US rapper Nelly and Algerian singer Cheb Khaled are set to perform a concert together in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 14 December 2017 to an only male audience, a move that has been welcomed by many, but criticised by others, including some women, reported BBC and Associated Press.
Conservatives have criticised the move to bring Nelly over concerns of decency as he was arrested in 2015 for drug possession and was recently accused of sexual assault while on tour – a charge that has since been dropped.
In May 2017, US country singer Toby Keith performed a concert in Riyadh also to an only-male crowd who were required to be aged 21 and over and who had to wear traditional tunics. The performer was also asked to soften some of his songs which feature references to alcohol, which is illegal in the country.
In April 2016, Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman launched an ambitious Economic Reform and Diversification Programme known as “Saudi Vision 2030” to develop the country’s entertainment sector.
The country since then has slowly introduced live concerts to its ultraconservative society, with the first one hosted in Riyadh in over 30 years taking place in March 2017. In that concert, popular singers Mohamed Abdou and Rashed El-Majed also performed to an all-male audience. The concert sold out in 30 minutes.
In October 2017, for the first time in more than 30 years, the country’s official cultural channel Al Thakafiya broadcast a concert by famous Egyptian female singer Umm Kulthum.
The entertainment reform also plans to establish the country’s first movie theatre.
Opinions to the reform and the subsequent concerts and future plans have been, at best, mixed, and have garnered strong reactions over social media.