Saudi Arabia’s MDL Beast Announces 2020 Online Event

The second edition of the controversial festival will be a 12-hour party to celebrate World Music Day.

  • By externalwire | June 17, 2020,5:39 pm
MDL Beast

Following the success of the first MDL Beast music festival in December 2019, organizers announced on Monday that the 2020 edition will be an online event. Scheduled to coincide with World Music Day on June 20, the event, named Freqways, will feature an impressive international lineup. 

Confirmed performers include Steve Aoki, Afrojack, Maceo Plex, Claptone, Danny Tenaglia, Deep Dish, Sasha, Butch, Art Department, Laidback Luke, Delano Smith, Gui Boratto, Phil Weeks, Benny Benassi, and Dirty South. 

Regional artists including Led & Majid, Vinyl Mode, and SPCEBOI are also scheduled to perform. The multi-stage digital event will see virtual festival goers board online “flights” to locations around the world including Riyadh, Ibiza, and Las Vegas where they will be able to party to the pre-recorded sets. 

Last year, over 400,000 people participated in the three-day event which pushed Saudi Arabia’s ambition to host large-scale cultural events onto the global stage. Impossible to imagine in the conservative kingdom a few years ago, the event signified an awakening for the EDM community in Saudi Arabia. 

“Influencer-washing” Saudi Arabia’s image

The inaugural MDL Beast in 2019 was not without controversy. Many criticized the influencers and celebrities who were paid to attend the festival for failing to comment on the country’s abysmal human rights record. 

Among those who attended and posted extensively about the event on social media were models Irina Shayk, Winni Harlow, and Alessandra Ambrosio, actors Armie Hammer and Ed Westick, and social media personalities Sofia Richie and Negin Mirasheli. 

Whilst details of the stars’s compensation for their attendance were not made public, some of them are known to command six- or seven-figure sums for a single Instagram post. Among those to call out the celebrities was the Instagram account Diet Prada (@diet_prada), which regularly highlights problematic issues within the fashion industry, and model Emily Ratajkowski.  

Ratajkowski claimed she turned down the invitation to attend, issuing a statement in which she voiced her solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community and the rights of women stating, “I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there.”

Commentators on social media called out many of the stars who attended the festival for posting “government propaganda” aimed at rehabilitating Saudi Arabia’s image. Issues raised by commentators included the murder or Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashogi in October 2018. 

Claims of mass sexual assault

In addition to the condemnation of the influencers who attended the festival, many women claimed on social media they were sexually assaulted at the festival. 

Using the hashtag #saudimenharassing in English and Arabic, women detailed their experiences at the festival. One woman described how she was surrounded by men who tore off her shirt and groped her. Others expressed concern that even young girls were victims of harassment, as were those who went with males in an attempt to avoid such problems. 

Conservative social media users were unsympathetic to the women’s claims, suggesting that sexual harassment was to be expected when attending a festival such as MDL Beast.

Related Articles

Runaway Love
A ‘Radical’ Platform Features Work from MENA’s Contemporary Creatives

In 2017, Nour Hassan wanted to provide young creatives in the Arab world with a platform and exposure that she felt was not forthcoming from established magazines. Three years later, Radical Contemporary has grown from an online magazine project to a creative platform and business providing brand building and consultancy services.  Explaining the platform’s success, […]

Mertola Scene
Exploring Portugal’s Muslim History

The presence of churches is inescapable in Portugal, a country that has centered its identity since the Middle Ages on a Christian heritage and where students continue to learn of the reconquest against Muslim “invaders.”  Missing in any meaningful way from this narrative however is the approximately 500 years of Muslim rule during which Christians, […]

Untitled 1 Copy
Meet the 8 Best ‘Bad Girls’ Paving the Way for Female Arab Rappers

In a largely male-dominated industry, the world of rap has opened up considerably in recent years under the impulse of many women who want to make their voices heard

Saudi Arabia's Sad Milestone: First COVID-19 Doctor Death
Saudi Arabia’s Sad Milestone: First COVID-19 Doctor Death

“He laid down his life for the humanitarian cause in these difficult circumstances. His services will always be remembered,” the Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia said in a condolence message.