A regular DJ on the Dubai club scene, 30-year-old American/Lebanese DJ MaDJam – an abbreviation of real name Ahmad Ajam – is gearing up for a career-defining set supporting house king David Guetta in Abu Dhabi this weekend. We found out more about the Peppermint resident.
His role model is British DJ legend Carl Cox. ‘I’ve been DJing for 20 years, but never really had a role model until I toured the Middle East with Carl Cox in 2006. He’s always positive and very down to earth considering how long he’s been in the business. Most other big-name DJs have big egos that make people hate them, but no one knows how to make people smile more than Carl. And as a DJ, he’s the man. He adapts his sets depending on where he’s playing. A long night at a warehouse could be dark and aggressive, then when he’s on a beach he plays happy funky tunes.’
He’s been DJing exactly 20 years. ‘I was born in California to Lebanese parents and moved to Beirut after the civil war ended. I started DJing when I was 10 at my sister’s birthday party, then played just about every school and house party back then. That continued to evolve to beach clubs and weddings – I did my first club night when I was 13. They had to sneak me in from the kitchen; it was funny to see my parents’ mates dancing to whatever I played. I started doing radio in 2000 with Mix FM Lebanon and 12 years on it’s still my home-base. I lived in Dubai for a few years back in 2004, until the office jobs and music kept clashing. I realised it wasn’t worth spending five days in an office when what I really loved was entertaining people.’
He once got mistaken for a spy (or journalist). ‘I was interrogated for two hours at Bahrain airport last year about why I was entering the country on a Thursday night and leaving 17 hours later. They spotted a microphone, recorders, hard drives and SD cards in my possession and were worried I was a journalist. It got so bad I thought they were going to stop me entering, even though I’ve been there about 20 times. Only when I admitted that the purpose of my trip was to DJ at a club did they smile, giggle and set me free.’
He’s scared of small children. ‘My greatest fear is being seated next to a crying baby on a flight. At the check-in desk I always try to ensure there are none around me – if you’re deprived of sleep, having partied the night before, the worst thing that could happen is to have one of those screeching high-pitched babies crying in your ear for hours. Buzz kill!’
Even he has bad nights behind the decks. ‘I try not to remember the bad nights, but at one gig I was playing to a bunch of old couples that were intoxicated and behaving like teenagers at a prom. I didn’t even bother watching the crowd that night. It would’ve been more exciting playing at a strip club.’
He claims to listen to 200 new tracks a day, but hates Arabic music. ‘I love all kind of music, anything that’s not country or Arabic. Nothing beats listening to music that tickles the ears and chills the soul. There’s always the right time for the right track, depending on the mood, atmosphere, company, time of day, weather… it’s the soundtrack to our life, as Dick Clark said, so make it the best compilation ever!’
He’s a fan of Dubai’s alternative nightlife scene. ‘Clubs such as Republique do an awesome job of playing alternative, ’80s, hip-hop and even house classics all in one night. Not many other places do that. Then you have the quasi-underground dubstep or psy-trance scene that throw a gig once a month at strange locations. There’s something for everyone in Dubai.’
MadJam supports David Guetta at Yas Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on Friday March 2. Dhs195. www.thinkflash.ae.