Saudi female DJs make headlines with passion.

Saudi DJ Lane Naif plays at a university event on May 26, 2022 in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: AFP
  • “Now we have platforms, and you know they can have a career. So it’s really amazing,” says the Saudi DJ known as Vinyl Mode.
  • For Naif, female DJs are successful because they are better than men at “reading people” and playing what they want to hear.
  • Naif has benefited from official efforts to project Saudi Arabia’s entertainment-friendly image.

JEDDAH: Standing behind her control tower with headphones around her neck, Saudi DJ Lane Knife effortlessly segues between pop hits and club tracks for a crowd of business school graduates noshing on sushi.

The subdued scene is a far cry from the high-profile stages — the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah, Expo 2020 in Dubai — that have helped the 26-year-old known as DJ Lane make a name for himself in Saudi Arabia. Music circuit.

Yet it achieved an important milestone: female DJs, an unthinkable phenomenon in the traditionally ultra-conservative kingdom just a few years ago, are becoming relatively commonplace in its main cities.

These days he’s on tour, gig after gig, making a living out of what was once just a hobby.

“There are a lot of female DJs coming up,” Naif said. AFPHe added that it has made audiences “more comfortable” with the stage over time.

“It’s easier than ever.”

Mohammed Nasr, a Saudi DJ known as Vinyl Mode, said it was unlikely that DJs would be welcome at public events, let alone that there would be many women.

“You’re seeing more female artists coming out now,” Nasir said.

Before that, “expressing yourself in your bedroom was just a hobby”.

“Now we have platforms, and you know they can have a career. So it’s really amazing.”

Win over doubters

Naif was first introduced to electronic music by an uncle as a teenager, and almost immediately began to wonder if DJ’ing was a viable career.

While her friends dreamed of careers as doctors and teachers, she knew she didn’t have the patience to study those paths.

He said, “I am a working person, not a studying person.

Unlike other female DJs, she had immediate support from her parents and siblings.

However, the other Saudis needed to win something.

Several years ago, a man walked up to her mid-performance, announced that she was “not allowed” and demanded “Why are you doing this?”

His complaints closed Naif’s seat, but he suspects the scene would still play out the same way today.

“Now I bet that same guy, if he saw me, he’d be the first in line just to watch.”

Naif has benefited from official efforts to tarnish Saudi Arabia’s entertainment-friendly image, which human rights groups often criticize as a distraction from abuse.

His nomination to play in the Saudi Pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020 gave him an international audience for the first time.

But it’s the housework that supports her day-to-day, earning her 1,000 Saudi riyals (about $260) an hour.

Here to stay

Other female DJs have faced more resistance.

Logan Albishi, who performs under the name “Bird Person”, began experimenting on the DJ decks during the pandemic.

When he started talking about DJ’ing professionally, preferring to try to become a doctor, his family disowned him.

She stuck with him anyway, promoting her skills at private parties.

His big break came last year when he was invited to perform at MDLBeast Soundstorm, a festival in the Saudi capital Riyadh, which drew more than 700,000 fans for a performance including a set by superstar French DJ David Guetta. .

The experience left him “really proud”.

“My family came to Soundstorm, saw me on stage. They were dancing, they were happy,” she said.

Both Naif and Al-Bashi say they believe female DJs will remain a fixture in the kingdom, though their reasoning differs.

For Naif, female DJs are successful because they are better than men at “reading people” and playing what they want to hear.

Albishi, for her part, thinks there is no difference between men and women once the headphones are on, and that’s why women belong as DJs.

“My music is not for women or men,” she said. “This is for music lovers.”