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Meet SkyWalker, Palestine's First Female DJ

We talk to the 26-year-old electronicist about her work, the affect of the occupation on nightlife culture, and how she's challenging perceived gender roles daily.

If you walk into any bar in the West Bank city of Ramallah and mention Sama Abdulhadi, there's an immediate buzz. Abdulhadi, who goes by the moniker SkyWalker, is Palestine's first female DJ, and for the past decade she's been anything but shy when it comes to challenging patriarchy and traditional stereotypes in the dance community. The 26-year-old has helped create an underground techno movement in the Middle East and is keen to encourage other girls to take a step in the same direction. Born in Jordan and raised in Ramallah, Abdulhadi was unaware of house or techno until she took a trip to Beirut aged 18 where she caught pioneering Japanese house DJ and producer, Satoshi Tomiie. "Seeing him live was so unexpected—I just stood there in awe," she recalls. "At the time, I didn't even know what deep house or techno sounded like."

This chance encounter changed the course of her life. First she set off to Amman in Jordan where she studied music production. As luck would have it her lecturer was also a DJ, and regular at Montreal's Stereo nightclub. He soon became her mentor—not only were many of his classes steeped in electronic music (which he'd explain and dissect in detail), but he also taught her how to DJ. It was a particularly formative period for the nascent music maker. Following Jordan, she jetted off to Beirut to take a course on analogue synthesizers, before moving to London to do her BSc in audio engineering. It was here that she really started messing with music in earnest making her own samples and creating songs which eventually led to the release of her first two albums, Life's Pace under London label Itchycoo Records in September 2013, followed by the self-released Quantum Morphosis two years later. Each incorporated the raw sound of her influences Nicolas Jaar, Nicole Moudaber, and Dubfire to name a few.

Since then, Abdulhadi has been busy. Last year, one of her highlights included playing Paris' Palest'In and Out Festival, an event that paid homage to the Palestinian art scene, while this year she has a six-month residency in Cité Internationale des Arts in France and the release of an as yet untitled album to look forward to. (It's release has been somewhat delayed because she was recently robbed, and the losses included her laptop which contained said album.) Most recently Abdulhadi took part in a show at La Gaîté Lyrique alongside five other female Arab artists to celebrate the diversity of women in the electronic scene from her region.

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