Music has kept people going during these challenging times.
We've witnessed a number of artists drop their much-awaited album during the global pandemic, including Canadian singer The Weeknd who released his fourth studio album After Hours on March 20, 2020 — his first studio album since 2015. A week after that, English singer Dua Lipa released her second studio album Future Nostalgia.
There have been many initiatives by artists to take their music online during this period, including those in the Arab world. Last month, Adonis, a Lebanese pop/rock band, put together a home concert on the streaming app Anghami for their fans.
And now, regional music artists are coming together for the UAE's largest online music festival. Enter The Beat DXB Lockdown, set to be held on April 8 over the course of nine hours. We talked to Saudi music personality Hassan Dennaoui, also known as Big Hass, the founder of the festival and the brains behind the upcoming virtual one.
The idea for the Lockdown festival came about amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which has prompted people to stay home in an effort to restrict the contagion's spread. Artists who rely on physical gigs have been incredibly affected by the pandemic, according to Big Hass.
"I felt artists are the ones most affected - going from getting paid to perform in gigs and festivals around the UAE to 'staying home' with no income whatsoever," the founder explained.
That's when the Saudi music enthusiast reached out to G-Shock Middle East, who agreed to sponsor the movement. The sponsorship money will be going to 25 families who are "in urgent need to have groceries in these difficult times."
Big Hass realizes how difficult this period is but wants to focus on the other side of the coin, as he believes "there will be 'a demand' on local/regional artists since no international artists can fly in, so, the push from initiatives and brands will be towards engaging the local community." And according to him, artists should "demand a fee even if they are performing online."
Regarding the upcoming virtual festival, each artist will be performing their gig on their Instagram page, ultimately driving traffic to the artist's personal social media platform "which is what G-Shock and The Beat DXB want."
A total of 33 talent will take the stage from the comfort of their homes this week for The Beat DXB Lockdown; most of them are based in the UAE and each will receive a 10-minute slot to perform.
Some of the artists taking part in this online music festival include Al-Ain singer Ghaliaa Chaker, Somali rapper Freek (aka Mustafa Ismail), Syrian-Palestinian rapper Moh Flow, and Lebanese singer Tina Yamout to name a few. Other international artists will be joining in on the fun as well, including Saudi DJ Saud and guitarist Adam Lee from London.
Big Hass is the founder of The Beat DXB and one of the biggest supporters of local/regional artists. Those taking part in the upcoming online festival jumped on board as soon as Big Hass proposed the idea to them.
"I reached out to all of them and they were so on board and I believe creating this 'hype' about local/regional artists is great. We might even have few artists jump on from the USA towards the end of the night also performing on their IG pushing the movement even further," the Saudi personality told us.
The Lockdown concept is a riff off of The Beat DXB, a music festival that's been taking the stage in Dubai over the last two years. But it wasn't always a Dubai thing.
"The BEAT is a concept I started back in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2013 and it is a series of events aimed to support local/regional artists by having them perform live," Big Hass told StepFeed.
He was able to put together six Beat events in the Saudi city but eventually relocated to Dubai after his son was diagnosed with autism.
"I didn't want the movement to stop, hence, I renamed it 'The BEAT DXB' and I've done 3 events in the UAE and it's been an amazing ride and an honor to push and support artists," the Saudi music enthusiast added.
What separates The Beat from other music festivals, according to Big Hass, is the fact that it usually takes place in a space that fits around 200-300 people, giving attendees the chance to mingle with the artists there.
Big Hass acknowledges that this upcoming online festival is not something new, but he just wants to contribute to the music scene in the UAE during this period. He also hopes that this will "push other brands and initiatives to pay artists even if they are performing online."
He also believes that the whole music ecosystem "will change as we are going towards a more virtual world." He even hinted at another online music initiative he's currently working on.
For those who don't know him (shame on you), Big Hass is the host of Saudi's first FM Hip-Hop Radio Show "Laish Hip-Hop?," founder of re-volt blog, and also a radio host at Pulse 95, Sharjah's first and only English Radio Station.
In addition to being an MC and the founder of The Beat DXB, he is the father of an "awesome kid and a husband to an incredibly powerful woman," he said.
"Yeah i wear so many hats. Hamdulilah."