Baher's Big Bang
Exploding on to the House music scene with a bang after his victory at last year's Red Beats competition, DJ Baher has become Cairo's premier party starter. We find out what makes him tick and discover that even his silence sounds great...
Since his prolific win at Electrum Red Beats competition last year, DJ and producer Baher has become arguably the hottest property on Egypt’s nightlife scene at the moment, playing at every big club night and securing a spot as a resident at the hugely popular Nacelle House Sessions. Recently having signed with international Dance music label, Audio Tonic, Baher’s star is on the rise and he may well be one the first Egyptian DJs in a long time to make a name for himself abroad. We sit down with him to find out how it all began and talk about egos and kicking people in the balls before he treats us to a silent disco...
How did you get into DJing?
I started when I was 13 years-old, learning from a friend of mine called Ali Zakareya who had started DJing. I really liked it. I used to love music as a little kid, and I was hooked by DJing immediately. I bought my first decks when I was in the States in 2004. I started producing when I was 17.
What kind of music were you into at the time?
House music! Pure House music.
Do you feel that listening to House since you were a kid might have limited your creative process?
Not at all. I always listen to all kinds of music; Rock, R&B, Hip Hop, Reggae… Everything, but House music was always my thing.
Where’s Ali Zakareya today?
Ali Zakareya is probably in a dark room. A very, very dark room.
Does he ever come up to you and say “Baher, I taught you everything you know, give me some money,”?
No, I don’t see the guy anymore.
How influential has winning Red Beats been in your career?
It was important for making my name in Egypt. But making my name abroad was mostly through my own production and learning and practicing at home, though getting gigs here in Cairo helped me a lot.
Do you think you would have made the same impact here in Egypt had it not been for Red Beats?
No. Maybe later, like two or three years from now. I mean, after signing the records I did with Audio Tonic, maybe I would’ve got a lot of gigs and shit, but Red Beats really put me on the map here.
What would you say are the best and worst things about entering the Red Beats competition?
Obviously, the best thing about getting in the competition was getting more exposure, which was exactly what I needed it. The worst thing is that, back then, the people wanted to listen to other kinds of House music that I didn’t like but I had to play because I wanted to win. For example, that Somebody I Used to Know track. I played it for the people and felt like sell-out. Like I said, I was longing to be a DJ since I was 13, and I had to make concessions to be able to do whatever the fuck I wanted later on. That was my strategy.
Before Red Beats, did you gig anywhere?
No, I gigged like 3-4 times but they were at pretty small places. House parties, basically.
What’s more important to you when you play these days? That you can express yourself with your music or that the crowd has fun?
No, I play for myself. I play my own music and my own production and that’s what makes me happy about it, I guess.
How did you get the deal with Audio Tonic?
I sent a record I finished to a friend of mine called Ahmed Raxon, an Egyptian guy who owns Audio Tonic which is based in Dubai. They have their own library and everything so I just sent it to him to get his opinion about the track when it was finished. He said “Man, that’s a bomb! I gotta have it now,” so he sent me a contract and I signed it, then I signed another track the weekend after.
These days, people can make their own music from laptops and market their stuff through social media. How does being signed to a record label actually help you?
A record label promotes you as an artist. If they have their own label night somewhere, a showcase perhaps, maybe they would actually book you for a gig abroad. Audio Tonic have showcases in Europe so fingers crossed.
How did you get the Nacelle gig?
I went to Tito before Red Beats because I loved the energy the first time I went to House Sessions at Yasso. It was a proper House night and I had never experienced anything like that before. I fell in love with the place and the people so I approached Tito and showed him my productions and he was really interested. Then Red Beats happened, though I don’t think it was the reason he chose me for Nacelle. He brought me in because he saw potential in my productions and it’d be beneficial for the both of us.
You’re getting a lot of gigs lately but you still have a day job, right?
Yes, I do. I’m at JWT, an advertising agency.
Are you planning on quitting anytime soon?
No, never. I believe that the greatest people in history used to be doctors and philosophers at the same time…
Do the people you work with know that you’re a superstar DJ?
They actually sent emails internationally like “Baher won the Red Beats competition” to each and every JWT office worldwide, which was pretty cool.
We’ve noticed that when you’re at the decks, the DJ booth is filled with party-goers. What’s the maximum capacity?
It’s not by the number. Having people around you adds to the vibe, but at a certain point you have tackle everyone and get them down. Slowly it starts to fill up again, though, so you have to keep getting them down!
People complain that DJs just stand there, pushing buttons but you seem to be able to put on a show as well. How do you do that?
To be very honest I don’t do that on purpose, it’s as if I’m meditating in my own bubble. It’s good because people love it, but when someone interrupts, I freak out like a bitch!
Have you ever kicked anyone in the balls?
I was going to one time. This DJ friend was trying to have a serious conversation with me and I was literally going to kick him in the balls! I was like, “Dude, I’m fucking playing! Get the fuck out!”
What bothers you most when you’re DJing?
I was playing with Aly B at O Bar on time and this dude comes to me and he requests a song. I asked Aly to deal with it, but he basically told him we were going to play. So two hours later the guy comes back and is like, “How could you, man? How could you not play it???” That’s annoying!
What’s the best gig you’ve played in Cairo so far?
My favourite gig ever in the world was the closing of Nacelle with Spirit Catcher.
With all this hype surrounding DJs, have you developed an ego or a superstar complex?
You know what? Not at all because DJing is the last thing on my mind. There are a lot of DJ. Even my grandma could be a DJ if I taught her today.
What would her DJ name be?
I don’t know... Auntie Anna? Auntie Nana! DJ Nana…
And then she’d drop the DJ and be Nana! Fucking Cool!
Hahaha yeah!.. So no ego at all because I focus on another thing and that’s the production. And I leave the ego for the egotistic bitches.
You’re in a relationship now. How hard is it to have a relationship when there are so many women flinging themselves at your decks?
I have the most beautiful girl in the world.
AWWW!!!! Who do you respect and admire on the scene ?
As far as DJs go I like Hisham Zahran and Aly B... The Nacelle residents. My favorite producer is Ahmed Mansy. Nobody’s heard about him but he’s well known abroad. He’s the most amazing Techno producer in the Middle East.
You know there’s an Egyptian DJ called DJ Music Man AKA Chill Music Man... That’s his full DJ Name…
Are you serious!?
Yep, it’s messed up. How messed up do you get before a gig?
I stay very, very sober. I get like two beers and a drink, that’s all. I tend to be aware of what happens unlike other DJs who like to get fucked.
What do you think about this shift into Deep House everywhere?
I don’t know why people are doing that, like playing straight Deep House sets. I find it really boring, there’s no journey effect… What I like to do in my sets is always try to play different shit instead of constantly trying to get in on the trend.
Are you only inspired by music or do other things influence your tracks?
Of course! Everything, everything I see. When I walk in the street, alone or in my car, not listening to music I think of melodies in my head. Sometimes I record it on my phone.
Is it true that even Baher’s silence sounds good?
Is that a fucking question? Seriously? Does it sound good? I guess in my head it does, yeah.
Let's give it ago then... Silent disco time!
Find out more about Baher on his Noise Profile here.