In 2021, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and Qatar-based Katara Studios teamed up to produce the opening ceremony and official song for the FIFA Arab Cup. The official song for the Arab Cup, "Rock, Paper, Scissors," was a major success with the ceremony itself was a stunning display of cultural pride and unity, featuring traditional music and dance performances as well as modern elements such as laser shows and pyrotechnics.
Fast forward in 2022, Katara Studios was once again selected by FIFA to produce a series of soundtracks and music videos for the FIFA World Cup featuring an eclectic mix of beats and tunes with outstanding production quality. Alongside Red One, Katara Studios produced ‘Hayya Hayya', ‘Arhabo' in Arabic sponsored by Ooredoo and ‘Arhabo featuring Ozuna & GIMS’, ‘Light The Sky', ‘Ezz Al Arab' and ‘Dreamers’, which became the song dedicated for the opening.
Until December 23, 2022, the song "Dreamers" has gained 85 million views on YouTube, reaching the top spot on the US Digital Song Sales chart, the US World Digital Song Sales chart, and the Hungary Single Top 40 chart. The songs "Hayya Hayya" and "Arhabo featuring Ozuna & GIMS" have also been popular on YouTube, with 74 million and 69 million views, respectively.
In parallel, the official mascot, La’eeb (meaning super-skilled player in Arabic) was developed in-house by three Qatari creatives in their own right, Ahmed Al Baker, Fahad Al Kuwari and Mohammed Al Ibrahim. With the aim to appeal to the international audience while showcasing the local heritage, La'eeb was to be presented in a humorous and interactive way that would appeal to a wide audience, including non-football fans. The creative team behind the project wanted La'eeb to be memorable and resonate with people after the tournament ended. To achieve this, they developed the mascot’s backstory and personality traits, and created the mascot-verse, a world where La'eeb can visit mascots from previous tournaments. Al Ibrahim, one of the creative team behind the mascot for FIFA World Cup, La'eeb, is proud to have contributed to a project that has achieved such a large scale and will be remembered by future generations. He believes that the widespread presence of La'eeb during the World Cup is a testament to the power of storytelling, and is a dream-turned-reality for him as a content creator.
As of December 23, 2022, the La’eeb series has gained over 100,000 views with its introduction film, which has achieved the highest number of views at 1.6 million. The first episode has received 1 million views, while the second episode has received 243,000 views.
The FIFA World Cup in Qatar displayed a huge spectacle for local and international audiences alike. As the first Arab and Muslim country to host the prestigious international event, it was a great opportunity to showcase the culture, particularly Qatari culture. The opening and closing ceremonies featured a series of performances that proudly infused global pop culture with Qatari folk culture through cutting-edge production and talented performers. Katara Studios pride itself for achieving various ‘first’ status that celebrate the world’s diverse cultures while celebrating our common humanity. Salman Al Muhannadi, Communications Manager at Katara Studios said, “Katara Studios had produced the first multi-lingual soundtrack to include French, Hindi and Arabic and a dedicated animated mascot personality with an online series (Mascot-verse). The opening ceremony was also the first to provide an inclusive representation including a covered Arab woman, Dana Al Meer, an elderly figure, Morgan Freeman, and a special needs Qatari Goodwill Ambassador, Ghanim Al Muftah, who recited a melodic Qur’anic verse that celebrates unity.”
The opening ceremony's set design by production designer Florian Weider is based on two suspended bridges of light, which represent the encounter and symbolize differences in perspective and background. The bridges are programmed to change height throughout the show. A 5m by 5m double-sided flying LED screen is used to connect the scenography and represent how dialogue and inclusion can fill all distances. Curated by Luke Hall's Studio, the ceremony also featured an awe-inspiring LED choreography, performed using 1-meter light-programmed LED sticks. The fireworks close the ceremony with an impressive display of effects from the roof which was designed and produced by Christophe Berthonneau, one of the world’s most famous pyro designers.
As for the closing ceremony, lighting design by DMCC includes multiple media surfaces and projections on the field and inspired by Arabic tracery and patterns, and includes evolving graphics and special effects giving 3D illusions to create a dynamic visual story.
Iconography and visual symbols from the Arab Gulf
The opening and closing ceremony were filled with visual symbols derived from cultural and mythological symbols from Qatar including: the opening film "The Calling," which invites the world to come home to Qatar through a portal in the Al-Bayt Stadium; the Qatari whale shark, also known as the “gentle giants” and locally known as ‘Al Nehem’, which is considered a symbol of compassion and a reminder to reject stereotypes; the mortar and pestle, an Arabic symbol of generosity and welcome, the Al-Bayt stadium, which is inspired by the bedouin tent and represents hospitality; and the dhow, falcon, palm tree, camel, and oryx, which are all symbols of Qatari culture and heritage.
Qatari singer Dana, performed a song, a call or invitation from Qatar to the rest of the world to come home to Qatar for events. The call is represented by a fusion of traditional and modern music, with lyrics that emphasize themes of peace, unity, and respect. This was derived by the ancestral performance of Qatari and Khaleeji folklore song ‘Tob Ya Bahar’ to “call” their loved ones, divers, out at the sea to return to the shores. The desert rose was also featured in the closing ceremony, which can be found in certain parts of Qatar’s desert. It was also the inspiration for the National Museum of Qatar.
Katara Studios has proven a track record of successful projects, which is evident in the quality of their production. They celebrate inclusivity and multiculturalism, while proudly showcasing and celebrating the culture and roots of the Gulf while also embracing the globalized world. Specializing in all types of media, including feature films, commercials, and television production, the Qatar-based firm promises a bright future ahead with many more successes that will bring pride to the nation.
– Marsya A. Abdulghani
Images courtesy of Katara Studios