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Student DJ: Maie El Sabi vs Mike Mamdouh

Ahead of the second Student DJ battle, we sit down with the two contestants up for this week's showdown: Maie El Sabi and Mike Mamdouh...

The second battle of the Student DJ competition is about to kick off this Thursday, betting Maie El Sabi and Mike Mamdouh against each other in a head-to-head battle for glory. We get to know the two fledgling DJs ahead of the big showdown…

Mike Mamdouh

A drummer by trade, 23-year-old Mike Mamdouh is a musician through and through, giving him that upper hand in his DJing skills. Rather than sticking it out and playing it safe in one genre, he likes to experiment with different sounds to create something truly unique.

Maie El Sabi

The only girl to make it into the top 10 at Student DJ, Maie El Sabi already has that edge over her competition. This 28-year old overnight talent likes listening to Indie music when she’s not DJing, and believes that female DJs can take over the world!

Why don’t we begin with a little bit about your background?

Maie: I am a graphic designer. I heard about student DJ and decided I want to try it out. I had no background, but I have an ear for music. I am in the top ten, and hopefully am going to be number one.

Mike: I have a drummer’s background. I was a musician since I was ten, and I grew up as a drummer in bands and stuff like that, in schools and then I moved to electronic music when I started partying, and I like the idea of being a DJ. I am a musician, so I wanted to be one at parties, so I applied for Student DJ and I am in the top ten, and no one is standing in my way.

Can you remember the moment when you decided, you know what, I want to start being a DJ now?

Micheal: Yeah, I went to a club and I sat beside the DJ to see what he’s doing, and I said I can do what he’s doing if I practice a little bit, and I decided to go to the studio the next day.

What kind of music do you expect in the battle ?

Maie: Actually, I’m not quite sure. I’m still trying to figure it out. But tomorrow’s party with Hatem and Bashaar is going to decide on a lot, because we are going to see what the crowd is like, and I don’t wanna play music that is too intense because I want the crowd to enjoy it too and people here usually like fluffier things. So I won’t compromise my music in any way, but I’ll try to choose my less intense tracks to please the crowd and still play my music.

Do you have a genre that you usually come to?

Maie: Tech-House  

Do you vary from that?

Maie: No, it’s Tech-House, a bit of House, not a lot of Deep House, maybe a track or two. 

Mike: I think that DJs shouldn’t just play a specific genre.

How would you differentiate your DJ styles from everyone else competing?

Mike: I’m a drummer, so I have some groovy beats that make me unique from these DJs. That’s the main part.

Maie: For me, the music I listen to is very different from the music I play. I mostly like Indie music. I’m influenced by Crystal Fighters and M83, but the music I play is very different and there is a specific sound that I haven’t heard anyone play, like some artists such as Nick Olivette and Sonny Fodera. I haven’t heard that specific sound in any of the parties here, so I’m hoping I can introduce the sound.

They’re only played at  after parties but in more commercial parties no one plays these sounds, so I hope I can mix them with some lighter music to have the crowd appreciate it more.

Tell me about the challenges of introducing a new sound?

Maie: Not knowing what to expect. That’s why we’re both really excited about tomorrow, because it’s the first battle and we’re glad we’re not the first contestants, because we are going to know what to expect from the crowd and from the judges.

Mike, why are you going to take the competition away from Maie?

Mike: Maie, I’m a drummer I have a background in music. You said you don’t have any background, so I’m better than you .

Maie, would you like to respond?

Maie: I’d love to respond, wait until the battle and it’ll speak for itself.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned in boot camp?

Maie: Boot camp was a lesson on its own. I had no idea what I was doing, I was frustrated because I could see everyone around me having some sort of experience in DJing, and I had zero experience. So I felt I needed to focus more than anyone else, and try harder and work harder to listen to every single word that was said during our sessions with Jamie and Amir. It was a bit frustrating when I could see what they were doing and that I couldn’t do the same, but it paid off because in three days I learned a lot.

I feel like I’m learning every day when I practice. It just takes practice and a good ear. If I were to give anyone advice, it would be that they need to know their music. That’s the most important thing, to know your songs to know the breaks. If you know your song very well, you’ll know how to mix it with another song.

What did you learn from boot camp that made you a good DJ?

Mike: I learned a lot that made me a DJ. A lot of the techniques and skills Jamie showed us I knew nothing about. Tractor and Amir taught me everything  from A-Z. He was amazing. The boot camp also taught me that everyone has his unique talent. I didn’t expect many people to play like they played .

How did the partying culture influence your musical sense?

Maie: It has influenced it a lot because I like to party and If I didn’t I would be exposed to this type of music. I wouldn’t listen to these kinds of artists on a daily basis.

Mike: I think those parties opened up people’s minds to music.

Maie: But I feel like here it’s pretty much the same. Everyone is playing it safe. No one wants to do anything crazy or introduce something new, because of fear of how people are going to take it, so you go to a party and know pretty much what to expect.

I think people here need to have the confidence to play their sound and find their own crowd that’s going to like their sound. They don’t need to please everyone.

So when you’re playing what can we expect?

Maie: I don’t think I should tell you. I should keep it as a surprise.

So are you afraid of her secrets?

Mike: I saw Maie at the first day in boot camp. She was like, “I don’t know anything about music, whats this whats that?” Second day she was sitting in front of me, taking notes every time, and then I saw her in the assessment and she was transformed. She became a DJ in three days. Many people would love to see a talent like this in three days. I don’t think I’ve seen it before.

Whats more of a drive: being a puppet master and getting everyone moving or putting out a track that satisfies you personally?

Mike: I think both.

Maie: I think both too.

Mike: Sometimes you need to be a puppet master. People need someone to move them.

But we were talking about how some people don’t divert from the same sounds. Wouldn’t it get boring from  playing the same streams?

Maie: Yes it would, and that’s why you need a balance of both. I think that makes a good DJ: someone who doesn’t compromise their sound all the time, but who could also find a way to find a balance and please the crowd while still sticking to their style.

Would you give us a little insight about how you are going to straddle this balance at the battle?

Maie: I think if I start slow so that the crowd like gets into it and then hit them hard, like play the music I like.

Mike: I will start really hard and then go a bit slower and then very hard to hit the people all over…..

What’s the worst thing about Maie?

Mike: At the boot camp she was all over the place. She doesn’t leave space to anyone. Maie doesn’t know what she wants to do, that’s a problem. She wont have time to practice.

Whats the worst thing about Mike?

Maie: He takes things too personally.

I think regarding music, we are all kind of lost about which direction to take, because we haven’t been to the first battle yet. If this is a negative aspect, I think by tomorrow I;ll know what I’ll be doing.

What do DJs here in Egypt do that annoys the hell out of you?

Maie: Sometimes they’re too confident to even read the crowd. You’re doing this for fun. You cant have fun alone; that’s not fun. When you’re overconfident you kill the vibe.

Mike: I think using effects too much. It’s so simple, so don’t complicate it.

Maie: Some DJs have support because they’ve been doing it for a really long time and they don’t feel the need to grow. They make really bad mixes and they don’t better themselves because they think they’ve made it and they’re the top DJs so they don’t fix it.

There is a very concentrated amount of DJs and producers in the same scene. Can you just listen to the music and enjoy it, or do you constantly keep analysing their performance and the sounds they’re creating?

Maie: Ever since I got into boot camp it’s been kind of different for me, because I feel like now, I could do a bit of both. But for now I’m analysing them more than I usually would. Because then I didn’t think I was going to be a DJ so I was just listening to music and having fun.

Now I wanna know what they’re doing, I wanna look at the crowd and see how they respond to the music. I try to learn by being there and not just enjoying myself.

Mike: Actually, I try to listen to the music and enjoy it, but when the DJ misses something it gets to my ear.

Is there a mistake that will happen to make you leave the party instantly ?

Maie: I don’t think any fuck up would have us leaving the party. Everyone fucks up, everyone learns. Everyone’s growing .

Whats the best set you’ve ever heard before ?

Maie: I think the best set I’ve heard was Maceo Plex in Athens  last winter. 

Mike: Infected Mushroom. London. 2009.

It seems like there is a lack of female DJs in the Egyptian scene. How does that make you feel ?

Maie: It makes me feel happy, because I’m going be one of the few girls who are DJs in Egypt, and maybe I could make girls feel like its simple and possible. I feel like girls aren’t confident enough. Whether you’re a girl or a guy, it’s the same to me. This is what I don’t like about Egypt; people are looking at it like ohh look she’s a female DJ, and that’s why I’m happy to be one of the few female DJs, so I could show girls that am just a DJ. 

If I lead the way to other girls wanting to do this, that would be great. Everyone has a style. I’m the first girl in the top ten in the Student DJ, I think that says something already. But there are other female DJs who are really good.

Do you wanna name a few?

Maie: Luly, Mayan, Nu El Sherif.

This might be difficult, but attempt to describe your perfect wall of sound?

Mike: Violins, high hats, bass and a break down after bass and then a vocal and a little bit of piano.

Maie: Fandango. You have to listen to it to feel it. It’s a really cool track.

Let’s try some free word association. I’ll say a word and you say the first thing that pops into your head.

Music.

Mike: Talent.

Mai: Win.

Competition.

Mai: Win.

Mike: Beat.

Armin.

Mai: Old.

Mike: Musician.

Young.

Mai: Me.

Mike: Nothing comes to mind.

Talented.

Mai: US.

Mike: ToyBoys.

Virtual DJ.

Mike: A mess.

Mai: What?

Traktor.

Mai: Amir Farag.

Mike: Amir Farag.

Psy-Trance.

Mike: The best.

Mai: Unfamiliar.

Progressive House.

Mike: Commercial.

Mai: 2008.

Deep House.

Mike: Grooved.

Mai: Overplayed.

Techno

Mike: Upcoming.

Mai: Classic.

Indie.

Mike: Overplayed.

Mai: Sweet.

Underground.

Mai: Dirty.

Five years from now, are you still DJs?

Mike: I think so, yes.

Mai: 200%.

Do you hope to be DJs in a certain district or do you play where you like to play?

Mike: Ibiza

Mai: Yes, Berlin. Ibiza. Everywhere.

Do you guys have a dream venue?

Mai: A dream venue? No. I’d like to go everywhere. I’d like to go to the biggest clubs and the biggest cities and the smallest cities and every tiny underground club there ever was to play my music.

Mike: I think I want to meet Pete Tong and the Essential Mix.

Mai: Oh! And Boiler Room.

So what do you think death sounds like?

Mike: Another life.

Mai: Country Music.

Mike: Doom Metal.

If you were to believe in reincarnation, what will you come back as in the next life?

Mike: Dj with the sticks in the hands.

Mai: I’d come back as me.

Explain to me why you think your competitor is going to lose.

Mai: He’s going to lose because I’m going to win. Its as simple as that.

Mike: She is going to lose because she knows nothing about music.

Mai: I know a lot about music. I didn’t have enough skills, but now I do.

Mike: I will show her what Mike’s music sounds like on stage.

After you win, what will you say to them?

Mai: In yo face bitch!

Mike: I'll bring her to my after party.