Written By Ahmed Mohamed
photographed by Ekaterina Shuvchinskaia
Copy editor: Eliza Marks
DJ Shamsa (شمسه) is Jordanian Farah Albi Tar’s musical project that is demolishing the electronic music scene in Berlin, Germany. Farah has been touring major cities of Europe since 2015, groovin’ the streets and taking souls to electronic oblivion each restless party night. Her music fuses unique Middle Eastern “Tabla & Daff”, and sounds of the global house scene, carrying DJ Shamsa’s Middle Eastern identity through its rhythm, drums and the futuristic sounds.
Farah states that, “I found myself through electronic music. I think my whole life has been building up to this point. I might have not even known exactly how, but I’ve never felt more alive than I do now.” She shares a fascination by the futuristic capacity of western electronic, house and techno music, and uses her individualist creativity and talent to adapt the house music genre to suit for her soul.
Farah is trying to avoid sounds common in most oriental electronic music such as oud (a strings instrument) as she looks forward to her first full-length production project that will be released before the end of the year. She hopes to integrate a nostalgic Arabic feeling whilst keeping it sassy, building on beats inspired by old-school western house music, and then adding some symbolic and futuristic character. She samples a variety of pieces, from jazz rhythms to disco beats and drums and accompanies this with soulful acapellas that evoke nostalgia that get the audience to move their feet. Her current project is an extended play of four tracks heavily influenced by the Arabic 90’s pop music that many of us in the Middle East grew up hearing, and plays upon the form while maintaining an authentic house sound.
She explains her creative process by first describing what she thinks is the best feeling ever: “Being ultimately one with the machines.” She gracefully shrugs off any negative energy, doubts, or stage anxiety during her sets. From the moment she connects with her deck, she feels the adrenaline pulsing through her fingertips and an entangling rhythm that brings her a natural high. Dancing audiences only augment this further.
“Everything flows from that point, just like magic.”
Although her journey has been rough, Farah appreciates every learning turn and struggle. Her least favorite part is actually not being able to share the stage with more female DJs. Calling out for her musical sisters, Farah gives a shout out to her good friend and musical peer DJ Sama’ from Palestine.
Farah still feels like she has the world to discover with only three years of DJing under her belt, though she is humbled by the opportunities she has had thus far. Reflecting back upon this year, Farah names her first career milestone as the true result of following your passion. “I was invited to play in a club in Berlin, and it was the biggest gig of my entire life, in front of almost 1,000 people, witnessing my music for the first time ever.” Farah took the opportunity to play three unreleased tracks for her opening set, not knowing what to expect — a true risk taker.
“That’s when it happened. I stood there in awe as camera phones and arms waved across the dancefloor. My empty DJ booth was swarmed by rushing attendants coming to greet me and compliment my music.” She compared the moment to something out of a fairytale, once again referring to herself as the young girl that thought it was impossible to live a moment like this.
Farah paused for a second to think when asked about her inspiration, and then her eyes lit up and she replied, “This genre has no gender, race or age. There is no hidden intention beyond liberating the people through empowering music, and this sense of power that most resembled freedom. It was something a young girl from Jordan was longing for.” She continued that the electronic dance movement emerged to bring to light pieces of consciousness that were once locked, and that underground dance floors were sanctuaries for many. It is no surprise, then, that electronic house music was a major representation outlet for the marginalized, like African American queer minorities back in 1980s, giving them haven from being marked cultural and societal outlaws.
Electronic music is and will continue to be the sound of the future and create safe spaces because it won’t cease evolving. It allows an environment in which people can create certainty, even if temporary, that liberates them from historical treatments of social constructs, especially in terms of gender and queerness. “I guess it’s still very hard for the majority of Arab individuals to picture a girl spinning, banging electronic music to a vibrating room and a happy crowd until the early hours of morning.” The biggest challenge she anticipates is public social and cultural rejection any alternative way of thinking or living, that may be perceived as going against societal norms and traditions in Jordan.
Farah describes her constant identity crisis and what it means to be relieved from creative restraints, comparing it to a personality disorder that society plagued upon her. She claimed that, “being queer is rather about the state of consciousness than it is of sexual preference.., On the inside, I was this wild, queer, liberated and creative kid, but on the outside I was everything but that.” She explained that the absence of any formal or informal validation and constant misunderstanding of talent heavily affects the ability and will of young queer creatives to carry on. However, in her case, she saw this as an opportunity to rise and pave the road to filling a major gap in the creative musical industry in Amman, which lacked essential diversity.
Farah noted, “It’s a silly paradox but we gotta start somewhere I guess,” when reflecting on being one of the few female electronic DJs in Jordan. Self-doubt weighed her down at times and she felt disregarded, like there was no one to guide her or act as a mentor. But she eventually broke through those barriers with support of a community of like-minded people that appreciated music and the craft and a love of music.
We would like to finish with some words that Farah would have liked to hear when she was embarking on her journey:
“First and most importantly, don’t be afraid to love yourself. The hardest thing to do is to find and be true to yourself. That’s the whole point of the game called life, where everything else is a construct.“
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Hit the link in my bio to hear my newest set for @witnessthis. “Being the first electronic female DJ in Amman, there were no footsteps i could follow..toughest thing though was convincing my mother of the idea that i choose DJing as a career, especially in a culture that has yet to grasp the spectrum of this field of work.” ?: @saskia_uppenkamp_photographer