Qatar or music festivals in Saudi Arabia – to help open public discourse to critical debate,” stated Jacobs.

“They can help cultivate healthy criticism and discussion around human rights issues in the region,” she added, “and as the Gulf continues to solidify its position as the region’s center of gravity, I think this is what we will see.”

Source: Pehalnews

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