Homegrown :: Hisham Samawi

Dubai is bursting at the seams with local talent, some terrific, some down right terrible. Each week (hopefully, if we’re not too partied out) OHM will profile one of the more terrific resident regulars round town for a little something we like to call ‘Homegrown’. This week it’s the turn of Hisham Samawi talking all things shop…

Where are you from?

I’m originally half Syrian and half Austrian. Was born in Libya but grew up mostly in Europe and the States. Been living in Dubai for about 6 years now.

Why are you a DJ and why Dubai? Tell us a bit about you and your sound…
I’ve been DJing since 2000 so it’s been about 12 years now. I used to be based in New York where I was playing out a lot and also flying to play in different countries. I decided I wanted to settle down in Dubai for a bit and get back to my roots. Unfortunately Dubai hasn’t been the best place to play the kind of music I want to play because it tends to be quite a commercial scene here. Recently things seem to be changing with parties such as this one. (iLL Communications) I hope this trend continues and I get more chances to play because I think once people get into music that is a bit more underground they’ll see that it has so much more depth than the same old boring stuff everyone else is playing.

I am really picky when it comes to the music I buy and play. It has to be just right to make it into a set of mine. Because of that I think when you hear a set of mine you can see the connection in the music I play. The good thing is that a lot of the music I buy is quite obscure and so fresh that even if it came out 5 years ago it still sounds brand new. My sets have a collection of music that may span ten years but most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Overall I would say my music is proper techno but with an accessible vibe.


How did you start DJing, vinyl, CD’s or software? Do you think those without vinyl foundations are true to the craft? Do you think the artistry of Djing has been lost? 
I definitely started DJing with vinyl and I still play vinyl so I guess that makes me old school. It’s a shame most clubs don’t have decks any more. I think there is something lost when people are only on cd players or computers but then again things have to evolve with technology. At the end of the day what matters is the sound coming out of the speakers but for me it’s about having fun and it’s just so much more fun to be playing records than anything else. By the way The Electric Studio has decks right? (yes we do!)


Do you think DJs also need to be promoters these days or is that still solely the job of the promoter? Without local agents how do you promote yourself to venues and promoters/ bookers?
I think a DJ needs to be able to look after himself but at the end of the day promoting is a lot of work and any time spent on that is time wasted that you could be working on music. I believe you have much less headaches having someone take care of that for you. The trick to all that though is making it easy for someone to promote you. That’s where producing comes into the picture. So many guys wanna’ be DJs but there are already so many that you need to differentiate yourself with some tracks you have released.

What does Dubai have that other party capitals lack? Is their room for everyone here to stake claim and have a following/crowd?
The thing that Dubai has is opportunity. There are always new places opening in a wide range of locations. During the winter the weather is incredible so there are a lot more outdoor venues here than you would find in other places.

Do you produce? If so tell us about your studio set up? What is your take on software production as compared to hardware and modular synths?
Producing to me is the ultimate. I would consider myself a producer first and a DJ second. Started at the same time as DJing but I get so much more satisfaction making a song than just DJing someone else’s music. I have probably produced and released about 10 tracks so far. Three of them have been on major international compilations by James Zabiela. Will be dropping one of my new ones at the party Friday no doubt.

Again with regards to how you make music all that matters is how it sounds coming out of the speakers. There are no rules or anything. I’m always amazed with the different ways people approach making music.


Do you think producers make good DJ’s and vice versa, or is it purely a new promotional tool to get DJ’s on the decks?
I would generalize things either way. Some people are talented and can do multiple things while some people are just good at one thing. I think there is a deeper knowledge and connection to the music however when you do produce. I do think though that it is an important promotional tool but to say it’s only for that is wrong. Hard to BS good music. It’s not that easy to do.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to for all the wrong reasons? 

One of my favorite gigs ever looking back now was playing the very first party at Terminal which went on to become iBo.  Had no clue at the time that I would eventually be living in Dubai but it was an amazing night and was a great vibe. I would say that night impacted my decision to come here as having a cool club like that with people that liked my underground sound. Unfortunately the club isn’t around anymore and I still think there is a void that it left.


Catch Hisham for iLL Communications Friday June 1st at Trilogy Club Dubai. Can’t make the party then you can listen to his sound here.

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