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Why Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is hosting one of the world’s biggest music festivals

SOUNDSTORM 2022 News: Saudi Arabia is once again hosting one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Electronic music, dazzling lights and thousands of mixed-race faces are part of this new foothold in Saudi Arabia. Three years ago this event did not exist. This annual event was started in 2019. Now it is being organized for the fourth consecutive time. This time the event started on Thursday (December 1). In Saudi it is known as ‘Soundstorm Music Festival’.

Thousands of people from across Saudi Arabia and the region gather in a desert outside the capital Riyadh to dance and listen to top Western and Arab music for the three-day festival in the cold. However, to attend the ceremony, tickets have to be taken, for which a considerable amount has to be paid. Five years ago such celebrations were banned in Saudi. Experts believe that since the ban on music festivals has been lifted, Saudi has also left behind Dubai, which has long been known as the main entertainment hub of the Gulf region.

Why is Saudi Arabia hosting such an event?

Why is Saudi Arabia, where Islam originated, hosting such an event? Experts consider many reasons. According to a CNN report, Saudi has been undergoing major changes since 2017 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took over the day-to-day affairs of the Kingdom. The Soundstorm event is one of those changes.

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The report quoted Anna Jacobs, senior analyst at the Crisis Group think tank, as saying that Soundstorm is a great example because it seeks to bring together young men and women from across Saudi Arabia and around the world. The report said that this ceremony is part of the liberalization initiative from the Crown Prince. He has taken many social steps, including giving freedom to women to drive and curbing the religious police.

The biggest reason for hosting the event

The biggest reason for the music festival is the Entertainment Authority established in 2016, which was established under ‘Vision 2030’. It has been said in the report that such programs were started with the view that more alternatives should be prepared so that the Saudi economy does not depend on oil only. Right now half of Saudi’s revenue comes from oil.

Along with this, the goals of Vision 2030 include almost doubling the household expenditure on cultural and entertainment activities. According to Arab News report, Riyadh is now planning to invest $64 billion in the entertainment industry, a significant part of which is the live music industry. The report said that the Kingdom prides itself on offering world-class entertainment under Vision 2030 and has organized 3,800 entertainment events in the country, attended by more than 80 million people.

Crown Prince’s focus on youth population?

Saudi author and analyst Ali Shihabi is quoted as writing that the whole principle behind allowing such festivals is to provide opportunities for domestic entertainment and local tourism to the youth, and that they do not need to travel abroad in search of fun. Do not fall Some conservatives may find this strange, but Saudis have the largest youth population, so they are the primary beneficiaries, he says.

Quoting the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, the report states that nearly two-thirds of the country’s population is 34 years old or younger. Experts believe that the Crown Prince needs to please the youth rather than the conservatives. According to the report, alcohol, homosexual relations between men and sex between unmarried couples are still banned in Saudi.

Saudi music festival in the eyes of Human Rights Watch

This Saudi music festival is also criticized from the angle of human rights. Last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that artists should either speak out about Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations or not attend the ceremony.

According to Joy Shea, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, billions of dollars have been spent deliberately hosting large-scale entertainment and cultural events to whitewash the country’s abysmal human rights record, and the Soundstorm music festival is no different. According to the report, the country’s local entertainment scene was built up with arbitrary arrests of dissidents, social activists, human rights activists and ordinary Saudi citizens. Shihabi is against this argument, according to him, Saudi has little to do with any global image and is focused purely on meeting local needs.

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