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DJ Anakhemia: “A special moment in Saudi modern cultural history”

Anakhemia © Twitter

Anakhemia © Twitter

Kawa met Afra (aka Anakhemia) Saudi Arabia’s top DJ. She grew up in Jeddah. Today she lights up the nightlife scenes in Dubai, Bangalore, Ibiza and London. Her most profound inspiration? The Great Architect.

What’s your vision of music?

Music is the language of the mute, the vision of the blind, the vibration of the deaf. Music is magic, and The Great Architect lives in it.

What does Anakhemia mean?

The simplest answer is that a part of it is an acronym of my full name, but the more complex answer is that it’s subjective to your own interpretation, like a piece of art. There is certainly meaning to it, a code that those with the patience to decipher would understand.

How does your Saudi childhood reflected in your music?

From my childhood memories, the very old Al Balad district in Jeddah has a very special place for me in my heart. Ever since I was a little child I’d be thrilled when my parents would take me there. Just walking through the cobbled alleys studded with glittering stores of gold and the heavy scent of flaming frankincense wafting through the senses while the ancient abodes of Hijazi architecture slumbered in decay…it’s like a scene from Disney’s Aladdin in my imagination.

To be honest, what lured me there was what used to be the biggest record store there, called ‘Stallions’. I remember how my eyes would suddenly develop this tunnel-vision towards the store’s window display, from so far away. They had the biggest life-sized posters of musicians & I’d always be waiting for my next visit just so I could buy music. The store guy always remembered to give me a magazine & I’d spend the night like this puppy dog with stars in my eyes, sifting through the pages, listening to music & just dreaming for hours in my head. I guess those dreams are still reflected in the work I’ve done, and will continue to do so.

How did you discover the music? Did you remember how and when you started to react to music?

My early consciousness with music started very young, when I was being influenced by what my mum was listening to because she was a cool cat. She’s still a cool cat and my biggest critic, but now she listens to commercial music and I don’t dig her choices anymore. Looking back, it was Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’… I still remember my mum always playing it in the car while my dad would drive us, and I remember that weird sensation in my heart and stomach, that excitement every time i’d hear it. I was about six years old then. That was my first conscious imprinting to music other than the beat of mum’s body while growing inside her I suppose.

You play between Ibiza, Middle East and London. How does the audience change? Does the place where you play have an impact on the way you play?

Because of globalisation and the Internet, the difference between the shared attitudes of a subgroup of people, for instance those who listen to underground electronic music, is very small, so in that sense the audience doesn’t change so much. But certainly there are some differences. Like playing to an audience in Ibiza can challenge you because musically they are spoilt for choices so you really have to play with a little bit of intention, while playing in Jeddah where the music scene is yet to mature, especially for underground music, and considering there isn’t a club-culture like you’d find in a place like London, you really get the opportunity to educate, but it also comes with its own challenges.

In a world of duality, music can function like a gun—a tool with different functions.

The very best concert ever you played: How was it? If you a story to share, tell us all the details.

One of the most memorable gigs to date was in Bangalore (India) at this open terraced music venue, it’s really posh but the people who come there also know how to lose themselves to the music. A real fantastic and open-minded crowd. It started raining as you can imagine and I started playing these really off-kilter underground tunes while running another line of effects-heavy Techno that took the resident DJ there by surprise, much to his annoyance. He wanted to run a deep and melodic night but I decided to play along with the tempo of the weather. Everyone was just dancing in the rain, I had people coming over telling me what a weirdly good set it was, and really pushing for the music to go longer than the curfew, so that for me more than made up for the crass mood I put the guy in who gave me my chance on the bill. The moral of the story is that you never make any splashes by being a meek girl. Sometimes you have to take chances, piss people off and make thunder.

Who is the French artist you would like to play with? Why?

Gesaffelstein. Although at the moment he has retired from the gigging scene, I would love to collaborate with him in some musical capacity. Perhaps in another dimension we already have. He’s an original alien.

Electro music and music in general are a universe language. The story you tell through your track (and music video) The Prophecy spoke to people worldwide. Does music create a common language? Does that have the power to break the frontiers (either cultural or physical)?

Absolutely. On a collective level we have shared experiences through the same music though we may come from totally different worlds. In a world of duality, music can function like a gun—a tool with different functions. Music can either create hell or it can heal.

What inspires you? Who are you gurus/references?

The Great Architect, who is the greatest artist of all time and space, inspires me. My journey in music is, in a sense, an effort to glimpse a reflection of this intelligence.

Ever since the country—under the vision of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman—has permitted public performance, the support has created a positive environment for the arts to thrive.
source de la citation

Your style is “all-black-everything”. What does this colour represent in your identity as a musician?

My artistic aesthetic can only be identified as dark, when there is also the presence of light. It is a reminder of the duality of the world we live in. Black is a colour every girl in Saudi Arabia identifies with from the moment she hits puberty. Being a female-identified human in Saudi Arabia, the black abaya becomes your second skin. Something like the uniform the Techno crowd wears—the all-black attire. Sometimes i find it all a bit pretentious and unoriginal. Considering that, I might just wear a Barbie-pink top and perform at a Techno rave in Berlin. That’d be fun.

Can you tell us more about the Saudi music scene? How is it growing?

There is actually so much potential that it’s exciting to be in the midst of it right now. The music scene has existed underground for a very long time in Saudi Arabia, but ever since the country—under the vision of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman—has permitted public performance, the support has created a positive environment for the arts to thrive. This is a special moment in Saudi Arabia’s modern cultural history, a glimpse into a possible return of the Golden Age. I hope it only gets better from here.