While Beirut has long been established as an important centre of the global electronic music scene, cities across the region like Amman, Cairo, Ramallah, and Tunis in recent years have been host to their own emerging scenes. With unique and exciting DJs coming out of the region and often touring internationally, there seems to a renaissance of sorts going on that deserves to be taken notice. We thought we’d take a look at ten Arab DJs turning it up across the region and the wider world that you should check out.
The France-based, Jordanian-born, Palestinian DJ Sama’ Abdulhadi is described as the first DJ to emerge out of Palestine’s growing electronic music scene. However, it was in Beirut, arguably the Arab world’s capital of electronic music, where Sama’ was introduced to techno music. While the genre, particularly at the time, was heavily introduced by the scene in Berlin, Sama’ and some other Arab DJs in Beirut at the time began to construct their own take on Berlin techno. According to Resident Advisor, Sama’ was also heavily influenced by Palestinian hip-hop, a scene that she had got involved with when she lived in Ramallah, which can be heard in the punchiness and aggressiveness of her sets.
Returning to Palestine after her time in Lebanon, she quickly made a name for herself and helped establish the country’s growing electronic music scene. After working in Cairo for a short time, she further established herself in the region and slowly began to play internationally. But following her Boiler Room set in Palestine, which has been viewed over an impressive ten million times, she exploded onto the world techno circuit and has now played on every continent, bar Antarctica. At the top of her game, maybe Antarctica is not too far off.
Dina Khashan, known by her DJ name DINA, has become an integral part of Cairo’s electronic scene that’s hard to avoid, with her name popping up on line-ups left, right, and centre. Having discovered her passion for techno in Toronto and starting to perform herself, she returned to Egypt to join the country’s much smaller, but growing scene. With dark beats and intense sets, DINA is well worth checking out.
Although Jordan’s techno scene may not be as large as Beirut or Cairo, the country has produced some real talents to look out for. One of the Jordan’s most famous DJs is Ayn, who has become known for her energetic yet relaxed sets laced with heavy Arab influences. Ayn has received a huge amount of attention from international magazines and is a common feature at clubs and festivals across the region.
Bakisa (formerly Jack The Fish)
Moe Chouchair, who previously went by the DJ name Jack The Fish and now in his more experimental stage goes by Basika, is one of the region’s most soulful DJs. With clean, funky and expressive beats, Jack The Fish has a unique take and is one to definitely give a lesson. In his hometown of Beirut, Moe used to be a regular at clubs throughout the city and helped cofound the Ballroom Blitz, a venue committed to promoting the nation’s musical culture.
Having also received the Boiler Room treatment, with one of her sets being put on the platform several years ago, the Beirut native and mainstay of the local scene Tala has become an important part of the region’s electronic music scene. With regular performances in Dubai and Beirut, Tala also pops up outside the region from time to time as her popularity continues to grow. Tala, who also goes by Tala Mortada, differentiates herself from the rest of the crowd with her incredibly clean and crisp sounding sets, which are punchy and fun but never out of control.
Bringing the darkest and heaviest techno to Palestine, ODDZ has made a name for himself in Palestine and the region overall. As an important part of Ramallah’s electronic music scene, ODDZ has not just been playing sets since the beginning of the nation’s emerging electronic scene, but has been integral to organising parties and helping set up the scene. ODDZ also helped set up radio stations, music labels, and music festivals with the aim of fostering the underground electronic scene in Palestine. ODDZ’s take on electronic music, which he jokingly describes as “focusing on high quality techno and unhappy sounds”, is certainly worth checking out if you’re into the darker side of techno.
According to Resident Advisor, the Egyptian–Danish DJ Ashibah grew up in Egypt in a home that always had the likes of Umm Kulthum and other Egyptian greats playing in the background. With music having a central place in her home and life from when she is a baby, she is said to have written her first song the age only seven. Despite growing up in Egypt and now living in Denmark, Ashibah made a name for herself in South America, where she currently plays massive venues to packed crowds. However, with her debut UK show coming up, Ashibah may be set to establish herself more broadly on the scene. While her pop-sounding interludes might not be for everyone, she’s certainly onto something and is increasingly becoming a name to be reckoned with on the international DJ scene.
After being a regular fixture in Cairo’s electronic music scene for well over 10 years, Mohasseb has made a name for himself and Egypt and the wider region, often popping up for shows in places like Dubai. Progressive house isn’t for everyone, but if it is, Mohasseb is sure to be what you’re looking for on a night out.
Akladios‘ bright and colourful-sounding sets are a refreshing break from the darker sounds that most clubs and DJs pump out exclusively. As if made for beach parties, Akladios’ sets are pretty relaxed and perfect for a little groove or chilling with friends on sun loungers. The Egyptian DJ plays regularly in Cairo throughout the year and is a common feature on Egypt’s North Coast and Res Sea in the summer season, but plays the occasional gig in the wider region and in Europe.
Arguably the Arab world’s most famous and influential DJ, Nicole Moudaber is an icon of the scene. From having been an important part in establishing Beirut’s now world-famous electronic scene in the 1990s to now being one of the world’s most well-known DJs, her influence is hard to overestimate. With her emotion-filled sets, the Lebanese DJ Nicole Moudaber is intense and puts on quite a show. Now with her own radio show and almost unbelievably busy schedule with dates all over the globe, Moudaber is at the top of her game. She is also in charge of her own record label and party organising brand, making her a highly influential figure on the international DJ scene.
Cairo local and club regular Ashmawy is hard to miss in the Egyptian capital, especially if you head down to Cairo Jazz Club from time to time. Ashmawy, who is also no stranger to the North Coast, has a refreshingly upbeat take on electronic music. For those a bit tired of the seriousness and darkness that often comes with a lot of techno nowadays, Ashmawy is definitely a welcome break if you’re looking fun night out with friends.
The electronic music scene in the Arab world is still small, but this growing subculture has already produced some unique and forward-thinking DJs and musicians that are day-by-day making their mark. Often with their own unique take influenced by their surroundings and upbringings, the Arab world’s contribution to the global electronic music scene is exciting and there’s plenty great acts to look out for in the region.