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New wave of Saudi artists excited to mold emerging popular culture

The Saudi government has recently become a patron of the arts, sponsoring concerts by Western performers such as New Age artist Yanni and promoting comic festivals and book fairs. Cinemas, banned for decades, are set to open soon.

The thaw is part of a push by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, to ease some social restrictions, and the flurry of official announcements has thrilled a generation of young Saudis for whom a night of music or movies most often meant trips abroad.

A focus on entertainment and culture is central to a plan to diversify the country’s oil-dependent economy while expanding some social freedoms.

Saudi officials and the crown prince’s supporters say the changes – including allowing women to drive (a concession promised by the late King Abdullah) and curbing the authority of the “religious police” – represent a long-delayed effort to drag the kingdom into the modern era.

Some initiatives, such as the opening of cinemas, have also promised a vast economic opportunity.

Source: Gulf News

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