The Palestinian techno DJ helms our latest session
SAMA’ is often credited as Palestine’s first techno DJ. After discovering club music while studying in Beirut in 2008, Sama Abdulhadi returned to Ramallah, where she grew up, determined to put on parties of her own. The underground scene there has since blossomed, with a number of new parties, artists, and DJs springing up and experimenting in genres from club music to leftfield hip hop. Today, she lives in Paris, but her packed touring schedule means she’s more likely to be found playing an international gig farther afield. Still, SAMA’ always reps her home – you may have seen her playing in Ramallah in one of the recent viral videos from her Boiler Room appearance.
Next week (May 24), SAMA’ will be at IMS Dalt Vila, where she’ll be both performing a back-to-back set with Nicole Moudaber and giving a keynote talk on the Palestinian electronic music scene. “I’m more nervous about playing than speaking!” she says of her appearance. Ahead of the date, SAMA’ put together our latest Dazed Mix, and answered a few questions over email about her upbringing, the Palestinian scene today, and her future plans.
How did Ramallah influence your relationship with music?
SAMA’: Just like music would influence anyone anywhere. I was introduced to music by my mother and it was Michael Jackson, who really influenced me until I moved to Ramallah when I was five years old.
Are you still living in Paris right now?
SAMA’: Yes, kind of. Mostly I’m on a plane, but when I get a break, you will find me in Paris!
Do you have a musical hero? What about a non-musical hero?
SAMA’: Max Cooper. My grandmother.
Can you remember what first made you want to DJ?
SAMA’: When I saw someone scratching for the first time.
How would you describe your DJing style today?
SAMA’: Berlin techno, with a Lebanese style of mixing.
What’s the most memorable gig you’ve played recently?
SAMA’: In 2019 at Cologne’s c/o pop festival. I just couldn’t stop playing so I continued ‘til the end of the night, and even an hour or two more.
Beirut is where I first got introduced to techno, so seeing the vibe there and feeling the crowd around me in the Ballroom Blitz Gold Room was incredible. Plus, the sound is beautiful over there.
And last but not least, Jordan. I was there when we there were four people on the dancefloor so seeing a thousand in CLSTR all enjoying and dancing ‘till the end was incredible for me. Such a huge jump in the party scene there.
“Berlin techno, with a Lebanese style of mixing” – SAMA’
You’re often described as the DJ who first brought techno to Palestine. What was going on locally in the music scene before that?
SAMA’: There was a hip hop scene, and the rest was what was on the radio – mostly Arabic and American pop music.
What’s the most exciting thing about the techno scene there today?
SAMA’: The parties are getting wilder, and the DJs are getting better and better.
What other Palestinian artists, whether in techno or any other genre, should we be listening to?
SAMA’: Muqataa, TootArd, Wala Sbeit, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Union DJs, Rasha Nahas, Bruno Cruz, Zenobia... I can go on forever, but there are too many today.
What about the broader Palestinian art scene? Are there any visual artists, filmmakers, or fashion designers we should check out?
SAMA’: Mohanad Yaqubi, Arab w Tarazan, Lina Soulim, Wafa Hourani, Omar Nasser Khoury – and also, the list goes on.
Tell us about your own music. What have you been inspired by recently?
SAMA’: Honestly, I’ve been a bit stuck with music and listening to old school James Holden for inspiration. Fingers crossed it works!
Can you tell us what’s going on in your Dazed Mix?
SAMA’: I chose some of my favourite tracks from the past month and tried to create a journey with them playing with a few more layers. I am still trying to evolve my DJing technique every time so you will find some new games happening with delays and gaters. I hope you enjoy it.
What else have you got coming up?
SAMA’: Loads of overwhelming gigs, an EP coming out soon, and hopefully my collective (Sodassi)’s festival in Palestine.