Palestine’s first female DJ: "I'm a proud Arab woman from a modern, Middle Eastern, feminist background"

Grazia Girl Gang Ambassador for Music Megatronic meets the pioneering EDM producer and DJ Sama Abdulhadi who blames Michael Jackson for the fact she can never sit still
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Palestine’s first female DJ: "I'm a proud Arab woman from a modern, Middle Eastern, feminist background"

Although Sama Abdulhadi credits Jordan as the place where her passion for sound was born, it was Lebanon where encountered her first musical love. "I went to university in Beirut when I was 18, and instead of studying, I discovered techno. It’s a science in itself, believe me!" Courses in music production followed, before she pursued her passion to London. "Programming music and electroacoustics opened my mind in so many ways," acknowledges the DJ and EDM producer. Fresh from making Dubai dance at Tamanya Terrace's Vibe Series at Radisson Blu Hotel in Media City earlier this month, Sama Abdulhadi, aka SAMA', talks music, muses and changing perception about women in the Middle East with Grazia Girl Gang Ambassador for Music Megatronic.

What’s your earliest musical memory?

My mum used to play a lot of Michael Jackson and it always had the same effect on me and my brother: we immediately began bouncing around the room in child-disco mode. I still blame the man for my ADHD. I am still bouncing off walls.

Do you challenge perceptions of women in the Middle East through your work?

Yes I definitely think I do. People in France, where I’m now based, which has a long, brutal history of colonising North African countries, ask me the worst, most clichés questions, such as, “Why aren't wearing a veil? How did you get a Mac?” They are shocked to see a proud Arab woman who is not oppressed but on the contrary supported by her father, coming from a modern Middle Eastern feminist background. The West portrays women as oppressed, and I hope I can help show that that our world is like everywhere else - modern, evolved, diverse and complex.

Can music can unite the world?

I don’t do music for political reasons, I do it for a community-building reason: trying to bring together. The worldwide techno community shares the same values, and the Palestinian people crave a strong, proud sense of community, so there can be a shared sense of values and ethics and politics wrapped into one.

Do you feel you're a global ambassador for the Arab music scene?  

I can't hold a candle to those who contributed more to the Arab music scene but I feel it is a privilege to give something back. I didn’t expect to happen, but now I wouldn’t wish it to ever stop. 

What does a Sama DJ set feel like ?

I guess you have to ask the crowd, I'm never in my sets! The Dubai crowd was insane. I honestly never expected that from Dubai. Thanks for a crazy great night!

What song always makes you want dance?

Billie Jean. Michael Jackson always wins.

Is there more focus on the fact you're a female DJ rather than you being a good DJ?

Yes and it drives me crazy but it’s fine, life goes on. And as I always say, people might come see you play just because you are a girl but it’s not your gender that will get them dancing for hours. 

Four words for 17 years old Sama?

“Go back to piano”

Photos: Roddy Bow and Aurelie Mazoyer