Sama Abdulhadi’s rise to becoming one of the first DJs to emerge internationally from Palestine can be traced back to Beirut, where she immersed herself in the burgeoning local techno scene. Her years in the Lebanese capital not only developed in her a singular musical aesthetic, but educated her as to the technicalities of mixing records and forming a narrative by doing so. Her sets, while rooted in high-octane, punchy techno, have a distinguished and defined ark, encompassing a broad range of sounds in their beginning and end. It’s a style that can be traced back to her teachers, two DJs who instilled in her the value of adaptation and track diversity. “The music is Berlin techno, but I perceive it in a Lebanese way,” Sama explains.
Sama’s story begins in Ramallah, Palestine’s de facto capital. Moving there from Jordan, her place of birth, she first connected with hip-hop and rap, the region’s foremost alternative genre. A penchant for music was evident at an early age, but it was the technical side that drew her in first, leading her to study in Beirut. She returned to Palestine with a new understanding of electronic music, and brought with her the techno genre, inspiring a local community of artists that continues to flourish in the face of the geo-political restrictions imposed upon it.
Intent on pursuing a career in Music Production, Sama studied Audio Engineering at SAE Institute London, the basis for two albums as Skywalker, her former alias, and a job in Cairo, Egypt, where she began working with bands and designing sound for moving picture, including Egyptian films like “The Builders” and “Thread and Wall.” She also partnered with Arabic music incubator Eka3 to start her own publishing agency, Awyav.
It wasn’t until much later that DJing became her focus, sparked by a run of gigs that has continued ever since. Her education in music continues to inform her work: not only has it had a big impact on how she hears sound, but she sprinkles real-life samples throughout her sets, recorded on her travels and shaped back in her studio.
In 2018, she performed at Germany’s Fusion Festival and Hungary’s Sziget Festival, but it was her Boiler Room set, viewed nearly 3-million times, that identified her talents to the wider electronic music community. While touring every weekend, she bases herself in Paris, France, after completing a six-month residency at the International City of Arts having been selected as a Laureate by the French Institute. In July, she completed her first Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1, opening it with a binaural recording from London’s Kings Cross train station to Paris.
Much beyond the success she’s already enjoying, Sama’s goal has always been to put Palestine on the musical map. While she continues to excel on all fronts, she uses her status as a rising touring DJ to support the growing number of musicians at home. Besides advising them on the challenges they’ll face, she’s recently set up Union, an artistic community in Ramallah that also serves as a platform for DJs and producers to better their skills.