During late November and beginning of December 2022, music director/editor Joiah Luminosa, had the pleasure to fly to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to participate at a music conference – XP Music Futures – and festival – Soundstorm – organized by the upcoming middle-eastern initiative MDLBEAST. Here is her personal take on the experience!

I arrived in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s capital, on an early Monday morning. Tired and discombobulated from the climate difference from Amsterdam, I went straight to bed, knowing I had to wake up a couple of hours later. I was warmly greeted by the lovely team of The Media Nanny before departing to Jax 01, XP Music Futures. On our way to the location, I observed the yellowish/sandy surrounding, the desert, and construction sites, a land that seemed in constant evolution. Once we arrived, a beautiful introduction of the event took place on one of the stages by a group of local musicians playing percussion mixed up with hip-hop and Arabic rhymes sung by Ntitled, whom I was really impressed by. Even though I didn’t know what he was saying, it made me smile. After the fun intro, I got to attend some exciting panels.

The first was about music journalism in the Middle East, how the region represents artists worldwide, and the challenges and insights in the area. Another one was about the metaverse and blockchain, which I think was very informative, and one that stood out to me was about the female figures shaping the industry in Saudi and the world. During the latter, I was captured by Jara‘s story and style, a young Saudi rapper in the game. I then had the pleasure of sitting down with her and asking her some questions. She’s such a cool girl, and I’m happy I discovered her music! Many brilliant speakers, all experts in their respective fields, were keen  to share their knowledge and connect with everyone present. The area was vibrant and organized. Each stage was built and managed by skilled sound and light engineers. Just stunning! Filled with curiosity, I’d wander the site alone and try to connect to the people at the stands and hear stories about Saudi. We also enjoyed visiting historical sights and eating delicious local food between panels and performances!

Following the conferences, the so-awaited festival was on! Just a couple of hours from Riyadh, in the middle of a calming desert, a half-moon was glazing in the sky. The event area was exceptionally well organized: big stages, chill zones, food and clothing stands, and massive sound systems and installations. I think it is one of the biggest festivals I’ve been to. Both local and international acts performed, from artists like DJ Khaled, Tiesto, Chet Faker, and Rae Sremmurd to electronic DJs like Andrey Pushkarev, Janeret, and more. Needless to say that MDLBEAST did a fantastic job creating something unique and fun for the people and giving local and regional talents opportunities to showcase their craft. It was nice to see queer, free-spirited and stylish; however, I believe that dancefloor ethics have a long way to go. 

I honestly had a blast on this trip! I’m grateful for this opportunity and to have connected with so many excellent people. I’ll definitely come back another time!