With beach season well and truly here, Cairo Gossip has teamed up with Sahel’s next big destination, Seashell, for an exclusive series of interviews that will pit some of the DJs that have taken part in this year’s Seashell Beats against each other in a battle of awkward questions and discovery.
We begin with two of Egypt’s hottest up-and-coming DJs, Nader El Tahawy and Karim Zalat, who talk about inspirations, humble beginnings and the challenges of being a DJ in Egypt.
CG: Listen guys, you’re essentially interviewing each other, but let us get things started – show you how the pros do it, you know? Nader, Tell us more about your track on Seashell Beats?
Tahawy: It came out of the blue; a friend of mine asked me to create a set and I was pretty confident about what the Seashell Beats project was trying to do because of the similarity between it and my own series, BeacHouse – it has similar chill-out vibes. I took the opportunity and included some classics – I have a soft spot for classics – but that was last year. This year Seashell Beats is turning it up a notch and they’ve created a phone app. I’m happy and lucky to be a part of a project that includes such a large number of fine Egyptian DJs, as well as some from abroad, like Karim (Zalat).
Zalat: Ha, thanks man. I agree. Bringing the hottest DJs in town to make a set exclusively for Seashell Beats is a brilliant marketing idea. Music is part of our lives, especially in the summer. People usually stick to some songs so they can remember the fun times they had during their holidays – you always hear people saying “this music reminds me of last summer”. The concept is built on melodic, chill-out beach-friendly music and it all fits the theme perfectly.
CG: Yeah, you guys are like, so living the dream – it must be nice doing something you love.
Zalat: It is and I believe it helps you achieve a certain balance in life. Being fulfilled by whatever job you’re doing will help you in your personal life. The passion I have for music and DJing reflects on the product I deliver to the crowd. People feel that, relate to it and eventually become more interested in your work.
Tahawy: Yeah, that’s exactly how it all happened for me when I started DJing in 2013. I’ve been friends with DJs Omar El Sherif, Mohasseb and Sherif ‘Shenzo’ El Shinnawy, so I was never a stranger to it. That year, I bought my first mixer – a Pioneer XDJ-AERO. I started online tutorials, studied all there is to know about DJing and by the time I mastered the basic skills, I released my first set, BeacHouse 101, with Mohasseb. I uploaded it on SoundCloud, but I never thought of promoting it in anyway, but as I started follow-ups to BeacHouse 101, I started getting a lot of feedback, especially BeacHouse 104, which is the most successful yet. People come up to me, to this day, and tell me how much they love BeacHouse 104 – and as long as they’re entertained, then I’m doing my part.
CG: Ok, now you guys are meant to ask each other questions – be nice. Go!
Zalat: Ok – this is a cheesy one, but I’m always fascinated by the answers: who inspires you?
Tahawy: In terms of music – and it’s a strange one – it has always been Omar Khairat; I’ve been listening to him for as long as I can remember and his music has played a significant role in shaping my own musical taste. Is it my turn to ask?
CG: Yes, sir – go nuts.
Tahawy: I know firsthand that DJing isn’t as easy as it looks – what are some of the challenges you’ve personally faced?
Zalat: Well, as you will also know, there are a huge number of talented DJs in Egypt right now. Maintaining a unique style and making sure you’re always seen isn’t easy. It’s about sustaining your level of creativity and originality. You have to set the bar and challenge yourself each single time. You also have to change your style on a regular basis, so people won’t get bored. You have to be original, so you can stand out. It annoys me when people say ‘anyone can be a DJ’. Anyone can indeed be a DJ, but not everyone can be a great DJ. What do you say to those who dismiss DJing as being ‘easy’?
CG: Well, I’ve always believed that – oh, you’re talking to Nader. Carry on – pretend I’m not here.
Tahawy: Well, if we’re honest, learning the basic skills is not the toughest thing in the world. Anyone who is interested in DJing can easily learn from the tutorials online like I did for example. However, to have the ability to make truly remarkable compilations is extremely hard and require a lot of effort and time. That’s the difference between a good DJ and an excellent DJ. This takes me on to my next question perfectly, actually – top five DJs to have ever lived, go!
Zalat: Woah, that’s a tough one – calm down and let me think first. Hmm, I would have to say Lane 8, Above & Beyond, Tycho, Odesza and Daft Punk. What about you? Actually, let’s go with top Egyptian DJs right now…
Nader: Ouch! Is that payback for my difficult question? In no particular order, I’ll have to choose Omar El Sherif, Mohasseb and Shenzo – and of course Zalat!
CG: Cute! Oh, yeah – we’re not here.
Nader: Do you have a particular preference to the type of house you play?
Zalat: As cliché at it sounds, I don’t like the idea of being boxed into one genre – I mix and play around with all kinds of music, beyond house, too. For me it’s about the quality of your product. Every DJ changes their style to fit the ever-changing music scene. For me, it’s important that, as a DJ, you listen to all kinds of music – that’s how you develop a unique or signature style.
Zalat drops ‘da mic’ and leaves. No, not really – we all shook hands and wished each other the best of luck in our future endeavors. Stay tuned for more DJs interviewing other DJs as part of our very cool collabo with Seashell Beats. Download the Seashell Beats app here.