Clean Bandit to perform live in Jeddah as part of Saudi Grand Prix

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Updated 16 March 2022

Clean Bandit to perform live in Jeddah as part of Saudi Grand Prix

  • The concert will take place on the main stage of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

JEDDAH: The pop fusion music group Clean Bandit will thrill fans in Jeddah with an evening of hits at the post-race concert on Sunday March 27 to close the second successive Formula One race weekend for the Saudi Grand Prix.

The British band will headline the concert series alongside multi-award-winning DJ and producer, R3HAB, to add to a superstar line-up that will keep fans’ adrenaline flowing long into the Jeddah night after the world’s greatest drivers have crossed the finish line.

The concert will take place on the main stage of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, F1’s newest, longest and fastest street circuit, right after the Grand Prix has concluded.

Clean Bandit, one of the biggest names in pop music, have scored four UK No.1 hits, won a Grammy award, and collaborated with a star-studded list of artists including Lizzo, Sean Paul, Ellie Goulding, Mabel and Demi Lovato.

They recently received two Brit Award nominations for their 2018 smash “Solo” featuring Lovato, which became their fourth UK chart-topper. The band have now notched up nine UK top five singles, more than Bruno Mars or Adele.

On March 26, DJ Axwell will perform after the qualifying session has ended, guaranteeing a world class weekend of live racing action and entertainment for all fans.

The Saudi Motorsport Co., the promoter of the Saudi Grand Prix, confirmed that fans will also be able to see the F2 and Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East support series, while entertainment activities, fan festivals, and live concerts will also take place across the circuit and F1 fan zone all weekend.

Jorja Smith performs at Azimuth festival in AlUla

Updated 23 September 2023

Jorja Smith performs at Azimuth festival in AlUla

ALULA: A stellar lineup of stars performed on the second day of Saudi Arabia’s Azimuth festival in AlUla, including British singer and songwriter, Jorja Smith. 

Smith performed some of her hits, including “Be Honest” and “Go Go Go.” 

The music sensation was joined by stars form around the world who performed on the second and last night of the festival, which forms part of Saudi Arabia’s 93rd National Day celebrations.

The lineup included performances by Dope Lemon, Chet Faker, Saint Levant, Shkoon Live, Ame & Dixon, Tinariwen, Vinyl Mode, Dish Dash, Zone+, Kayan, Baloo, and more.

On Thursday, The Kooks, Thievery Corporation, Peggy Gou, Nooriyah, RY X and Cairokee performed for fans.

AlUla Moments’ collaboration with Spotify allowed fans to check out the lineup on the Azimuth AlUla Official Playlist.

The festival vibes were enhanced with Azilook stations for makeup, hair, nails and henna tattoos. There was also an opportunity to shop for attire from Creative Collection, accessories from Qurmoz and perfumes from SURGE.

In addition, several food vendors were available, including Gun Bun, SALT, Out of Line, Just Chill, Creamery, Baroque and Maui.

Review: ‘Wrestlers’ deserves to be Netflix’s latest breakout hit

Updated 23 September 2023

Review: ‘Wrestlers’ deserves to be Netflix’s latest breakout hit

  • Documentary on the Ohio wrestling scene is bursting with heart

LONDON: The mark of a great documentary is when audiences feel like they’ve learned something — when a hitherto unexplored world is examined and explained in a way that makes sense or interrogated and investigated in order to shed new light on things previously unseen. A truly phenomenal documentary, however, not only does all of the above, but it makes viewers actually care about the world they’re exploring.

Netflix’s “Wrestlers” is a remarkable piece of filmmaking. Director Greg Whiteley (“Last Chance U,” “Cheer”) and his team have created an emotional, intimate look inside the world of the Ohio Valley Wrestling league. Once the pathway to the big time (with alumni that include Brock Lesnar, The Miz, John Cena, Dave Bautista, Randy Orton and others), OVW is struggling to make ends meet. New investors Matt Jones and Craig Greenberg have rescued the franchise, for now, but find themselves in conflict with owner (and legendary wrestler) Al Snow, as their desire to increase revenue and marketability comes up against Snow’s uncompromising commitment to crafting storylines and matches of the utmost quality.

“Wrestlers” is directed by Greg Whiteley. (YouTube)

Whiteley takes us deep into the lives of Snow, the new owners, and the wrestlers — standouts include Cash Flo, Shera and Haley J, but there are so many fascinating characters at the heart of OVW that seven episodes don’t feel even close to enough. By showing us their lives, and just how much wrestling means to them, the day-to-day grind of keeping the league afloat feels uncompromisingly real. It’s genuinely heartbreaking to see the efforts of Snow and his roster of wrestlers draw in just a few extra attendees, and it’s jaw-droppingly uncomfortable to get a firsthand glimpse of the stresses Jones and Snow are under as they reach the culmination of OVW’s summer tour.

To reveal anything more would undermine the gravitas of the season finale, which deserves to be seen far and wide. “Wrestlers” is a remarkable show. Whether or not you care about wrestling at the start, you’ll care about the people behind OVW by the time the curtain drops on season one. Here’s hoping there’s more in store.

Music stars have fans rocking at Azimuth festival in AlUla

Updated 22 September 2023

Music stars have fans rocking at Azimuth festival in AlUla

  • Third edition of the event part of Saudi Arabia’s 93rd National Day celebrations which falls on Saturday

ALULA: The third edition of Saudi Arabia’s Azimuth festival in AlUla began with a bang on Thursday with performances by several top international musicians.

Australian singer and songwriter RY X was the opening act for the festival which forms part of Saudi Arabia’s 93rd National Day celebrations.

“I have never been to this place in my whole life. I would love to come back and spend more time. It is truly an incredible place,” said RY X of AlUla on stage.

US electronic music duo Thievery Corporation, famous for their song “Lebanese Blonde,” were up next, and performed several of their hits.

Fans then welcomed legendary UK rock band The Kooks, comprising Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris and Alexis Nunez. “We are so happy to be here … Probably the most beautiful place we’ve ever played,” said Pritchard, the band’s lead singer.  

Egyptian band Cairokee also made their presence felt by belting out some fan favorites including songs “Nefsi Ahebek,” “Samurai,” and “El-Seka Shemal Fe Shemal.”

South Korean DJ and record producer Peggy Gou, and DJ Nooriyah — who was born in Bahrain, raised in Saudi, and now based in the UK — ended the eventful night with their upbeat mixes.

AlUla Moments’ collaboration with Spotify allowed fans to check out the lineup on the Azimuth AlUla Official Playlist.

The festival vibes were enhanced with Azilook stations for makeup, hair, nails and henna tattoos. There was also an opportunity to shop for attire from Creative Collection, accessories from Qurmoz, or perfumes from SURGE.

In addition, several food vendors were available including Gun Bun, SALT, Out of Line, Just Chill, Creamery, Baroque and Maui.

‘The Cello’ star Muhanad Al-Hamdi: ‘It feels like anything is possible’

Muhunad Al-Hamdi (right) with his 'The Cello' co-star Jeremy Irons. (Supplied)
Updated 21 September 2023

‘The Cello’ star Muhanad Al-Hamdi: ‘It feels like anything is possible’

  • The Saudi actor is on the verge of a global breakthrough with his role opposite Jeremy Irons in ‘The Cello’ 

DUBAI: Ambition can be a frustrating thing. For Saudi actor Muhanad Al-Hamdi, it was almost unbearable. He could clearly see, in his mind’s eye, an image of himself opposite Hollywood royalty, starring in the sorts of films the region has never made. At times, he was embarrassed to share his dreams with others. After all, how could a young boy from the Kingdom, a place where cinemas had, at the time, been banned for years, ever will himself into that world? 

Thankfully, the rules that once held back Saudi Arabia’s boundless creativity are gone for good. Just five years after the Kingdom announced its intentions to create an international-standard film industry, history is being made on an almost weekly basis, and Al-Hamdi, a one-time beloved MBC personality, finds himself a major part of those leaps ahead. This week alone will see the release of two of his groundbreaking projects years in the making: “The Cello,” the first international Arabic-language horror film, and “Hard Broken,” a crime-thriller series getting a global Netflix release.  

“I’m so proud to be Saudi, now more than ever before,” Al-Hamdi tells Arab News. “Saudi Arabia feels like a rocket ship at the moment, everything is moving so fast. And the real beauty of these changes is that they’re lifting every industry up, so we can thrive in any direction we choose. It truly feels like anything is possible.” 

Every artist has their own journey to success — and their own definition of what that means. While Al-Hamdi has loved acting for years, he admits that the craft itself was not his main motivation. In fact, it was stardom that Al-Hamdi yearned for — the kind of fame and glory that only marquee talents achieve. Then, one day at the beginning of August 2020, while on vacation in Beirut, Lebanon, Al-Hamdi was changed forever.  

“It’s still hard to talk about, but I was very nearby when the (Beirut Port) explosion happened. I almost died. I came so close to death that I could smell it. For the first time in my life, I was keenly aware of my own mortality,” Al-Hamdi says.   

“After the explosion, I quite literally changed into a different person. In an instant, I didn’t want the fame anymore. All those numbers that used to consume me now felt meaningless. What I needed, I realized, was to do good art for my legacy. I need to make something to be proud of — something that I’ll show my kids someday,” he continues.  

Even in a changing Gulf region, however, creating art is easier said than done. Up until that point, Al-Hamdi had found success by chasing opportunity wherever it lay, eager to climb the ladder even when the rungs seemed non-existent at times.  

He wanted to study acting, for example, but no acting schools existed in Saudi Arabia. Undaunted, he went to study in Kuwait, the Gulf country with the richest theatrical culture, and, after graduation, met an Emirati man who told him that true success was to be found in Dubai, and he would help him.  

“He told me he had a meeting with MBC in two days, and that I had to book my ticket and join him. I told him ‘Of course.’ But at the time I didn’t even have money for a ticket. My friends lent me the cash, and I booked the flight and arrived. I didn’t even have a sim card or a place to stay,” Al-Hamdi recounts.  

“I took a cab to Dubai Mall, and sat on the mall’s Wi-Fi for four or five hours just waiting for him to message. I started thinking that maybe he wasn’t serious, and I’d come for nothing. Then finally he responded, telling me he was in the Armani Café, and the next day we went to MBC,” he continues.  

From that moment, his path to fame fell into place quickly. MBC agreed to try him out on their radio stations as a presenter, and after two months behind the microphone, a passing TV executive caught sight of his striking good looks, found out he was Saudi, and immediately ushered him into his office.  

“He said, ‘What the heck are you doing on the radio?’ Within minutes I was sitting in a chair with the radio and TV managers both standing above me, asking me what I wanted to do. I said I’d cook in the kitchen or clean the floors if they asked me to, but I couldn’t decide this myself. A short time later, they came back and told me I had to be on TV,” says Al-Hamdi.  

In 2019, just as MBC was about to make him one of the lead presenters on the morning show, Al-Hamdi landed one of the main roles on “Cairo Class,” a major MBC series, and audiences welcomed the turn. Within two weeks, he went from 30,000 followers to 1 million, and left presenting behind.  

But after the Beirut bombing changed everything for Al-Hamdi, the path forward felt a little less sure. He was being offered role after role, and began turning them down one by one, a dangerous move for an emerging star. He dreamed of something international, a dream that was realized with “The Cello,” written by Turki AlSheikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, and co-starring Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons and horror legend Tobin Bell (best known for his portrayal of Jigsaw in the “Saw” franchise). 

“I was genuinely shaking before my first scene with Jeremy. I never thought this moment would come,” says Al-Hamdi. “I told him I was his biggest fan and it’s true, but he told me that we are equals. On set, we are all actors working together to create something special. He told me not to think about proving to him or anyone else that I’m good. ‘You’ll be good if you believe in the character. Never perform for anyone else but yourself. And never forget that we’re doing something for love, first and foremost.’ I’ll never forget a word of what he told me.”  

Perhaps that was the moment Al-Hamdi decided what he needed to do once he left that set. He’s realized that he can no longer wait for the kind of stories that he wants to tell to come along so he can star in movies that he can tell his children about some day. If he wants to reach that point, he has to take fate into his own hands.  

“I have so many ideas, and I’m fully committed to bringing them to life. ‘Hard Broken’ is the first step on that journey, a series based on a story by my wife, herself a director. I’m now writing four different stories — one about a real Syrian man who died near me on that same day that I was spared in Beirut. I have so many stories to tell,” he says. “I’ve become hungry — starving — for real art.” 

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Farah Nablusi discusses feature debut ‘The Teacher’ 

Updated 20 September 2023

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Farah Nablusi discusses feature debut ‘The Teacher’ 

TORONTO: Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi’s feature debut “The Teacher” wowed audiences at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.   

The story revolves around the parallel struggles of a Palestinian schoolteacher grieving the loss of his son and an American couple fighting to reclaim their son from kidnappers.  

“This is a story about characters that represent a severely marginalized and underrepresented people,” Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning Nablusi told Arab News.  

“It’s a story that challenges stereotypes and lends some kind of insight into the lives and struggles of those people whose voices are often excluded or misrepresented,” she added.  

“The Teacher” stars renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, who starred in the Oscar-nominated short “The Present,” also directed by Nabulsi.  

Bakri plays the role of a teacher struggling to reconcile his life-threatening commitment to political resistance with his emotional support for one of his students, Adam.  

“I think Saleh Bakri is one of the best actors in the Arab world,” Nabulsi said. “I think he’s the Daniel Day-Lewis of the Arab world. He has an intensity; he has an emotional intelligence that is fantastic. Whereas Mohamed Abdel Rahman, who’s our Adam, who’s a wonderful newcomer that I will say I’ve discovered, I feel like I have … it’s just that raw talent that you rarely come across.” 

Shot with difficulty in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the film is based on a true story that offers a tragic yet hopeful insight on the struggles that Palestinians face. 


A post shared by Saleh Bakri (@salehbakriart)

“The story of ‘The Teacher’ is the sort of amalgamation of all these different real-life events that I’ve come across during my travels and trips to Palestine, where I have been talking with numerous Palestinians about so many real-life events that they have experienced firsthand, that take place and inspired the screenplay,” Nabulsi said.  

“There’s always this thing, this reluctance, this idea that if a film is to do with Palestine that maybe, maybe it won’t sit well so well with Western audiences, for example. And on the contrary, the audience seemed to have loved the film,” she added. “I’ve had a lot of reactions and feedback. Some of the critics have written some wonderful stuff.”