SAUDI ARABIA - Tourism
Chief Creative Officer, MDLBEAST
Saudi DJ and creative strategist Baloo has been actively pushing the Saudi music and underground scene for decades, most recently as one of the main creative and curative forces behind MDLBEAST, as Chief Creative Officer and representative of the brand and its offshoots. Baloo has worked as a creative lead in advertising and design agencies while pursuing his passion as a DJ. He’s played around the world in Bahrain, Dubai, Beirut, New York, Boston, London, Mykonos, Saudi, Zanzibar, Ibiza, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Venice, at private events, festivals, and everything in between.
Ahmad M Alammary: The establishment of the General Entertainment Authority marked the beginning of a new transition in our lifestyles in Saudi, what eventually became a cultural renaissance. Just the simple act of allowing public performance was the first drop of this big ripple effect. Once that happened, we started seeing many acts, djs and live performances in restaurants, and bigger events happening. When the Soundstorm project came in, it described a three-day music festival, and that snowballed into a multi-brand brand. It started off as wanting to create a music festival, and then we zoomed out even more to build a real platform which includes a record label, an online radio channel, and a music conference. Beyond Soundstorm, we wanted this to be a multi-layered brand that supports local growth and music culture. Our brand idea and vision is to amplify the unseen, and coming from this place in terms of the music industry we are a clean canvas, we can shape our music industry and scene the way we need to, customize it to our needs, people, flavors, and palates. We went from zero to 100 in seconds, literally waiting and anticipating for this to happen, and once it did, we never looked back. For me as a 44-year-old Saudi, it remains a major cultural shock. Just after the first festival, peoples comfort levels changed in public spaces. We do not have to live behind facades anymore, we can really be ourselves, and that is priceless.
Ahmad M Alammary: This is in fact the most exciting part, at least for me on a personal level. None of this is actually change, this is an unveiling of who we truly are and what we are interested in. On a professional spectrum, it is extremely exciting to work on the XP Music Futures Conference. In 2021, the platform proved to be a space for us to have open dialogue about what we want in our music industry and what we expect from policymakers. We are bringing together entrepreneurs, creatives, and musicians in the room to collect, collaborate, and create. It was definitely a success story because people loved the learning experience. XP Music Futures took up two alleys of warehouses at the Jax District. Instead of programming the music, we decided to give spaces to local brands that have been working to build our underground scene to curate their own line ups in our Jax warehouses. This became a showcase of who is who, and what is the sound they present. The event truly turned into a celebration of local business and talent. After organizing the first event, we learned so much and are coming back with stronger, better, more relevant, deeper ideas. In 2022, we are returning to our zone in Jax. We are extremely excited to bring together policymakers, entrepreneurs, and musicians and help them initiate conversations to create and build our music industry.
Ahmad M Alammary: “Amplifying local, regional, and international artists” is what guides MDLBEAST and MDLBEAST Records. We are focused on highlighting talent, and we have had so many releases from our regional talents. There is a great deal of raw talent in our region and in terms of music in general, whether it is fusion, electronic, Arabic, or indie, it offers a different perspective with different origins. Whenever I play house music, I naturally gravitate towards percussive sounds, and I feel that is inspired by the instruments in our regional music. The ears here are unique because of what they’re exposed to, and you’ll see the distinction in DJs with Arab roots. This presents a fresh and unseen perspective, just like this entire region is a new frontier for music. There is so much to be done and a clean canvas that we can shape and mold, whether one is making music, developing music events, or connecting people and creating opportunities. There is so much to play with, and it is nonstop.
Ahmad M Alammary: We bring a unique perspective to the table: our palettes, tastes, and local sounds. All of those create something unique. Beyond that, I do not compromise on quality, which is something you see in Saudi in general. Saudis are now playing a role in the creation and production of events, inspiring stage design, developing fresh brands, and curating music, and that is unique about all this; there is nothing more successful than a unique business proposition. I cannot express enough how this role makes me proud of where I come from and what we are doing for our people. From a creative perspective and personal perspective, I do not see myself doing anything else, and I could not be happier with the way the business is turning out. We are growing in a strategic way, and it is not only about income; it is about impact and what we can do with our industry. What we are working on has proven to be a cultural catalyst and an incubator of creativity and business. Music is central to a lot of businesses in its ecosystem, from music education to management, booking, branding, event development, music schools and institutions, spaces, fashion, and so on. In this specific case, music is a nascent industry, and we happen to be a major piece of the puzzle for the region, geographically and economically, as we come into this space you’ll see more buzz happening across our region.
Ahmad M Alammary: Until December 2022, we have four major projects happening in parallel, five if we include Azimuth, which we just finished over national day weekend in September. We are hosting a party for 28 nights after the World Cup Games in Qatar, MDLBEAST Presents Aravia. After that, we have the XP Music Futures, conference November 28-30, and Soundstorm from Dec 1-3. In the following weekend, we will be in Jeddah. It is a marathon for us, and we are on nonstop. It is extremely time consuming; however, I have never been happier or more fulfilled, and this resonates with many of our staff, team at MDLBEAST. We genuinely feel good about the work we are doing because there is nothing nobler than spreading joy to our people.
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