Saudi Jazz Festival draws massive crowds

The Saudi Jazz Festival, the first of its kind to be held in the kingdom, has taken place to the delight of music fans and concert-goers. 

A range of artists from Riyadh, Beirut and the home of jazz itself, New Orleans, played over the course of the three day festival to a mixture of Saudis and foreign visitors.

People attend the jazz festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

The event comes as the latest measure taken by the current ruling powers to create a more moderate and tolerant society, shedding many of the existing connotations which have created a conservative perception of the kingdom in recent years.

Many of the implemented changes have come at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his ongoing mission to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.

Saudi women were recently the beneficiaries of several rulings which expanded their rights, such as being allowed to vote and drive. Additionally, this year saw the first cinema screenings take place, after a 35-year ban was lifted.

Over 3,000 attendees gathered to celebrate the sounds of contemporary and classic jazz as part of the festival, which was organised by Time Entertainment in cooperation with the General Entertainment Authority.

I am so so happy I got up from bed this morning and went to a jazz festival and performed in front of a crowd like me, my countrymen,” said Saleh Zaid, a Saudi musician from the local band Min Riyadh told Reuters. “It’s a feeling I just cannot explain to you.”

Arab News ran a series of exclusive interviews with some of the people behind the event, including Ibrahim Mohammad, a member of local group Mizan: “We started as a band in October and had no idea we would be so popular in five months,” he said, “Performing here is a big chance to grow up with the presence of international bands.”

This marks one of over 5,000 shows, festivals and concerts which will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2018; the largest number ever proposed for the kingdom.

Colin J McCracken
Colin J McCracken

Director and Executive Editor

Colin J McCracken is an Irish editor and writer of both fiction and journalism. Coming from a background in education and film, his passions are split between the environmental and the entertaining. Constantly striving for a more sustainable existence and trying to balance it while simultaneously buying too many books.