We probably have in our minds a handful of Western music festival names with good lineups, locations, and reputation. Well, it’s time to start making place for a name that is rapidly and surely making its way into the scene while successfully representing the creative and energetic side of the Middle East. Balad Beast took place last week in Al Balad, a historical world heritage site in the centre of Jeddah, and we had the luck of attending to witness not only what the city has to offer and the energetic and fun attitude of its youth, but also the impressive performances of names such as Wu-tang Clan, Jungle, and Ty Dolla Sign.
Probably the most thrilling part of being involved and in touch with the cultural and creative side of this planet is the certainty that no matter how much you think you know about it or how many artists, movements, and projects you have on your radar, you will never, ever stop discovering something new. The world is a big place, and the number of humans is equivalent to the number of stories to be told and voices to be heard, and sometimes what it takes is just the willingness to look past our near horizons and open our hearts to what is going on outside our borders to discover a whole new world of creativity, talent, passion, and love for art.
Balad Beast started two years ago with this in mind, with the hope of becoming a platform that helped amplify voices that had a lot to say but no clear idea of where or how to start. Music, being the powerful force that holds an immense influence not only on the creator but also on the receiver, is the vehicle that the hundreds of people involved in the organisation of this festival use as a mean to expose Saudi Arabia to the world and expose the world to Saudi Arabia. 
The cultural transformation the country is experiencing was made evident by the twenty thousand attendees that congregated during the two days that the festival lasted, most of them young people that are just starting to become used to how live music feels and therefore gave their all in each one of the performances in a hopeful sight that speaks volumes about what art can do for those who feel in need to express themselves.
With a lineup that many festivals around the world could only wish for, a location that is nothing more and nothing less than on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and a top-tier organisation and logistics where not a single technical failure occurred (impressive considering the size of the event, the frailty of the venue, and the amount of resources used), everything went as smoothly as humanly possible. Divided into four stages or squares distributed in a large portion of Al Balad, the historical area founded in the 7th century and traditionally known as the centre of Jeddha and the Gate to Makkah, a variety of music could be heard, with Bab Square presenting hip-hop and R&B, Omda Square showcasing pure EMD, Roshan Square going for deep house, and Souq Square offering house and techno.
The balance between local and international artists was great, and it gave us the chance to discover gems of the local scene such as Cosmicat and Nooriyah, both women and pioneers as two of the first Saudi female artists in their genre, opening an important and necessary gate for all girls to be part of the movement and, now that is finally possible, create all the sounds, beats, and rhythms that they please. The explosion that was as strong both nights when the headliners started occupying the stage was crazy to witness. The big area of the main Bab Square was completely full of loud and energetic souls, and the artists were thankful for that. 
On the first night, Ty Dolla Sign delivered a powerful but vibey performance, guitar solo included; Russ made evident his connection with the Saudi audience, stating how thankful he was as this was the country that first believed in him at the start of his career; and Major Lazer made the crowd go crazy with the energy that only Diplo, Ape Drums, and Walshy Fire can convey.
The second night was for the books, with the popular Egyptian rock band Cairokee taking the stage and getting everyone fired up, representing another side of the MENA music scene, followed by Jungle, with their incredible ability to create live performances that sound even better than their records and performing an impeccable run-through of their biggest hits and the new material. Staten Island legends and probably one of the most iconic names in music history, rap group Wu-tang Clan took the stage to a completely packed audience as their performance was probably the most anticipated one of both nights, and rightfully so. It’s not often that you have the chance to witness some of the all-time best MCs right in front of you. To end the festival on the highest note, DJ Snake turned the place into his own club with an explosion of lights and sound, featuring some of his iconic hits like Turn Down for What.
It’s impressive how an initiative born not long ago and in a country with no big history of events of this type has managed to gather so much attention and convening power, reflected not only in the number of attendees but also in the important and influential names that occupied the different stages. With the pace at which it is growing, the incredible logistical skills, and the clear mindset of its founders, it is not difficult to imagine Balad Beast becoming part of the list of must-go worldwide festival agenda in just a few years.