DJs face criticism over decision to perform at Saudi Arabia's MDLBEAST festival - News - Mixmag
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DJs face criticism over decision to perform at Saudi Arabia's MDLBEAST festival

Human Rights Watch has asked artists to "speak up" on alleged Saudi human rights abuses

  • Megan Townsend
  • 17 December 2021
DJs face criticism over decision to perform at Saudi Arabia's MDLBEAST festival

Artists set to play at Saudi Arabia's MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM festival this weekend have come under fire from human rights organisations.

Electronic artists such as Adam Beyer, Sven Väth, Jeff Mills, Charlotte de Witte, David Guetta and Carl Cox are all scheduled to play.

MDLBEAST is a four-day electronic festival taking place near the capital Riyadh, taking place from December 16-19. It came under fire in 2019 for using influencers and other celebrities to promote itself.

Saudi Arabia has been a focus of international scrutiny for its alleged human rights abuses for decades - with human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch believing the country's new focus on cultural events is an attempt to "whitewash" their record.

Read this next: A Saudi Arabian man has been arrested for dabbing at a festival

Their "Vision 2030" initiative reportedly came from the need for an "image revamp" after multiple international boycotts following the suspicious death of government critic and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Artists billed to play come from all over the electronic spectrum, with huge names such as Camelphat, DJ Snake, Dubfire, Eric Prydz, Hot Since 82, Loco Dice, Nina Kraviz, Solardo and more.

The 2019 edition of the festival came under fire for inviting female influencers - but no female artists to perform. Women in Saudi Arabia remain subject to strict prohibitions in their daily lives.

Human Rights Watch said: "Since launching in 2019, MDL Beast has used influencers and music-industry celebrities to rehabilitate the country’s image."

"While the Saudi Public Investment Fund, headed by the abusive Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, doubles down on these efforts to bring bigger and better events to the country, the government has intensified a crackdown on peaceful dissent."

Read this next: "A tool for protest": DJs from the global south are fighting oppression with music

"Dozens of Saudi activists and human rights defenders remain unjustly imprisoned, some horrifically tortured. Recent social reforms, while important, fall far short of bringing Saudi Arabia in compliance with international human rights standards or else offer only surface-level freedoms."

They added that artists playing at the festival should use their platform to address the country's human rights record: "MDL Beast Soundstorm performers and promoters should use their microphones, stages, and screen time to speak out about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia or refuse to participate in yet another one of Saudi’s reputation laundering schemes."

Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Digital Editor, follow her on Twitter

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