Since Saudi Arabia began opening its borders to foreign entertainers in recent years, many performers have been willing to overlook the country’s history of human rights abuses, discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ people, and silencing of critics. Now, you can add Soundstorm ’22 festival headliners Bruno Mars, Post Malone, and DJ Khaled to the list.
The festival will take place December 1st through 3rd in Banban, a district on the outskirts of the capital city of Riyadh. Each of the aforementioned artists will be making their debut performance in Saudi Arabia. Other international names on the lineup include Wizkid and Marshmello, as well as returning DJs like Carl Cox, Solomun, DJ Snake, and David Guetta.
A press release for the self-described “largest music festival in the Middle East” notes that Saudi women will make up “a large portion of the bill.” This includes DJs like Biirdperson, DJ Cosmicat, Dorar, Kayan, and Solskin alongside Dish Dash, Vinylmode, and regional star DJ Aseel.
Over the past several years, the government of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has led an effort to whitewash human rights violations by hosting major entertainment and sporting events including Formula One races, professional golf tournaments, and WWE pay-per-view events. Included among the artists who have performed there are BTS, Justin Bieber, and Mariah Carey.
Back in 2019, Nicki Minaj canceled a performance at World Jeddah Fest after a lengthy open letter from the Human Rights Foundation.