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The first-ever Riyadh International Jazz Festival grooves into town

The line-up is out, and it includes some top jazz acts…

Put on your tap shoes, apply the grease paint, and get those jazz hands ready – the inaugural Riyadh International Jazz Festival is grooving into town from Wednesday February 7 to Friday February 9.

The festival is an exciting new fixture in the Kingdom’s rich cultural calendar, bringing jazz and world music to the Mayadeen Theatre in Diriyah.

Riyadh International Jazz Festival

Set over three jazz-packed evenings, more than ten events, including live performances from international acts alongside emerging artists from the Arab music scene, will take place, spreading the magic of jazz to our fine shores.

The line-up will feature headline international performers who have defied and redefined the nature of jazz music with their work. Alongside the main stage, the festival will feature a Jazz Café – look out for renowned clarinettist Peter Long and his orchestra, who will perform each night with a rotating line-up of vocalists.

Tickets are now available via the Ministry of Culture website. Although Box seats are sold out, you can still get the VIP tickets for SAR350 and the non-VIP for SAR120.

It’s a packed line-up, so mark your calendars for these three days to experience the whole all-that-jazz experience.

Here’s a quick guide to the best acts to catch at the inaugural Riyadh International Jazz Festival.

Wednesday February 7

Riyadh Intl Jazz fest Feb 7 lineup

The first night at the inaugural Riyadh International Jazz Festival is set to be a bumper start for the musical marathon. Australian jazz-funk band The Cat Empire, whose music takes in influences from Latin jazz and salsa music, funk, ska, alternative rock and more, will grace the main stage.

Saxophonist and composer YolanDa Brown, a double MOBO Award-winning artist whose music fuses reggae, jazz and soul, will also be performing. Anyone who has seen her in action knows that her live performances are truly legendary.

Another act kicking off the festival is Fulana, a Jeddah-based synthpop artist. Her emotional, often melancholic, music combines powerful vocals and electronic beats.

Thursday February 8

Jazz Festival Feb 8

The richly varied line-up for Thursday evening includes ‘Queen of Funk’ Chaka Khan, the British jazz ensemble Kokoroko, and Bahraini band Majaz.

Ten-time Grammy Award winner Chaka Khan needs no introduction. The funk music icon has performed across the world and demonstrated her artistic fluidity in genres such as pop, soul, jazz, gospel, classical, and funk.

Meanwhile, Kokoroko, led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice Grey, is a dynamic band fusing influences from the group’s diverse backgrounds.

Having recently performed at MDLBeast’s SoundStorm Festival in Riyadh, Majaz was formed in 2013. Their music celebrates the deep cultural connection between Africa and Arabia, blending “Afro-Khaleeji” sounds that combine African music’s rhythm with the tribal melodies of traditional Khaleeji music.

Friday February 9

Jazz Fest Feb 9

Expecting to set the stage ablaze on the last night will be Masego, three-time Grammy-nominated Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote, and Saudi jazz-fusion band Garwasha, who fuse Western and Eastern music, combining popular music forms with the Arab music of their heritage.

Masego is a self-proclaimed “TrapHouseJazz” pioneer who has been making waves in the music industry since the release of his debut, The Pink Polo EP, in 2016. He has a music style that fuses live beat-making and saxophone.

Hiatus Kaiyote, whose music spans jazz, funk and neo-soul, has received two Grammy nominations for best R&B performance and another for best Progressive R&B album.

The Riyadh International Jazz Festival is produced by the Music Commission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which was established in 2020 to champion the country’s music sector. Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Saudi Music Commission, says, “The first Riyadh International Jazz Festival is a unique opportunity to host some of the world’s most renowned music artists alongside amazing Saudi talents. It is an important step in supporting the development of the fast-growing music sector locally, whilst also putting Riyadh on the map as an emerging centre of excellence in global music.”

Riyadh International Jazz Festival, Feb 7 to 9, 6pm to 11pm, Mayadeen Theatre, Diriyah, Riyadh. Tickets start from SAR120 and can be purchased here.

Images: Supplied / Unsplash