Yazeed Alhashim: ‘The musical palette of the crowd in Saudi Arabia is expanding’
Yazeed Alhashim talks to Mixmag MENA about their new festival concept Freaks of ARAVEIA, recent sectoral trends in Saudi Arabia and his own journey with a passion for different sides of the industry
Freaks of Nature returned past month with a brand-new concept for its third edition, Freaks of ARAVEIA. Having taken over the Al Duhami Equestrian Center for two nights, Freaks of ARAVEIA, presented by Disrupt Group, lit up the desert skies in Riyadh with stunning visuals, flamboyant costumes and vibrant colours as well as 10 international headliners including Mesto, Seth Hills, Kaaze and Toby Romeo.
We caught up with Yazeed Alhashim, one of the executives at Disrupt Group, a multi-discipline agency that specialises in the entertainment, music, and sport industry in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East. Let's dive into this exclusive Q&A session with him to get more insight into the latest gathering of their new festival concept, recent sectoral trends in Saudi Arabia and his own journey with a passion for different sides of the industry.
You left behind the first edition of your new festival concept Freaks of ARAVEIA. How was the atmosphere? What feedbacks have you heard from the artists and the fans at first hand?
The atmosphere was great, as it has been since we started. With each episode, crowds have grown, the lineups evolved, and the audience now really appreciates what we are doing. The first Freaks of Nature was a brand-new concept in Saudi Arabia and we have continued to grow from there. Freaks of ARAVEIA was a new idea and we are delighted with how it went.
The feedback from artists and fans has been overwhelmingly positive. They loved being a part of an evolving industry, being part of the change in Saudi Arabia and making history by being part of the event at its inception.
We are so grateful to the support and trust of our fans and the artists we’ve been able to bring to Saudi Arabia to perform as well as the local artists who have been with us from the beginning.
The festival would not be possible without this support, and we will continue to bring the best live electronic music to crowds in Saudi Arabia.
How many attendees did you welcome?
Freaks of ARAVEIA welcomed 2000 attendees on each day of the two-day festival.
You’ve laid the foundations of Freaks of ARAVEIA with the previous editions of your boutique festival brand, Freaks of Nature, right? What are the major differences between these two?
We have tried to make the festival more inclusive, highlighting more sub genres and making the festival more accessible to people by offering accommodation packages. We also introduced new and cool concepts using projections to make this edition stand out.
Behind the scenes, we have grown our team and added international experience as well as emerging local talent to learn new aspects of the events industry so that the sector as a whole can develop for the benefit of audiences across the country.
You’re also a member of Riyadh-based collective Disrupt Group and curator of both Freaks of Nature and Freaks of ARAVEIA festivals. Could you let us know more about Disrupt Group? What are the enjoyable and challenging aspects of curating events in this scale?
I am the founder and Chief Disruption Officer of Disrupt Group, a multi-discipline agency specialising in a wide range of creative and digital services in the entertainment, music, and sport industry in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East. vision is to bring the best in entertainment to the country, provide opportunity to local artists and empower talented creatives. We work with leading international partners to explore new ways of doing things, pioneer new sectors, promote new artists and, together with our clients, change the creative culture across the country as Saudi Arabia looks to achieve its goals for developing new and exciting industries.
The most enjoyable aspects are also the most challenging; everything is new. This gives us the opportunity to create something from nothing in a way that mirrors our vision, but at the same time the framework is still in its infancy, so we are part of the generation building a sector while at the same time responsible for ensuring it is sustainable. The great thing has been that the support we have received from all sides – regarding permits, venues, talent, and the fans - has been there to help us, and I am sure this is the case throughout the sector. We are committed to the success of a new music and festival industry in Saudi Arabia and have been pleased with the progress so far.
Does Disrupt Group operate only in the KSA? Have you participated in any projects out of your country?
Earlier this year we participated in Motionz in The Hague, The Netherlands, which was our first venture outside of Saudi Arabia and a really enriching experience. We are always looking for opportunities to expand our partnership with Motionz as well as developing our portfolio in the international markets to create a bridge between the local and international music scene.
What are the major trends in Saudi Arabia in terms of the dance music ecosystem? What genres are popular among electronic music fans?
The local market has been quick to introduce new sub genres of electronic music to fans and we are finding that the crowd really enjoys it, responds positively, and demands more.
We have noticed that the musical palette of the crowd is expanding, which is great to see and is encouraging for the future of electronic music in Saudi Arabia.
We are giving them a taste of how wide, diverse and colourful the music genre is by bringing new styles, new artists and new concepts to the market which can inspire talented musicians, DJs, and producers to develop their own sound and help the industry grow.
How has the scene been evolving recently in the country?
In short, very quickly. There has long been an underground music scene and party scene in the country, and now these artists have the opportunity to perform to crowds. And the crowds are growing event after event.
This is a young country in many ways and the diversity of techniques, influences and sub-genres we are able to showcase has led to an explosion of talent and huge demand for live shows. It is a very exciting time for the country and for artists in all genres and all mediums.
You’re Riyadh-based and the city hosts an intense number of events indeed. Except Riyadh, which cities and regions are the other hotspots within the sector?
Freaks of Nature and Freaks of ARAVEIA started in Riyadh and all three festivals have been in the Riyadh area, but we are looking to expand across the country, to Jeddah, and other parts of the country.
We see opportunities across Saudi Arabia, in regions where we know there is demand, and as part of the nationwide giga-projects which will transform the Kingdom into a tourism, entertainment and adventure destination.
These projects are driven by technology, innovation and sustainability, and with that change comes developments in arts, culture, entertainment, and all sectors of the economy.
Apart from the organisational side of your work, you’re DJing under the alias Sound of Yaz, too. How does it feel to be on both sides of this experience personally?
It certainly is demanding! But I love seeing both sides of the festival and it offers a unique perspective. In the build up to the event I am incredibly busy organizing the various elements, liaising with suppliers and talent, and then it’s showtime and I let out all my passion in my performance. This dual role also allows me to understand the needs of the talent and ensure everything is in place for a fantastic show and see it from the spectator’s perspective as well. This is definitely an advantage when creating memorable events and, so far, I am very proud of everything we have accomplished.
Any details about the new forthcoming projects on Disrupt Group?
We are looking to expand Freaks of Nature and, through partnerships, develop more comprehensive annual plans, growing the events and taking the next steps. Disrupt as a group is looking to work on initiatives and investments in the infrastructure that would help us plan our events on a more efficient scale – and fill the gaps in the market, meet the demands in the industry, such as ticketing and marketing, and continue making a unique contribution to the development of music and entertainment in Saudi Arabia.
Please leave a message for the dance music fans.
Thank you for your support, we are truly grateful to each and every one of our fans for being part of this journey. There is a lot more to come, so stay tuned and we’ll be back very soon!
You can follow the below links to keep up to date with the new projects by Freaks of Nature, Disrupt Group and Yazeed Alhashim.
Freaks of Nature
Yazeed Alhashim (Sound of Yaz)