Manama: A Saudi man who interrupted a folkloric Malaysian dance at the Riyadh International Book Fair is being questioned by authorities for his unruly behaviour.
Video clips taken by spectators showed the all-male troupe performing the Ghazal and Zapin dance to tunes played by musicians sitting behind them when a man walked up to them, snatched an instrument, flung it to the floor, took one of the microphones and interrupted the show by addressing the crowd.
“This is a book fair and you are listening to music,” he said, prompting angry protests and reactions from the spectators who shouted back at him to leave the troupe alone.
“There is an organising committee and you have to follow the rules,” they said to him.
A Malaysian woman could be heard saying that her country was the guest of honour at the book fair.
The show resumed to the applause of the spectators who hailed the young performers’ positive attitude and composure during the incident.
“Action was taken promptly against the man and he is being investigated,” Hani Al Ghufaili, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture and Information, said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Sunday.
The arrest of the Saudi intruder was confirmed by Malaysia Pavilion’s coordinator Mohammad Khair Ngadiron.
“The man was arrested and is under investigation before further action is taken,” he told reporters, Malaysian news agency Bernama reported. “The matter was communicated to me by officers of the Ministry of Culture and Information of Saudi Arabia.”
The coordinator said that fair organisers were sending a letter of apology to the Malaysian embassy in Riyadh.
“They support the participation of Malaysia in the Riyadh International Book Fair and want the Zapin and Ghazal performance to go on.”
The folkloric dance on Thursday evening was performed by 12 students of Sekolah Seni Malaysia Johor.
Malaysia is the guest of honour of the annual fair being held in the Saudi capital from March 8 to 17.
The intruder’s attitude reflects some of the challenges that Saudi authorities are facing as they seek to move ahead with ambitious programmes to bring public entertainment, including live concerts, to the country.
Not far from the book fair premises and at almost at the same time of the incident, a historical breakthrough was being made at King Fahad Cultural Centre where Mohammad Abdu, known as the Artist of the Arabs, and legendary Arab singer Rashed Al Majed gave Riyadh its first concert following a hiatus of 28 years.
The long-awaited concert was staged less than one week after Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and his orchestra dazzled music fans at Juman Park in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
The development of entertainment is part of the “Vision 2030” programme, a plan for economic and social reform to prepare for the “post-oil” era launched by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.