The Goethe Institute continues to find new ways to dabble in the cultural relationship between Germans and Egyptians, this time bringing the Berlinland club scene to Egypt in the form of DJ Mia.
One of Germany’s top club DJs, she was introduced to Egypt’s cafe-culture shores in the unlikely settings of a family folk festival in Sohag followed by the heart of Cairo’s underground arts scene: the Rawabet Theater, a performance which she categorized as minimal club techno.
DJ Mia has two albums under her sleeve, “Shwarzweiss (2004) and “Bittersuess (2007). Her music is haunting, melodic and meditative, ranging from classic blues and remixes to cutting-edge experimentalism with electronic sounds. Thus, Mia comes in different guises and the audience only received a hint of that during her performances.
The crowd at Rawabet Theater on Friday night was a mixed bunch with varying expectations. Advertised as minimal electro, it was – understandably – much to the disappointment of electronica outfit Bikya’s fan base (Bikya being the special guest of the night), when Mia began to belt out Berlin club anthems. The audience, in their polite yet consistent manner, gradually trickled out.
Fortunately, the awkwardness created by the leftover crowd diminished with their departure; only a few remained looking alienated and somewhat unhealthily attached to their seats. Soon the clubbers of Cairo seeped in and dominated the scene, free-styling with refreshing abandon. DJ Mia was clearly enjoying herself: She quickly established a rapport with the audience, encouraging daring dance moves and happily posing for photos for the eager male contingent, whom she was exceedingly popular with.
As the music and audience grew comfortable with each other, DJ Mia finally showcased her distinctive techno voice. Mia’s characteristic dark yet delicate bass supports discordant melodies interrupted by gospel blues and African chants. Her music is, at once, melancholic, joy-inducing, buzzing, experimental, subtle and full of spice. By the end of the night, she owned the room.
Mia thought the concert had gone well: The urban crowd, which included some of her friends, responded to her club anthems as expected. But her Sohag performance from the night before had made a special impact on the artist.
At her first performance in the Arab world, Mia was playing to an audience of conservative Egyptian families. The mayor was in attendance and flags were flying. A far cry from Mia’s usual dark and debauching nightclub setting, she expected muted applause at best. So when the hijab-donned ladies began breaking down their dance moves, with a teenage girl even knowing some of Mia’s tracks (a fan!), she was shocked and delighted.
As a crowd of 20 followed Mia back to her hotel room, it seemed that the artist and audience had left a lasting impression on each other. Furthermore, the scene had made a point: music, away from context and analysis, is music, and if the audience is moved by it, they will respond.
Mia was excited by the juxtaposed scene of club music, associated with excess and hedonism, being embraced by a more conservative culture. In fact, in a way the “halal policy in some of Egypt’s live music venues, without chemically-assisted pleasure, enables club music to reach listeners that might not feel comfortable at a nightclub, opening doors to a redefinition of the Arab world techno audience.
Mia is keen to spread the electro-music gospel globally. After heading her own production company for 10 years, she has begun a new venture, “Meeow Records, aiming to encourage women to produce their own music and bring a gender balance to the electro DJ scene, currently dominated by machismo. She has already conducted workshops in Austria and, freshly enthused by the girls in Sohag, she mentioned an interest in starting workshops in the Middle East.
Mia certainly played on her femininity at Rawabet. She entered the stage sultry, full of grace and with a ladylike hint of shyness. But not to be fooled by her cute exterior, Mia’s music was edgy, acidic and heavy with the history of electro dance; an expression of her female prowess.
Reflecting the aims of her label, she “mia-owed her way into the crowd’s dancing souls, subtly navigating the male-heavy room to her musical maneuvers.
The Rawabet crowd was ultimately made up of ready-made club music fans. Newcomers to club music in Cairo might still be unprepared for the descent of Berlinland techno into their ahwas and shisha cafes.
Nevertheless, Mia’s presence was significant in alerting Egyptian audiences to the pretty, powerful and passionate female club DJs.
To find out more about DJ Mia, visit her MySpace profile: www.myspace.com/substaticmia.