THE NEW KINGDOM OF INDIE
How Saudi Arabia cane become the latest hotbed for indie/alternative music in the region, as a new wave of artists are making their voice heard amidst a sea of corporate music events and mega festivals.
Much has been said about Saudi’s recent move towards overhauling its image, namely when it comes to supporting and embracing the arts, and specifically music. The unfathomable success of MDLbeast, the largest electronic music festival, with over 130,000 people recorded in attendance, set the marker for what the entertainment industry could become in the Kingdom.
Other events and festivals drew huge crowds and some of the biggest stars in the music business. But as this part of the industry is substantially and meteorically expands, the other size of the coin is finding its own footing.
"Make no mistake, Saudi has always had an alternative scene going – working behind the scene and within the constraints they had to deal with for many year. Now, however, they can stake their claim within the context of that growth. "
The past couple of years, we’ve seen several bands emerge, with their own unique brand of music, pushing the perception of what a local Saudi band could, and should sound like. Blending influences and genres, these bands are writing, producing and releasing music on a much higher level than perhaps their counterparts across the Gulf.
On retrospect, this could be due to the fact that for many years – and to an extent even in today’s open field – they are strapped for venues and places to perform. So as their focus is less on performing and gigging, their focus shifts on being in the studio (at home, mostly), working on honing their sound, recording their material and releasing it.
Bands such as Good Company – a trio of musicians with influences ranging from lo-fi beats to funk and jazz – has already put out two Eps. JWA, an alternative rock band singing in Arabic, put out a full-length album last February. More notably, Statues of Sinking Men (one of several projects the prolific Abdul-Malik Zubailah in involved with) has released a self-titled LP and an instrumental EP so far.
Other bands such as Ana.n7n, a creative musical collective with a distinct sound and visual aesthetic, and Skeleton Crowd who recently dropped their new single and music video “Unus Mundus” are also stamping their imprint on KSA’s indie/alternative scene. Roxs is another young musician and producer who has been prolific in release music independently for the past couple of years, an interesting case as he is more of chameleon artist with each release standing on its own ground, shifting genres, styles and even languages.
And there’s no lacking when it comes to electronic music as well, with several artists pushing boundaries of sound to create fresh, challenging music that breaks away from the typically house-techno driven platforms. MSYLMA manages to blend elements of mystic electronic production with classical Arabic, while the likes of Desertf!sh and Spceboi are continuously pushing the scene for more alternative electronic sounds.
The next few years certainly look promising for the scene in KSA, and no doubt the thirst and interest in locally produced originally music will skyrocket as attention grows, and more platforms launch.
A year ago it would’ve been unfathomable to say, but the future of the regional, alternative music scene might be happening right now at the heart of Saudi Arabia.