Industry leaders at XP Music Futures predict the Arab region as the next global music hub
RIYADH: MDLBEAST’s second XP Music Futures conference, bringing together regional and international industry leaders and experts, in the Jax area of Diriyah, concludes on Wednesday.
The event kicked off on Monday with a tantalizing performance by rising Saudi talents Ntitled and MOT, who opened for a variety of keynote speakers including Mathew Knowles, Elyanna, Hardwell and Amy Thomson to discuss the evolution of the region’s music industry.
MDLBEAST Chief Creative Officer Ahmad Al-Amari, also known as Baloo, said the annual XP focuses on growing the local scene, nurturing talent, diversifying the sound, developing, managing, acquiring labels and navigating the scene.
“Last year it was about local brands. This year it’s about regional brands. We’re expanding to more sounds, more genres. Whatever your sound is, you have a place for it here,” Al-Ammary told Arab News.
The XP day experience supported engaging educational opportunities in a variety of areas: revolutionizing regional music, generating hits, music in the age of the Metaverse, the role of the artist, cultural representation within the global stage, moving boundaries, using social media and services for streaming and much more in a series of workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities.
XP’s nightly experience, which saw a line-up of over 130 acts during the conference, presented a unique look at talent from the Middle East and North Africa music scene, from psychedelic minimal techno to R&B and hip-hop.
Also featured was a DJ competition, drum circle and experiences from DJ Shaolin and Zii, Vague, Narratives, Eko and MDLBEAST Records.
The predecessor to Soundstorm 2022, the region’s largest music festival, saw a 46 percent increase on last year’s edition, with 76 sessions across multiple platforms focused on key pillars of talent, impact, scene and – most recently – innovation.
“I’m thankful for MDLBEAST bringing so many different artists and so many different sounds to Saudi Arabia for people who have never…felt this kind of energy around them,” Omar Agha, co-founder of KNZ record label and music lab , said.
As the world embraces niche genres from around the world, especially K-pop and Latin pop, industry insiders predict that regional music from the Middle East is next in line for the top charts.
MDLBEAST Senior Creative Strategist Haya Shaat told Arab News: “What I am often told is that the global music industry is very hard to please. When they came to Saudi Arabia, they were pleasantly surprised to see what Saudi talent was all about. In a more qualitative sense, there’s been a really good reception to it.”
A central theme is navigating authenticity in the global marketplace: How do artists create music that is culturally relevant while still appealing to international audiences?
Famous Saudi DJ “Vinyl Mode” and creative activations manager Muhaned Nassar told Arab News: “I came up with the concept of ‘vibration generators’… and it’s about being real when you perform, in any art form, whether you’re painting , playing music. When you are fully present and real about it, it will transform and no language is needed wherever you are in the world. It will reach the people.”
At a time when the MENA region is emerging as the next music hub and fastest growing music market in the world, industry leaders are embracing the idea of exporting talent instead of simply importing it from abroad.
“You will notice, especially in the context of Saudi Arabia, that people create because they want to create. They don’t follow any formula… Authenticity has become the best ingredient for uniqueness and that’s what we’re trying to push.
“It takes time to marinate this dish,” Al-Amari told Arab News, referring to the burgeoning regional music scene. “I think within two, three years you’re going to try a really nice different list of musical genres from Saudi Arabia.”
The event also spawned MDLBEAST’s first networking session, “Meet the Beasts,” allowing audiences to connect with members of the music community, build bridges, and explore the inner workings of ambitious initiatives.
Visitors also shopped for local designs, brands and delicacies at XP’s market and courtyard spaces.