4 highlights from MDLBeast Soundstorm 2023

4 highlights from MDLBeast Soundstorm 2023



Thank you for the music, Riyadh – from rockers Metallica to rapper Will Smith.

MDLBeast Soundstorm 2023 shows that Saudi Arabia is dancing to a different beat. Not long ago, if you told the world that the Kingdom would be home to the region’s biggest music festival, it would have been hard to believe. Now in its fourth edition, the event highlights how the conservative country has put itself on the international music map.

The music festival ran from 14 to 16 December and turned the volume up to full blast in Riyadh. The event hit the inclusivity box in unexpected ways – we’re talking artists that are international and local, established and upcoming, and men and women. There were the highs (Metallica's first performance) and lows (Kanye West cancelled). Here are the highlights from MDLBeast Soundstorm 2023.

Female performers

Due to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Vision 2030, the rules for women in the kingdom are rapidly changing. One of the most symbolic changes came in 2018, as the 30-year ban on women driving was lifted. Unlike many festivals in the region and around the world, MDLBeast Soundstorm is committed to giving women a platform – literally. The American singer H.E.R headlined the Big Beast stage, and the line-up also included female artists: Anfisa Letyago, Cosmicat, Fulana and more.

Saudi female DJs

Homegrown acts

MDLBeast Soundstorm 2023 is a game-changer. What sets it apart from other festivals is that local acts perform alongside international acts. The Big Beast stage wasn’t just for American singers and welcomed Arab singers from Egypt’s Amr Diab to Lebanon’s Elissa. Plus, Majid Almohandis, Omaima Taleb and Raheb Saqr.

Abu Dhabi this September

Metallica broke new ground

Saudi Arabia is used to world-famous DJs, but it rarely welcomes rock bands, let alone rock legends. The American stars Metallica headlined the opening night on 14 December on the Big Beast stage. The two-hour set included The Memory Remains, Too Far Gone and Where I May Roam, and the state-of-the-art visuals included screens resembling a futuristic eagle. Since there was more than 50,000 people, it confirmed that there is certainly a crowd for metal music in the Kingdom.

things to do in Saudi Arabia

Will Smith made his debut in Saudi Arabia

Will Smith may come from West Philadelphia, born and raised, but he has fallen in love with Saudi Arabia. The American actor and rapper has been spotted in AlUla, Jeddah and Neom. When he visited MDLBeast Soundstorm 2023 on 15 December, he set the Big Beast stage alight. He declared: “I have wanted to come to Saudi Arabia ever since I was a little boy. I want to thank you for welcoming me and my family”. Not only did he reunite with his collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff – they won a Grammy Award in 1989 – but he also performed with his son, Jaden.

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