The Winter at Tantora Festival is bringing international music stars to perform at Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia.
Being held for eight consecutive weekends, the festival’s first edition includes names like Italian singer Andrea Bocceli, French violinist Renaud Capuçon and Greek composer Yanni.
The festival also hosted the first virtual concert in the Kingdom with a hologram performance of Egyptian icon Umm Kulthum, accompanied by a live orchestra.
The event is expected to attract 30,000 spectators from over 40 different countries, showing how far Saudi Arabia has come after liberalising its music and arts scene.
Performances are held in a custom-built ‘mirror’ concert hall that reflects Al-Ula’s unique natural landscape.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH YANNI
Yanni, who is known for performing at some of the world’s most historic sites, including the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City and the Royal Albert Hall, explained what it feels like to perform in such a setting.
“When the audience sits in front and they’re looking at this magnificence behind us, it’s irreplaceable,” he tells Euronews, between rehearsals at Al-Ula. “The audience sits before we even walk on stage and they are already in a state of mind, the emotion is already there, all I have to do is amplify what they are already feeling by using the music and my words.”
The inspiring setting also got Yanni talking about his creative process and the free-spirited way he conducts his performances.
“The creative moment is a place to go where you’re in complete surrender,” he said, “You can’t grab at creativity, it’s much like trying to grasp for a butterfly: if you grab it, you’re going to destroy it, but if you put your hand out it has to come to you.”
With his 35-year career, Yanni does not use any sheet music when performing, playing all his songs from memory.
“Music is meant to be for your ears, for the auditory system,” he said, “To try and write it down on a piece of paper, it’s not exactly, you know… music lives in my mind.”
Having accumulated around 40 platinum and gold albums, and being number one ‘New Age’ selling artist, the Greek composer doesn’t appreciate being placed in a specific music category.
“It’s a convenient category, it means nothing,” he says, “They didn’t know what to do with guys like me because my music doesn’t fit: it has rock’n’roll in it, it has jazz, it has classical influences, it has influence from the Middle East, Asian influences, all over.”
“Labels are important in society because it helps find things. For example you’re looking for milk at a grocery store,” he adds “But when you apply it to art. That’s when I have a problem.”
SEEN ON SOCIAL: AL-ULA SIGHTSEEING
Mikhail from the Philippines shared this shot in front of the Al Maraya concert hall in Al-Ula, saying that he loves Al Ula’s ‘other-worldly landscape’.
And Muhammad from Indonesia jumped for joy with his friends in Saudi, having worked at the first Tantora festival.