Considering the melodic, progressive manner in which Dubai-based DJ and producer MinaMou approaches music — his sonic journey began in the most customary of circumstances. While studying at university, he self learned the basics of DJing either the beat matching, the genres and subgenres of music and how to interact with the crowd. At some point, he thought he couldn't be on the top of the list if he was a non producer DJ, he decided to learn music production and did it all alone, self learning with a a little help from a few of his friends to start.
This summer was the time to take the next step as MinaMou started to release his own music. The debut, entitled 'The Sadon', was a collaboration with Chahen, which was followed by the artist's first solo project 'Elara' that came to the fore by generating complete carnage on the dance floors every time it is listened to thanks to eccentric, addictive synth hooks, frenetic drums and pounding bass line. The string of these consecutive releases continued this autumn with other Chahen collaborations; 'The Sound of Selfishness', 'Antigone' and 'Creon'.
To celebrate this fruitful year, MinaMou created a mix for Mixmag MENA. The hour-long set has "some different flavors of melodic techno, really moving tracks with some driving baselines, sweet sounding melodies and great vocals", according to him. We caught up with him to chat about the mix, his musical inspirations, his opinions about the scene in Dubai as well as the MENA region and his forthcoming projects.
How are you? How has 2022 treated you?
I am all great, happy to be here with you. 2022 is the year of coming back to normal life after two tough years. For me as an artist 2022 is actually a great year, I took a huge leap in my career by introducing my music to the world which I consider as one of the most important steps of any artist’s career, beginnings are always important as it gives the impression of what kind of artist you are going to be.
You first started to release on official streaming platforms this year but you began DJing much more earlier. How did you get into the spirit of electronic music at the very beginning?
I love music since I was a kid. I was raised in a family that had music on 24/7. When I was 8 years old I started my piano lessons but unfortunately I didn’t proceed with that .
I started DJing as a hobby because of my love of music not knowing that later it would be my career. I started at the first year of university, 2006, after I self learned the basics of DJing either the beat matching, the genres and subgenres of music and how to interact with the crowd. I started as an open format DJ playing all genres of music for all sorts of events like weddings, birthday parties and playing in clubs on weekends till I decided to focus only on electronic music in 2010, then in 2011, I was ranked as Egypt’s top 3 rising DJs among over than 100 DJs at the most important DJ contest on that time in Egypt by HumanEye TV.
Back to the point of why I chose electronic music?! It has a special place in my heart as it touches my soul, always. Never failed to elevate my mood. Specially growing up listening for tracks like:
Haddaway - What Is Love
Da Hool - Meet Her at the Love Parade
Faithless - Insomnia
Gala - Freed from Desire
ATB - 9PM (Till I Come)
Safri Duo - Samb-Adagio
Safri Duo - Played-A-Live
Rui Da Silva - Touch Me
Tiësto - Lethal industry
Tiësto - Adagio for Strings
Who wouldn’t fall in love, yeah?!!! Then at the beginning of 2012, I had to rest my decks for some time to join the military forces back home as a national duty then I did my master’s degree.
2016 was the year of the comeback. At that time, I was in Doha, Qatar, after DJing for some time in 2016, I realised that DJing isn’t enough for the career I am trying to pursue and achieve not enough to be where I wanna be. It’s a long journey and you can’t be on the top of the list if you are a non producer DJ. So I decided to learn music production and I did it all alone, self learning with a a little help from a few of my friends to start. And here I am, I ended up in the genres of melodic techno & progressive house.
It isn't a dream anymore, it’s a plan.
How do you balance music production with playing at clubs and events? Do you think these are processes that feed each other?
Well, let me put it that way. Being a music producer makes you a better DJ, being a DJ makes you a better version of yourself as a producer, being both do help you to see the whole process from two different aspects so you bring the club (festival) experience to the studio and bring the studio experience to the dance floor, it’s a great integration and as you said they feed each other.
And to be honest, it is not easy to balance between both of them when it comes to time and energy besides your personal life, family and business. You need to focus and show dedication, consistency and discipline.
What I personally do to balance is to arrange a flexible weekly schedule to follow at least 80% considering that there may be some pop ups that may prevent me from following it 100% plus I always make sure to have enough time for a proper rest and to work out on regular bases as that helps a lot.
2022 saw a strong comeback for the industry after COVID-19 all over the world. What difficulties have you encountered in Dubai during the pandemic and exactly when did the Dubai scene started to fully reopen?
2022 was a relief, as Dubai had very strict rules for COVID-19, so I would say at the end of 2021 things were way better, then in 2022 everything was back to normal. Before that, there were no dance floors, the crowd had to be seated and only music in the background.
So for us as musicians, we barely had gigs to play and a lot of my colleagues took the direction of streams and online sets which was a great thing to get more exposure but me personally I preferred to spend more time in the studio improving my skills and productions.
What are your favorite hardware and software in your studio when producing music and preparing for the shows?
For production, when I started, it was Logic Pro, such an amazing and powerful DAW to me.
Then after quite some time I started looking on Ableton which was more convenient for me with a very simple and organized workflow and to be honest it makes my life easier when I am producing. However, I tend to use Logic when I am mixing as I prefer the mixer in Logic.
When it comes to synths, Diva and Serum are my most favourite software synths.
The hardware I have is Ableton Push, such an amazing machine which is handy to be assigned for many purposes and I have only 1 hardware synth which is Arturia Microbrute with the amazing brute factor, it is a perfect machine to enter the hard synth world.
Considering to upgrade my studio, for hardware I would be thinking of Moog Subsequent 37, Sequential Prophet and maybe to collect something modular.
For DJing, I use Rekordbox to arrange my music library, create playlists and prepare for every gig.
What do you think are the most important elements for a successful track or mix?
That’s my quotes about making music: “The groove is what moves the body, the harmonics is what touches the soul.”
So the first thing I think about is what are the feelings and the characteristics of the track that I want to deliver to the listeners and the crowd. So for example, the EP “Antigone” - a collaboration with Chahen - which was released with Dear Deer in September this year, it includes two tracks: “Antigone” and “Creon”. The tracks are named after the book “Antigone”. It's an Athenian tragedy written by Sophocles. Antigone and Creon were the two main characters. After reading the book, you will find that Antigone is courageous, determined, brave, loyal and defiant while Creon is power-driven, stubborn, proud, dutiful and ruthless. These are the exact characteristics of the tracks. Accordingly, we named them this way.
But talking about technicality, when making a track every single element is really important no matter what, as every element has a role to play in the track, all of them has to be matching, nothing sounds weird or out of context in the same exact way engineers are building machines so all the wheels, valves and body parts should be matching and aligned otherwise the machine won’t operate properly.
So the first step, I have to be picky when choosing every single one of the elements and to be precise while processing them.
Then the second step when working on the arrangement I divide the track into phases and visualize a graph drawing of the track.
Generally I aim to catch the ear of the listener during the intro, create tension and release all the way till the end of the track so it doesn’t become boring at any point, the second drop is always the strongest part of track that hits hard, every build up and break down play important roles introducing the next part.
When working on the low-end, I have to make sure that kick and bass have to become one element, the drums elements have to be coherent. Melodies, chords and arps have to be harmonic.
I trust that the melodies and the bass line are the two main elements that can make any track stand out. So I have to pay attention to details from choosing the patterns, composing the melodies and designing the sounds.
But playing a set is totally a different story. When buying tracks to add to my library I always choose the tracks that I feel, that touch my feelings. Then when preparing for any set I consider some points such as the venue, the nature of the crowd, how long the set is, etc… Then I divide my set into four phases opening, uplifting, the peak and then closing. I try to arrange the tracks in order according to the baselines and the keys.
After all of that it works in 60% of the cases the other 40% you end up improvising on the spot. So it’s really important for DJs to know their music by heart.
What inspires you most in your musical journey?
Wow, that’s a strong question. So let et me divide my answer into two parts.
First part, the musical journey and the decision to be in the music industry. The short answer is “ I love music”.
But I gotta say that it wasn’t an easy decision after all for someone who spent so many years to get a postgraduate business degree and it was a bit late, it’s like you are in the middle of two opposite directions, but at the end you gotta make what is close to your heart. I made a mistake not proceeding with my piano lessons when I was a kid, but I was just 8 years old and didn’t really realise how deep inside he loves music.The true inspiration is seeing how the music inspires people and helps to cheer them up and release all their negativities, music changes people's lives, it gives hope to those who have almost lost it. I had to choose it over any other option.
Second part, the inspiration to start a new project.
I literally can get inspiration out of anything around me, from a track I liked, from a random sound that I heard, from a situation that has happened or an experience that I have been through, from a destination I have travelled to, from a person that I have met, literally anything.
I am a very moody person and that controls over 50% of my decisions including the music I make and play.
Music is the only language that people of different languages can speak. Music unites us, spreads love and brings peace to the world.
How do you see the future of the sector for both Dubai itself and the Middle East region in a broader sense? What would you like to say about the region’s potential?
Look at what is going on after COVID everywhere in the region here. A lot of examples and let me talk about the ones I took part in or at least witnessed. I will start with Egypt. Look at the north coast of Egypt. How is it booming, El Gouna as well. Even Cercle had recorded two sets already and confirmed the third to be in February 2023, then moving to Qatar you have Hide, Black Orchid and B 018. In Beirut, there are a lot of clubs there. Plus all the major events in the region like Uberhaus, plus VLS, By Ganz. These are only examples and there are many more. Saudia Arabia is on fire with all the festivals and the season, we need a whole separate interview just to talk about the progress happening there, look at MDL Beast for example, it is now one of the strongest event organising companies in the world.
As for Dubai, it is one of the top 5 safest cities in the world with a lot of points of interest that will be supportive to push the scene forward. About the scene itself we have some leading clubs and festivals; we have Soho with two major rooms Playroom and Code bringing the biggest names of the scene, B 018 as well, you’ve got Ibiza Global Radio too; they do have their festival not only the radio station.
Dubai can literally be the number one destination to rave, not only Dubai, but the Middle East and North Africa region has every single chance to reach that point to compete with Europe and the US & Canada scenes and to be the number 1 region for all the ravers from all over the world as you have all the tools and you have whatever it takes. You have the talents, the clubs, the equipment, the organization.
But I have a vision hope that all those in-charge of the scene like club owners, music managers, organizers and promoters, it is totally fine and normal to bring international artists every now and then as they sell, at the end it is business of course but please pay attention to the real talented artists in the region and support them, those who can be the next generation of international artists that you can later be proud of and send them all over the world and because of them you can bring all the ravers from all over the world to the region here and push our scene forward.
Do you incorporate traditional elements of Middle Eastern music into your own productions and your sets?
Hahahahaaa. It’s like you are reading my mind. I normally don’t do that but in October I started a project which is a remix for an Egyptian song which I consider as disco house and I am remixing it to be a deep \ melodic house with some Middle Eastern oriental flavour.
Then accordingly, I will see if I will be doing more or I will just focus on what I normally do.
As far as we see, Chahen has been a close friend in your studio in your recent productions. You have collaborated with each other on four different tracks so far. How important do you think it is for producers to work together on specific projects and how does collaboration help to push the boundaries and innovate in your artistry?
Chahen is a very talented producer. He isn’t only a very good friend, he is a journey partner. We firstly met through a common friend who introduced us to each other. That was the take off point for great things that happened afterwards, either producing tracks together or playing B2B.
Collaborating with other artists is very important and incredibly beneficial for both sides of the collaboration, you will be sharing ideas, tapping different skills, learning new techniques. It increases productivity and helps to expand the network and fanbase.
Collaborations have produced some of the best and most innovative music in history. It’s an essential skill to develop. And in the digital era, collaborating with other creatives is even more accessible. Numerous collaboration services, social media, file sharing, and other resources make it easy to collaborate online or at long distances. It’s encouraged to connect with others and develop a collaborative partnership to advance your music and career.
Can we have some details about your forthcoming projects?
As of now I am on break since the beginning of November as I really needed one, I needed some time for myself, my family and my business.
But to give you an idea, I have a lot of unfinished projects over the years that I don’t feel really inspired to finish at the moment, I started three projects already in October. One of them is the remix I told you about earlier and the other two are melodic techno tracks and so far these are the closest to be finished and released. Soon I will be starting one or more projects with Chahen.
That’s what is planned so far.
You have recorded an exclusive set for our readers. How would you describe your Influx mix?
I really love that set. I played some different flavors of melodic techno, really moving tracks with some driving baselines, sweet sounding melodies and great vocals.
I don’t wanna talk much about it, it’s the time to listen.
At the end, I wanna say that this interview is an amazing finale of 2022. And I wanna say that you guys are doing a great job covering all the news and the events in the region of Middle East and North Africa, scouting and spotting all the talented artists, bringing them to light. Finally, a new year means new beginnings and new chances to create and share our passion with the world. I wish everybody a happy new year!