Saudi coordinators of the hobby to professionalism – today 24

Saudi DJ Lynn Nayef stands behind her console with headphones around her neck, switching seamlessly between pop and other music in front of a crowd of business school graduates eating sushi.

The scene is a far cry from other podiums she has graced at major events, such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah and Expo 2020 in Dubai, which helped the 26-year-old, known as DJ Lynn, win. fame in the conservative. kingdom’s music industry.

This represents a major change in the Kingdom, as the presence of DJs, a phenomenon unimaginable just a few years ago, has become relatively commonplace in major cities like Riyadh and the more open Jeddah.

Little by little, DJs went from being amateurs at private parties to professionals who made a living from the profession.

“A lot of DJs are out in the open,” Nayef told AFP during a short break, adding that over time the audience “felt more comfortable” seeing them on stage.

“It’s easier now than before,” he emphasized.
Naif and her colleagues embody two major reforms in the kingdom, one to provide new opportunities for women and the other to expand entertainment options, especially in the music sector, which was previously completely marginalized under a strict interpretation of Islam.

Muhammad Nassar, a prominent Saudi DJ, known as “Vinyl Mod”, said the idea of ​​having DJs at public events, as well as having a number of them female, is something “we didn’t expect” until recently.

Nassar added: “Now we are seeing the rise of more” of them, noting that in the past it was “just a hobby to express themselves in their bedrooms. They now have platforms and can make a run from them. So it’s really cool.”

Naif was first introduced to electronic music by an uncle during her teens, and immediately began to wonder if she could really work as a DJ.

As her friends dreamed of traditional jobs in medicine and teaching, she realized she didn’t have the patience to follow the path of study these professions required.

“I cannot continue with my education (…), I am a working father and I am not a person who loves to study,” he said.

Unlike other DJs, Naif had the immediate support of his parents and siblings, who did not express any concerns about his unconventional career plan.

But it required overcoming the objections of some who don’t like him in conservative Saudi society. On one occasion, several years ago, a man appeared in the middle of a party, saying that she was “not allowed” to do this job and asked, “Why do you do it?”

His complaint at the time made Nayef withdraw, but today he doubts the possibility that this scene will be repeated in the same way.

“Now I bet the same man, if he saw me, he’d be out front just to watch,” he said.

Nayef has benefited from official attempts to promote the image of a new Saudi Arabia that welcomes entertainment, which human rights organizations often criticize as cover-up abuses, including a crackdown on women’s rights activists.

His nomination to coordinate the CDs for the Saudi pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, for example, led to his talent being showcased for the first time in front of an international audience.

But his work in Saudi Arabia is his main source of income, earning 1,000 Saudi riyals (about $260) per hour, with a minimum of three hours per booking.

Other DJs faced more rejection and resistance when their careers took off.

Faljeen Al-Bishi, who hosts her show under the name “Birdbersen”, started the experience of formatting disks during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic. But her family refused when she started talking about the professionalism of this job, preferring that the young daughter choose a more traditional profession.

Al-Bishi said that the girl in several Saudi families “is a doctor or an engineer.” “So it was hard for me to move forward with music,” she added.

But she pursued her passion, turning up the music at private parties, often donning headphones while her barefoot friends danced.

She won her big prize last year when she was invited to coordinate songs at the “Middle Beast” music festival in Riyadh, which drew more than 700,000 participants over four days that included concerts by Arab and international artists, including Frenchman David Guetta.

It was the first time that she participated in a festival of this magnitude and the experience left her “really proud”.

“My family came and saw me on stage,” he said. They were dancing and they were happy.”

Both Nayef and Al-Bishi said they believed female DJs would establish themselves in the kingdom.

For Naif, the DJs succeed because they can do this job better than the boys thanks to their ability to “read the people” and choose the music they want to listen to, which is what makes the party a success.

But Al-Bishi said: “My music is not for women or men. It’s for music lovers.”