Festival Advisor Team
Dec 16, 2020
6 min read
If you’re the kind of festival-goer that loves exotic locales, you may consider SOUNDSTORM in Saudi Arabia. The nation is not best known for its dance music, but MDLBEAST Chief Creative Officer Ahmad Alammary (also known as Baloo) founded his company as a means to give outsiders a fresh perspective into his country’s culture.
The company launched its first music festival in December of 2019. SOUNDSTORM was a three-day event that brought an international audience together for sets from local Saudi talent as well as international DJs, bands, vocalists, stage performers, acrobats, and more.
Tiesto, Martin Garrix and Black Coffee played alongside Swizz Beats, Rick Ross and local favorites from Cosmicat to Dish Dash. It was an extravaganza unlike anything Saudi Arabia had ever seen, and Baloo says he still gets goosebumps thinkings about it.
“I don’t think that’s going to go away any time soon,” he says. “It was kind of our Woodstock.”
MDLBEAST is more than just one physical festival, and while it wasn’t possible to hold Sandstorm 2021 in the wake of COVID-19, MDLBEAST continues to keep a sharp focus on the horizon with a series of virtual events called FREQWAYS.
Billed as a “monthly music and travel experience,” FREQWAYS streams famous DJs performing in lush landscapes and urban scenes around the world. They’re finishing the series out strong with one last trip in 2020, featuring Marco Faraone in an abandoned Ibiza hotel, David Morales in Mykonos, Sultan + Shepard in the Hollywood Hills, Rebecca & Fiona in Stockholm and more.
We spoke to Baloo to get the skinny of MDLBEAST, SOUNDSTORM and the future of the company.
What is your name and what is the name of your festival?
Hi, my name is Ahmad Alammary and I am the Chief Creative Officer at MDLBEAST. Our festival is called SOUNDSTORM. And it happens annually in December.
When did the festival start and what inspired it?
Our first event was in December 2019 it was held over three days in an area just 40 minutes outside of Riyadh. And, you know, we had a fantastic three day event with a multitude of stages with different size audiences and you know, it was just it was something that you know, you know, where we still get goosebumps just thinking about those three days that passed and I don't think that's gonna go away anytime soon. For us, it was kind of our Woodstock you know, and so we managed to kind of reveal to ourselves and the world, how much we actually love music and we love to dance and we love to celebrate. And, you know, that event was kind of a testament to that. And so, you know, we started working on it in July of 2019, we had our concept locked in by October and we began breaking ground and we were done by December.
What kind of musical artists play at your festival?
The event is about multiple genres, serving you know, various tastes, because you know, whoever you are, if you come to SOUNDSTORM, you're going to find your music in some corner of the event. So, you know, we booked DJs we book bands and vocalists and performers you know, even outside of music, stage performers and acrobatics and you know there's a range of talent that comes through MDLBEAST and it's always immersive and entertaining and all based on just having a lot of fun.
Who was the first act you ever booked?
The first acts we booked were the Saudi acts, the local acts, and you know, it was such a such a great piece of news to tell them that, you know, we were preparing a really big platform for them to perform and to create and, you know, really really enjoyed those sets that they played.
What’s the most memorable set or sets for you?
Some of the most memorable sets were those played by the locals. You know, I distinctly remember Ips killing it at the afterparty. I remember Carlo doing a phenomenal groovy job with his set. Danny Tenaglia played a really nice tribal and techno set. You know, everyone that came through really enjoyed their experience and you know, that came through in the music that they played.
Who is the target audience for your festival?
Our target audience for the festival is a global community. A global mindset. People who enjoy traveling and who enjoy attending festivals around the world and meeting people from around the world and connecting with people on a musical level. And so we're looking for those people who are looking for the unconventional, the fresh and new perspectives on dance music, and music in general.
What is unique about your festival? What sets it apart?
What sets us apart from other festivals is how much of a cultural machine the brand is above and beyond SOUNDSTORM, we're here to create opportunities and to bring people together to fuse cultures and to create music and to create surprises, honestly, like fresh culture all the way. For us it's about what the world hasn't seen and a lot of what we do is personal and private and unseen. And so this festival kind of takes the lid off of that box and you get to see a whole other perspective of a region that is truly at heart you know, big big, big fans of dancing and joy and, you know, having a really good time together listening to real quality, global music.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced to date in organizing your festival?
In terms of challenges, you know, no festival is free of them. Right? So for us, I think the main challenge was always time. You know, no matter how great the experience was, we knew what we wanted in our vision, and then, you know, we ended up having a great time, despite not getting, you know, everything we wanted on our checklist, it was still phenomenal, but you know, we aim super high, and, you know, in a way that is a challenge in itself is that we, you know, we're always there to like, push it beyond its existing boundaries and create something really, really groundbreaking and fun.
Anything else you want to tell us about?
Other than that, I want to talk about how there's a lot to come. I always say next is more. And next is more, there's so much coming and we're all really, really excited to kind of unveil all the plans we have, hopefully once the situation blows over and we're in a safe place, and the world goes back to normal or we create the new normal. Hopefully we will create events, despite any challenges that we face because at the end of the day, our role is to build a global community of creatives and to supercharge that and the festival is our flagship event and it's only a tip of the iceberg that is MDLBEAST. Thanks!