Saudi song coordinators from hobby to professionalism
Cairo – the middle gate Sunday 31 July 2022, 12:34 p.m
Behind her console, Saudi DJ Lynn Naif stands with headphones around her neck, switching seamlessly between pop and other music in front of a crowd of sushi-eating business school graduates.
The scene is far from other platforms where she has climbed in important events, such as the “Formula 1” Grand Prix in Jeddah and “Expo 2020” in Dubai. The 26-year-old, known as “DJ Lynn”, gained fame in the music sector in the conservative kingdom, according to “AFP”.
This is a significant change in the kingdom, where the presence of DJs, a phenomenon that was unthinkable only a few years ago, has become a relatively common sight in the more open big cities of Riyadh and Jeddah. The DJs went little by little from amateurs at private parties to professional professionals who made their living from the profession.
“A lot of DJs are out in the open,” Nayef told AFP during a short break, adding that over time it made audiences “more comfortable” seeing them on stage. “It’s easier now than it was,” she said.
Naif and her colleagues embody two major reforms in the kingdom, one to provide new opportunities for women, and two to expand entertainment options, especially in the music sector that was previously completely marginalized under a strict interpretation of Islam.
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Mohammed Nassar, a prominent Saudi DJ known as “Vinyl Mode”, said that the idea of having DJs in public events, as well as having a number of them be women, was something “we did not expect “until recently. Nassar added, “We’re now seeing the rise of more” of them, noting that in the past it was “just a hobby to express themselves in their bedrooms. Now they have platforms, and they can have a career make out of it. So that’s really cool.”
Bypass the naysayers
Naif was first introduced to electronic music by an uncle in her teenage years, and immediately began to wonder if she could really work as a DJ. While her friends dreamed of traditional jobs in medicine and teaching, she realized that she lacked the patience to follow the path of study that these professions required. “I can’t continue my education,” she said, “I like to work and I’m not a person who likes to study.”
Unlike other DJs, Naif had instant approval from her parents and siblings who expressed no concerns about her unconventional career plan.
But this required overcoming the objections of some who do not like it in conservative Saudi society. On one occasion several years ago, a man appeared in the middle of a party and said that she was “not allowed” to do this job and asked her, “Why are you doing this?” His complaint at the time succeeded in making Nayef withdraw, but today she doubts the possibility that this scene can be repeated in the same way. “Now I bet the same man, if he sees me, will stand in the front lines just to watch,” she said.
Nayef has benefited from official efforts to promote the image of a new Saudi Arabia that welcomes entertainment, which human rights organizations often criticize as a whitewash of abuses, including the crackdown on human rights activists and activists.
For example, her nomination to coordinate the cylinders in the Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai saw her talent showcased to an international audience for the first time. But her work in Saudi Arabia is her main source of income, as she earns a thousand Saudi Riyal (about $260) an hour, with a minimum of three hours per booking.
Other DJs faced more rejection and resistance when starting their careers. Faljeen Al-Bishi, who hosts her show under the name “Birdbersen”, began experimenting with the formatting of records during the “Covid-19” pandemic. But her family balked when she started talking about professionalism, preferring that the young daughter choose a more traditional profession.
Al-Bishi said that in several Saudi families, the girl is “either a doctor or an engineer.” “So it was difficult for me to move on with music,” she added.
Nevertheless, she stuck to her passion, turning on music at private parties, often putting on her headphones while her barefoot friends danced around.
And she won her big prize last year when she was invited to coordinate songs at the “Middle Beast” music festival in Riyadh, which attracted more than 700,000 attendees during four days that included concerts by Arab and international artists, including the French David Guetta.
It was her first time participating in a festival of this size, and the experience left her “really proud”. “My family came to see me on stage,” she said. They danced and they were happy.”
Both Naif and Al-Bishi said they believe female DJs will establish themselves in the kingdom.
For Naif, DJs succeed because they can do this job better than the men thanks to their ability to “read people” and choose the music they want to hear, making the party a success. But Al-Bishi said: “My music is not for women or men. It’s for music lovers.”