The Mix 008: Moktar


share close

On the ‘Immigrant’ EP you got a bit more political, remarking on your own sense of racialisation while growing up in Sydney followin the 2005 Cronulla race riots. How did that impact you at the time and where does the Immigrant EP sit about those feelings?

Growing up in that era definitely produced a lot of hurdles for me, it’s a very white part of Sydney and it’s a famous beach south of Bondi – you’re close to Sydney but still a bit far removed and much whiter. It definitely shaped what I’m trying to achieve, and what the content of my message is. Having grown up through that, it stirred a lot of tension between the Arab and white communities.

In that post-9/11 era, it made things pretty tricky as an Arab, you weren’t really given a chance. You can even see today that with social media and all of the evidence of what happens in the world people are still so far removed internally in their way of viewing other cultures and I feel like the fear of understanding a culture is usually what drives people to be quite hostile towards it.

Not having a true understanding of what I was doing or eating, then it seemed dangerous and you got bullied for it or you would have people that didn’t really like you as they considered you as not worth their time. Being an outcast – that really helps That definitely, as I got older, made me not want to hide from that anymore, and I really wanted to push what I was doing through music. Pumping that message to really promote my culture, feel strong about it, and not hide from it.

Was your experiences and ideas of musical practice in your teen years shaped by this sense of being an outcast? Was music a way of escaping or engaging it?

Music was always number one – after skating – as a form of escape, but I also grew up with a lot of white friends. I didn’t have problems with racism with them as we were quite close, hanging out and being part of the group would help. But think subconsciously I pushed a lot of my heritage away anyway and didn’t want to impose it on people in my life. You know, I grew up listening to The Smiths, Joy Division, and even The Wombats.

I didn’t even get into hip hop until after school, I really got into ‘90s hip hop and then you learn about where their influences came from and hear blues, funk, soul, and disco – you realise this music isn’t coming from white people. Even just running into Habibi Funk, his collection of music and what he brings out blew my mind, I didn’t realise people from the Middle East were making that sort of music and I felt this real sense of connection, that universal language tracing those same influences. So, I feel that people are more receptive to world music now.

Read this next: “Maintaining the essence”: Toumba is taking Levantine-inspired club music to the next level

2023 was a big year for you, having toured all over Europe, playing some major lineups and venues — who are the people that shaped the standout moment of that journey for you?

I was pretty lucky, one of my first shows overseas was with Mr. Scruff, who kind of introduced me to the idea that this could be a viable, long-term project. He’s a bit older; he’s been in the game for a while. It was a bit of a wake-up call to see someone who is not just very invested but takes it really seriously. So, I learned a lot from him and we still chat every now and then, we’re always sharing music so I pick his brain a fair bit.

Otherwise, going to places like UNFOLD has been really cool, that could be the club that is actually pushing the energy that people think Berghain is doing, it’s cool to see the UK community supporting this sort of scene. I remember going there by myself and I had a lot of fun, I don’t normally love hectic techno over long periods but I got really invested in it on that day. The scene, the people there, that was so friendly.

I spent the last two years coming to live in London for 3 or 4 months each time, that taught me a lot about the scene and the people, what works and what doesn’t in certain areas, as each bit of London has its own thing. Whether you’re in the East or South, the people change, the culture changes and what works changes. We don’t really have that in Australia, it’s quite tight, it’s generally live music or Mall Grab-influenced techno.

Last year I missed the opportunity to play Glastonbury as I had the opportunity to curate a show back home where I’d invite Nooriyah down to Sydney which I really wanted to prioritise.

You’ve been vocal about the role artists must take in active solidarity to Palestinians — particularly through the use of boycotts and publically speaking out against state complicity in the ongoing violence in Gaza. What has this commitment meant for you as an artist?

If you have a platform I think it’s important to be able to get that message across. Even if it’s through DJing, some people might not understand that as it may be considered a “haram” thing. If you’re from a Western country, it’s one of the best ways we can do it as well — I really want to push the focus onto what is happening. Ensuring that people do understand that it’s not about us out here in Australia or in Europe. I don’t want people to forget that this is going on just because we’re at a festival.

Now that I’ve vocalised a lot of this, I’ve seen some of the ugly sides of the music scene as well. You understand the people are trying to profit off of this or would like to avoid working with you. For my upcoming UK tour this June, I’ve only been booked for two shows whereas last year I was booked for fourteen. It can be quite scary but you’ve got to stay strong and keep the community with you, you’re stronger in numbers and we’re definitely having an effect. I feel that a lot of the people in the industry sit in the right place but a lot of folks are being silenced, it really shows the difference between last year and this year and how rapidly it’s changed for me.

There’s this power that electronic music, as a modern music-from has to take samples from everyday life, samples of oral testimony, and relocate them into an emotionally rich environment. This can be heard in the recording of your Meredith set among others, what’s your process behind selecting archival audio for these moments and what is the politics of that?

I try to go for clips people will relate to, at Meredith, I knew people would relate to a certain sound so I clicked on that by giving them a sound they’d be interested in hearing alongside a really clear message. I think it’s important to create that atmosphere, as a DJ you’re creating that environment for people so you need to set the mood and create a really strong memory for people.

Meredith is one of those festivals where you’ll get the most supportive crowd in the world, you’re also playing to an older crowd. Most of these people don’t go clubbing all the time so you don’t want to scare the shit out of them, but enjoy playing to a crowd like that as I kind of get them as I came from that world. Maybe they’d prefer to see bands, but I really enjoyed playing that set because the crowd had me feeling super comfortable.

It’s all about creating an experience – a journey that takes the audience on a ride they won’t soon forget. And for me, there are a few key elements that contribute to that. I spend hours curating playlists, fine-tuning my sets to build energy, tell a story, and keep the crowd moving from start to finish. But it’s not just about playing tracks; it’s about reading the room, feeding off the energy of the crowd, and adjusting on the fly to keep the vibe alive.

Then there’s the atmosphere. From the lighting to the visuals to the overall vibe of the venue, every element plays a role in shaping the experience. Whether it’s an intimate underground club or a massive festival stage, I thrive on creating an atmosphere that transports people to another world – even if it’s just for a few hours.

Is this something that you talk about with your dad at all and do you feel a difference between the approach to the political across generations and genres?

I think for my parent’s generation there’s a little bit of trauma so when we speak about politics, they don’t have much to say, in Egypt people get imprisoned for being outspoken and political. We are impassioned people and my family has always felt very upset about it; they have always taught me about it. You know, whenever we’d go on holiday in the north of Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh we’d always wind up getting stuck in checkpoints as we got nearer the Israeli border. I think that politically, my dad has never had a way of trying to get the message across through his music.

Is that still shaping your work? What’s coming next?

It’s the early stages, I’m just trying to create as much music as possible so that I can look back at it and figure out where everything is gonna go. For now, I don’t want to plan it too much. Sonically, the sounds I’m making are less for the clubs, I’m going to keep following this route and see what happens, whilst making a few club-oriented edits, scaling up a whole load of acapella from Omar Suleiman, and working with some traditional Arabic vocalists as well. I’m not putting any restraints on what I’d like to do and how I want it to sound and see where it takes me.

I always like to get into the studio with people whose music I find interesting, I’ve been talking to nour, she’s really blown up recently but yeah, we’re chatting and we’re trying to get some stuff out together. Because I have a background in producing, I’m trying to write some things with her, that’s been cool. I’m always running into people when they’re on tour and trying to get a studio session in, I recently caught up with Ahadadream over and we wrote a few things. I’m just trying to start a lot of these projects and follow through on them, which is always the hard part but I’m keeping focussed and being disciplined with the work.

Looking at my most recent release where I crafted a fresh interpretation of Saad El Soghayar’s classic ‘Hatgawez’ was a true labour of love for me. Growing up listening to his music, I’ve always been inspired by the timeless melodies and infectious rhythms of Egyptian shaabi music. So, when the opportunity arose to put my own spin on one of his iconic tracks, I jumped at the chance.

But it wasn’t just about reimagining the song; it was about paying homage to the original while adding my own unique flair. I wanted to capture the essence of the original while infusing it with a modern electronic twist – blending traditional Arabic instrumentation with pulsating beats and hypnotic synths. I’ve tried to make a track that’s both nostalgic and forward-thinking, honouring the past while embracing the future. It’s a celebration of Egyptian culture, a tribute to the music that shaped me, and a testament to the power of collaboration across generations and genres.

Can you tell us a bit about your mix?

I aimed to blend my cultural roots, as always, and my passion for electronic music — creating a musical journey that resonates with contemporary expression using soundscapes and traditional percussive sounds. I wanted to take things to a dark room in a club at 3:AM with heavy beats, driving basslines, and sonic Arabic sounds. Each track on my mix is an insight of what’s been inspiring me with my production and ongoing progression of my musical journey.

Listen to Moktar’s ‘Haraka’ here.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

Rate it