Homegrown :: Carl Abillama

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 Carl Abillama, the man keeping things turning on the roof at Trilogy Club Dubai (and main room for the summer) bringing Hip Hop to iLL Communications finally we’ve got the chance to get to know Dany Neville’s protege and see how far he’s come since spining at school discos!

Where are you from?


Why are you a DJ and why Dubai? Tell us a bit about you and your sound…

I grew up in Dubai. In a nutshell, I’ve always had a flare for music and how amazing it all sounded when it was mixed. One day I figured that by becoming a DJ, I’d be able to express myself and share the amazing energy with those who I was fortunate enough to play for. Overall, was a great journey knowing where I’ve reached today.

There are many DJs who I respect on a personal level, inspired me throughout and directly or indirectly influenced the way I understand music today. I’m always on the lookout for fresh and unique content
(but definitely mixing up the best classics). Recently, I’ve been spinning Hip Hop & RnB in a few clubs in Dubai like Trilogy & Zinc. However, there’s another genre which I’m as passionate about, Deep House; hopefully soon enough I’ll be mixing it up in a few clubs around town.

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?

My first steps into the world of Djing started with a software called PCDJ Red on Windows 98 (PC speakers on blast). After that, I learnt how to use CD players and started DJing at school gigs. Also, during University, I played a main role in a show on MTV Arabia called ‘Made into a DJ’, and had the privilege to work alongside big names such as Dany Neville & MadJam at the age of 19.

The artistry of DJing especially in this part of the world definitely hasn’t been lost, at least in my opinion. Over the last 2 years, I think it’s been boosted up a lot considering the amount of talented DJs this region’s putting into play. A main powerhouse for this was definitely the Pioneer DJ Competition.

On the other hand, you find many people who underestimate how intricate DJing is; and think that it’s just a matter of owning a gear and fidgeting around with the buttons that labels you as a DJ. Mixing technique, transitions, music selection/library, crowd interaction, mood setting, and most importantly, an inner feeling are all part of being a successful DJ.

Do you think DJ’s 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?

To a certain extent, I think DJs are their own promoters. However, there’s a thin line that differentiates a role of a promoter (pushing club traffic and acquiring new artists for gigs) and a DJ (keeping peoples feet, hearts and minds moving).

Personally, self-promotion is one of my biggest challenges. There are various ways of promoting yourself; some of mine are mainly home-recorded sets which I’ve distributed to Clubs/Promoters, and my strong connection with Dany Neville which played a big role in getting me out there as part of the UGP crew. Secondly, I’m fortunate enough to have lived here (Dubai) for almost 25 years and have connected to talented minds in the music industry.

I think an important aspect of being a successful DJ goes beyond playing and mixing music (which is the basics), but interacting with the public and expanding your relationships are also essential and allow you to take a step further. Sitting at home, recording amazing mixes and waiting for someone to call and offer you a gig is simply unrealistic (been there, done that, won’t work). There are many ways to get a gig, some important factors such as being socially active with the local DJs, recording and distributing sets to the right people, getting in touch with club promoters, and just expanding your music network. Most importantly, as mentioned, depends on how patient you are.

Again, it all falls back on how you interact with people, represent yourself and what drives you to get out there.

What does Dubai have that other party capitals lack? Is their room for everyone here to stake claim and have a following/crowd?

It’s a multicultural blender, the fact that you have over 15 nationalities together in one place, says enough doesn’t it? I find it amazing how there is a variety of clubs catering to various needs and wants (that’s spectacular) Soul, Nu Disco, House, Urban Hip Hop & RnB, Drum & Bass, Dubstep and the list goes on and on… Hopefully, we’ll see more of that.

And that’s exactly what makes DJs attain followers and loyal crowds. Not forgetting the handful of motivated local talent who’ve been literally mixing the scene in this city. It’s the sense of appreciation and respect that people have towards specific musical interests (and sometimes the DJ himself).

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?

Not yet, but I’ve got the cake baking for 2013. With that comes BIG moves! Honestly, I’m constantly overwhelmed with the amount of tech being pored out into the market almost every day, which sometimes I find it hard to keep up with.

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?

It’s a fine balancing act between the two. With years of mixing music, you’ll eventually ‘become one with the force’ and the different sounds of a track, that’s why some people eventually, get into music production.I personally think that producing is definitely the next step.Bottom line: whatever it is, you just need to have ‘practice and patience’ (like everything in life, even reading my answers to this interview). Hahaha Carl, we like your answers!

What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to for all the wrong reasons?

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Catch Carl at Trilogy Club Dubai’s main room, throughout the summer every Friday for iLL Communications, you can check out his sound here.

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