DJ Disasters: Yousef

When it all goes wrong...
Yousef

Every DJ has one.

A night when everything that can possibly go wrong does - and it does so in spectacular fashion. ClashMusic brings you DJ Disasters, featuring some of the most respected figures in the dance world reminiscing about those moments when it all went badly wrong.

Next up: Yousef. Blasting into popular consciousness as a teenage, Yousef has been one of the true house stalwarts for more than a decade. Running his own nights, chairing the always essential Circus label and crafting his own productions Yousef has pushed back the boundaries all in the name of a decent night out.

However it doesn't always go according to plan. In this instalment of DJ Disasters, the house icon recalls his fateful first trip down the Road to Damascus - booked to play in Syria, Yousef has a once in a lifetime experience.

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“I'm the what...?” I say loudly, to the local promoter I've just met at the airport. I’ve just been swept quickly through customs in VIP style, and now the sentiment settles in; Yousef will be Syria’s first international DJ.

It’s quite a shock (almost to the point where I could justify referring to myself in the third person) and although I was aware of the political situation here, and Syria's traditions, I didn’t comprehend its distinct lack of international talent gracing the land. I’m surprised somewhere still exists untouched by the all enveloping reach of rave.

The news also fills me with a feeling poised midway between exhilaration and stress. Stereotypical images of a politically torn country ravaging any hopes of a rave flood my mind, whilst I ponder an image of a club based on an amalgamation of “that scene in blade” and “5am at a mosque”. Marco V's recent cancellation – with the same promoter, according to 365 magazine – was due to the death threats he received on his own message board. But there’s not enough time to check every facet of the information super highway, who knows how high the bounty maybe on my head?!?

Later I’m picked up by Muhammad for a bite to eat. En route the drivers all drive like their wives are about to give birth on the back seat and they’ve downed a bottle of Don in pre celebration. With tightly gripped hope I hold on to my seat and clutch my seat belt. We dodge though the insane traffic at speed, yet even at this pace I find it easy to spot the countless machine gun wielding military police of every street corner. Next is the sound check, and despite a decade of working in the business there’s no monitor in the booth, and although quickly remedied I’m fearing for the worst. Considering the small size of the club and the fact that I’m in a dingy drinking hole in Damascus the sound is great.

My pick up time of 12.30 comes, and goes...I'm told that I need to wait for more people to arrive – as “the locals don't think I'm coming”. Eventually at 1am I'm I go downstairs to the lobby eager to keep my low profile, where I’m met by local TV, radio and press and I’m followed (in a reality TV show style) to the club.

In the club, the music is loud and the room is half full. I keep the music up beat and energetic, slipping between the new Prins Thomas remix of Luke Soloman to my own techno fuelled 'Letter To No One', and judging by the whoops, claps and cheers it seems to be going well. 90 minutes passes by and the crowd seem a little less receptive to electronic music, I’ve had a few local girls asking me for ‘songs’, and the response to Paul Woolford’s glorious remake of 'The Sun Is In My Eyes' is lukewarm. The same girl returns to explain she meant Arabic vocals and Arabic music. Ahh...

After two hours it becomes clear that ‘Jet Set’ in the heart of new Damascus is not exactly ready for my sound, or it would seem, the sound of electronic music at all. At this stage the proceeding DJ arrives and drops in the hardest, most aggressive trance cut known to man. The remaining crowd parts like the red sea. I smile and split direct to my bed, my immersion in the Syrian scene is over for tonight.

It’s at this point that I ponder on the experience I’ve just had. I’m certainly glad to be part of history, to find a corner of the earth still unexposed completely to the nuances of modern dance music and play my role in bringing it somewhere yet to experience it properly. Even the near deaths (ahem...) , musical mishaps and the feeling of not really being ‘got’ can’t dull the moment. Whilst I’d be lying if I said the gig was enjoyable, the whole trip was certainly an experience. And that surely is what DJing, and for that matter life full stop, is all about.

Hats off to Muhammed.

Yousef's 'A Product Of Your Environment' is out now.

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