Photo by Zsuzsanna Ihar Dominka
Moktar, the innovative Melbourne-based producer, was once known as “Polygraphia”. Back then, in 2015, he was making music in line with sounds popularised by artists like Flume or Flight Facilities: Vocally driven, celestial and palatable tracks that were thoroughly Triple J-esque. Though they were clearly made by someone incredibly talented and savvy, the work created under the Polygraphia moniker had a clear ambition: create music that was radio-ready.
Six years later, the newly-named Moktar re-emerged into the Australian psyche. This time, his music was undeniably refreshing and differentiated to the club or radio hits of the era. When “Silk”, his first single, made its debut, it was forcibly pushed onto my palate by at least three or four people. “Have you heard of Moktar?” they’d say, “He’s so so good.”“This is what I’ve always wanted to do but I’d never had the guts to do it,” he said in an interview with the ABC in September of last year, “And it was such a different climate back then. I was young. I think people were more focused on how to get onto the radio instead of making music for themselves.” Instead, Moktar’s new music pursues club-oriented mixes exploring Arabic and Western influences – he, himself, is Egyptian-Australian. Sometimes, when you’re a diverse artist growing up in white-centric spaces, the need to conform to popularised taste is imminent. One thing I truly respect in Moktar’s work is his willingness to avoid this mentality entirely, and centre his rich cultural identity as the main life-force of his work. His inspiration for “Silk”, for example, had a lot to do with his struggle navigating racism in Australia.
In an interview in 2021, he chewed on the idea that he was once embarrassed by his background and made to believe that being Middle Eastern only came with negative connotations. But his work is now triumphant, and broadens the horizon of what Australian music should be. It’s subtle, it’s dark and it’s wholly unique.Already, Moktar has been added to some of Australia’s largest festival line-ups, including Splendour in the Grass and Strawberry Fields. He’s also a growing influence in the Naarm (Melbourne) and Eora (Sydney) club scenes, his name frolicking across the set lists of nights in both cities. It’s impressive for an artist that debuted only a year ago, but it’s a telling sign of what people are looking for in Australian music. Only up from here.Follow Julie Fenwick on Twitter and Instagram.Read more from VICE Australia.