Explore the DJ culture in Oman
November 22, 2017 | 5:06 PM
by Salem Afifi

Pulsating rhythms, check. New electronic and experimental beats, check. Groovy and bubbly crowd... check, check. Dance floors have always been the go-to place to let go of everything and enjoy the moment. What was once considered as a not so acceptable culture in the early 1990s has become a powerful mainstream phenomenon, celebrating the new form of music. Here in Oman, while this music culture is growing, albeit at a slower pace, the changes are certainly noticeable.

and producers are the true superheroes of sound. Many folks link the word DJ with electronic sound and house music, which is not true. A DJ can be a mastermind in any genre, giving you a rose from a variety of gardens. So, what’s the culture like here in Muscat? I had the pleasure of meeting three of the hottest DJ’s in town. DJ Pharaoh, DJ Khalifa, and DJ Marcela, who gave me a peek into the DJ-ing culture in Muscat.

DJ Pharaoh

The first DJ named Ahmed, but known in town as DJ Pharaoh, is a down-to-earth music lover from Egypt who lived most his life here in Oman. He travelled back to Egypt to finish his studies before coming back here and establishing a name in the music and clubbing scene. He was drawn into this field for its vibe that screams adrenaline rush and a good time. He started practising as a DJ in 1998, at the age of 20, and today he is a sought-after disc jockey in town.

One day, he got a golden opportunity to entertain a crowd as a cover-up for another DJ, and since then he has been atop his game. But that isn’t all that surprising; his father was a musician and so music and sound runs in the family.

DJ Khalifa

DJ Khalifa, real name Khalifa Al Balushi, is another successful DJ who has been in Oman’s clubbing scene since 2002. He was influenced by his brother who was also DJ. He started experimenting with sound and in two weeks he succeeded in leaving an impression on his brother. He kick-started his career playing at weddings and private parties before entering the clubbing scene.

DJ Khalifa met DJ Pharaoh in 2005, and both became good friends. Both played at a variety of places including Rumba Lattina, Prive, Copacabana, Zouk, and On The Rocks among others. And, DJ Khalifa also performed a number of shows in India, and rocked a crowd of 3,000 people at Diamondz concert here in Muscat, which was one of his favourite moments.

DJ Marcela

DJ Marcela is an international DJ from Chile. She is half-Italian and is a citizen of the world. Her musical journey started at the age of 16 in her hometown. She is a famous singer-songwriter who played with bands before diving into the world of EDM. She is a master in electronic sound but also plays a variety of genres.

She started when she was 16, now she’s been 11 years in the industry. After touring the world, she finally visited Oman, where she is a resident DJ at Shangri-La’s B.A.B. Lounge, playing six nights a week excluding Saturdays.

What most people don’t understand is that DJ-ing is not only about house music. It is the art of mixing and spinning records in real time. It requires talent and a tonne of efforts. There are DJ’s who come to play for the crowd, there are DJ’s who play particular genres only, and then there are my absolute favourite spinners who play open format (mixing different genres). Though DJ Khalifa and DJ Pharaoh play open format, they both have a deep connection with Hip-Hop music.

I asked DJ Marcela to describe Muscat’s crowd and her response was spot on; she noticed that the Omani crowd moves more with Hip-Hop and Afrobeats, which is in trend at the moment. “They have a very particular taste,” said DJ Marcela, adding that “very groovy and sensual sound”. The global act also commented on how beautiful and chilled the vibe is, which explains the popularity of Hip Hop, Afrobeats, and RnB music in comparison to deep house or trance.

In late 90s and early 2000s, people used to dedicate their lives to play, using turntables and analogue-shaped equipment, some were playing at Sheraton before it closed down for renovations. In short, the culture existed in Muscat long back but was more intimate. And even for DJs, it took them six months to a year to become the best deejays they can be and handle bigger crowds.

According to DJ Khalifa, many folks think that playing is easy, and that one can rock a party with only a laptop and some syncing programmes, but it is much more involved than that. “It’s not just about playing, it’s about knowing your crowd,” said DJ Khalifa.

Today, the whole game has changed; the music and clubbing culture is on the rise, which demands more DJs. Some of the up and coming names include DJ Sultan and DJ Ali, who are also spinners at Rumba Lattina.

One of the most important aspect of becoming a successful DJ is to train your ear and work hard, preferably using old methods to build a proper foundation, which is something that, according to DJ Khalifa and DJ Pharaoh, lacks in many up and coming DJs in town. As the deejays remembered back in the day, they used to train the hard way, they even put stickers to hide beats-per-minute reads only to teach the individual on how to master the art of beat-mixing. Like weight loss, the easiest way is not the best option.

The DJ culture in Oman is definitely getting better as new venues are opening up and new crowds are forming, but what usually goes unnoticed is the man behind the counter, spinning records or playlists to some of the hottest songs of the year, transforming the crowd to an euphoric state of mind. Let’s hope that one day we will host our very own music festivals, with today’s clubbing scene in town, there is hope. — [email protected]

Catch DJ Pharaoh and DJ Khalifa at Rumba Lattina and On The Rocks, every Thursday and Friday.

Instagram: @followthepharaoh

Instagram: @deejay_khalifa

Catch DJ Marcela at B.A.B. Lounge at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa everyday except Saturdays.

Instagram: @marcethais

Instagram: @shangrilabarraljissahresort

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