Dutch artist Satori headlines an event in the Riyadh desert

RIYADH: On Friday, a dynamic series of electronic house music bounced off the desert hills of Riyadh at NOX Camp Desert Resort, bringing together fans of desert music, art and sports in a one-of-a-kind event.

Exclusive music and arts event organizer Desert Sound Entertainment presented its first “Mars Escape” experience to the Saudi community, transporting approximately 1,000 attendees to another dimension characterized by live art, festival makeup and fire shows.

The moon was shining, creating the atmosphere of heavenly night, the music was rising. With Satori headlining, the international DJ lineup included Alaa Jazaery, Rafa, NarkBeat and a surprise performance from local DJ Ibbie.

A. of. March. Escape participants enjoyed one of the many games and activities “Mars Escape” had to offer. (A photo by Basheer Saleh)

The 10am festival saw a distinctive mix of performers take to the main stage. Rafa gave the crowd a sensuous and authentically earthy organic house experience while NarkBeat’s performance left the crowd waiting with sultry Arabic oud sounds. Alaa Jazaeri, founder of a similar music festival titled “Narratives”, slowed down the groove with a set of organic, soulful house music, taking festival-goers on a mini-journey.

The diverse music echoing the Desert Valley culminated with Satori, a world-renowned Dutch producer whose music focuses on spirituality and enlightenment. His set took off quickly at midnight and closed the event. His stop in Riyadh is part of his world tour this month with upcoming shows in Moscow, Stockholm and London.


Rafa gave the crowd a sensuous and authentically earthy organic house experience while NarkBeat’s performance left the crowd waiting with sultry Arabic oud sounds.

“I wouldn’t imagine on this side of the world that people know me and connect with music in this way, so it was really a great pleasure. I’ve been playing in this region of course already for a few years, if we speak from Dubai or Egypt, I played in Oman and Lebanon, but never in Arabia,” Satori said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

The soft sounds of Satori, developed under the influence of the Japanese term “Satori”, cannot be reduced to a single genre, but rather to a feeling. His music combines elements of self exploration, earthy melodies, psychedelic tones and lively energy. The piano crescendo, synthetic electronic beats and kalimba set off a round of cheers as people danced. Almost all the listeners were rhythmically delighted, surrendering to the sound.

A photo of Basheer Saleh

“For me, I feel like I’m part of the innovation. There is something moving forward and just to be part of it is truly a great honour. It’s like we’re writing history and I’m part of that chapter,” he said of his recent performance. “At the end of the day, music is a universal language, people would connect to it or understand it even if they’re not used to these kinds of events. People will feel it.”

Although primarily focused on musical performances, the event certified by the Saudi General Entertainment Authority also included an array of cultural activities such as art installations, graffiti and street art sites, virtual reality booths, games and live catering. “We wanted to complete the musical experience as a whole, connecting with nature and expressing ourselves through art and feelings with music,” Reema Al-Saud, deputy director, told Arab News.

Spectators were ready to indulge in the cultural aspect of the experience. “It’s my first experience, and it gives a good atmosphere,” said participant Bha’a Mahdi. “I didn’t like that there weren’t many people. The place is very, very beautiful. Incredible. It’s unreal. I liked the music, but I was hoping the music would have more lows and highs. I felt united with the desert, I even took off my shoes,” he said.

Other audience members had similar comments. “Location is good, atmosphere is nice. Just one thing: I wish there were more people,” said one attendee.

“The ground traps you. The sand doesn’t allow you to dance or walk,” said another participant.

This international lineup and various activities come after a new wave of events that cater to these music lovers, the latest being Freaks of Nature, bringing new meaning to weekend family entertainment businesses in Riyadh.