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MDLBEAST’s XP Music Futures to amplify voices of Saudi Arabia once again

XP Music Futures, the Middle East’s biggest music conference, is once again returning to Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to develop the creative industry and amplify the voices of the region.

The three-day music conference, dedicated to developing the music scene in the Kingdom and region, will take place in Riyadh from December 7 to 9.

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Last year, the event saw discussions led by numerous global artists, including DJ Khaled, David Guetta, Hardwell, AfroJack, and Elyanna.

With one of the fasting growing entertainment industries, Saudi Arabia will host the conference to provide the new generation of music professionals in the region the platform to collaborate with change-makers from the global music community.

XP Music Futures will offer Arabic sessions and workshops this year, as well as networking forums and demo labs, showcasing the latest technologies in the music industry to participants.

The conference’s program is built on four pillars: talent, scene, impact, and innovation. The talent pillar will explore how to build a successful music career, while the scene pillar will focus on nightlife and cultural tourism.

Meanwhile, the impact pillar will focus on conversations on sustainability, well-being, equality & social equity, data collection & analytics. The innovation pillar will feature discussions, workshops and activations on immersive technology, digital production, Web3 and artificial intelligence.

David Guetta speaks at XP Music Futures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

David Guetta speaks at XP Music Futures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

By continuing to develop these four pillars year after year, XP said it hopes to provide a comprehensive platform for attendees to gain insights, network, and collaborate with music professionals from around the world.

Speakers at this year’s events have not been announced.

Female-focused initiative

This year, XP Music Futures launched a female-focused initiative called HUNNA.

The HUNNA initiative is designed as a platform and safe space for women in the music industry to gain the necessary mentorship to develop their skills and careers while collectively disrupting the outdated and unequal systems in the music industry in general.

The first part of the program kicks off in June and will see rising female talent paired with experts in their field for a three-month mentorship program.

According to MDLBEAST, HUNNA aims to connect women in the music industry and foster a stronger, more equitable music ecosystem.

The second part of the initiative will take place in December when industry professional’s come together at XP Music Futures to discuss female representation and equity in music spaces.

XPERFORM sponsored by YouTube

The XPERFORM competition is also returning this year with YouTube as the official sponsor.

The competition gives individuals a chance to show off their vocal talents with the possibility of working with MDLBEAST Records.

Last year, hundreds of singers from across the region submitted their applications, and the top five picks were flown to Riyadh to give a live performance in front of a group of judges made up of industry experts.

XP Music Futures is organized by music entertainment company MDLBEAST, which was established following the success of its flagship festival SOUNDSTORM in 2019 and is aimed at fostering talent, building the regional music scene, and advancing the creative economy.

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France concerned over Armenia ‘territorial integrity’: Macron

France is keeping a close eye on the territorial integrity of Armenia after Azerbaijan’s offensive to take full control of the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday, accusing Baku of “threatening” Armenian borders.

“France is right now very vigilant concerning the territorial integrity of Armenia. Because that’s what’s at stake,” Macron said in a televised interview, adding that Russia was now “complicit” with Baku and Azerbaijan is now “threatening the border of Armenia.”


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France to end military presence, withdraw ambassador from Niger after coup: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that France will end its military presence in Niger and pull its ambassador out of the country after its democratically elected president was deposed in a coup.

France has maintained some 1,500 troops in Niger since the July coup and refused a request by the new junta for its ambassador to leave. With tensions mounting, Macron said that he told the ousted President Bazoum on Sunday that “France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France. And we will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities.”

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He noted that France’s military presence in Niger was in response to a request from Niger’s government at the time.

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Deadly armed standoff at Kosovo monastery comes to an ends

At least 30 gunmen killed a Kosovar Albanian police officer then stormed an Orthodox monastery in Kosovo near its border with Serbia, setting off ongoing gunbattles that have left three assailants dead and raised tensions between the two former wartime foes as they seek to normalize ties.

Police have surrounded Banjska, a village located 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of the Kosovo's capital where the monastery is located, and the gunfire is continuing, according to Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who said the attack had support from neighboring Serbia.

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The Kosovo Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church said a temple of the monastery in Banjska was locked down after the gunmen stormed it. A group of pilgrims from Serbia was inside the temple along with an abbot.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was expected to speak later Sunday to “expose Kurti’s lies,” according to pro-government media, apparently referring to Kurti's statement that Serbia backed the attack. It was unclear if the gunmen were Serbs.

Serbia and its former province, Kosovo, have been at odds for decades.

Their 1998-99 war left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 but Belgrade has refused to recognize the move.

Earlier this month, an EU-facilitated meeting in Brussels between Kurti and Vucic to normalize ties ended in acrimony. The United States has supported the negotiations and the EU’s position in trying to resolve the ongoing source of tension in the Balkans.

On Sunday, the Kosovo diocese said a group of masked men in an armored vehicle stormed the monastery, breaking down the locked gate and shooting guns.

“Armed, masked men move around the courtyard and occasional gunshots are heard,” it said.

Earlier on Sunday Prime Minister Kurti said “masked professionals armed with heavy weapons” launched the attack opened fire on a police patrol at about 3 a.m. (01:00 GMT) in Banjska near the monastery.

Three of the assailants were killed and one was arrested. Four ethnic Serbs were arrested in a nearby village with communication equipment. Other weapons and ammunition was found at a location apparently used by the assailants, according to Kosovar police.

One police officer has been killed and two others injured, the last during the armed confrontation, apparently near the monastery at the village, authorities said.

At a news conference Kurti displayed a set of photos which showed a number of four-wheel drive vehicles without license plates and an armored personnel carrier “which does not belong to the Kosovo police” near the monastery.

He described the armed assailants as "an organized professional unit who have come to fight in Kosovo,” calling on them to hand themselves over to Kosovar authorities.

Police said the situation remained tense while “gunfire attacks against police units continue with the same intensity from the moving criminal groupings.”

Kosovo police said the attack began when three police units were dispatched to a bridge at the entrance to the village that had been blocked by trucks. The police officers came under fire from weapons that included hand grenades and bombs and one was killed. The armed men then stormed the monastery.

Kurti called it a “sad day” for Kosovo, identifying the dead police officer as Afrim Bunjaku.

Local roads and two borders crossings into Serbia were closed. Most of Kosovo’s ethnic Serb minority lives in four municipalities around Mitrovica, in the north.

“It was a real little war: first some gunfire, then silence, shootings, detonations,” Serbian news agency Kossev quoted an unidentified resident as saying.

Kurti wrote on his Facebook page that “Organized crime, which is politically, financially and logistically supported from Belgrade, is attacking our state.”

The speaker of Serbia’s parliament, Vladimir Orlic, responded that Kurti “was quick to blame the Serbs" but actually was the one who wanted an “escalation.”

“He (Kurti) said it was some kind of organized action by professionals,” Orlic told Serbian TV station Prva. “They must have been identified and he knows who they are and what they are, and everything is clear.”

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, condemned “the hideous attack by an armed gang against Kosovo police officers” and said “all facts about the attack need to be established. The responsible perpetrators must face justice.”

He added that the EU's rule of law mission, or EULEX, had representatives on the ground and in close contact with authorities and the NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

Borrell talked on phone both with Kurti and Vucic reiterating “his call for the assailants to surrender immediately and the release of the pilgrims at Banjska Monastery, for them to leave safely.”

International police officers from the EU mission and a limited number of Kosovo police have been responsible for enforcing the rule of law in northern Kosovo. Serbia has vehemently protested the presence of the Kosovo Police.

In February, the EU put forward a 10-point plan to end the latest round of heightened tensions between Serbia and Kosovo. Kurti and Vucic gave their approval at the time, but with some reservations that have still not been resolved.

The EU warned both countries that the commitments the leaders made in February “are binding on them and play a role in the European path of the parties” – in other words, Serbia and Kosovo's chances of joining the 27-nation bloc.

The Kosovo-Serbia border is guarded by peacekeepers from the 4,000-strong NATO-led KFOR force, which has been in Kosovo since 1999. In May, tensions in northern Kosovo left 93 peacekeepers hurt in riots.

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