ZOHRA SAMIA KHAN ON HER DJING JOURNEY AND MEMORABLE GIGS
by ASJAD NAZIR
Men have dominated DJing for decades, but now more females than ever are adding something new to the mix.
Rapidly-rising star Zohra Samia Khan is unique in that she balances a career as a paediatric medical assistant with DJing.
Although massively in-demand as a DJ around Europe, giving up her day job is not an option for Germany-based Zohra, who is showing that anything is possible with hard work.
Eastern Eye caught up with Zohra to talk about her unique career path, DJing and making it in a male-dominated field.
Were you confident growing up? Confidence hit me after puberty. It changed a shy and introverted girl into a crazy, open-minded and focused lady. Today, I can proudly say I am who I want to be, but one should never forget that before you can spread love, you need to love yourself first.
Along with working in the medical profession, you also worked as a model, but what made you take the leap to DJing? DJing and modelling were a part of my life since I was 13 years old. My first boyfriend was a DJ and that’s how I came to love it. The decisive step to become a professional DJ was possible because of my life partner and the best Bollywood DJ in Germany, DJ G-One. He gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my talent on the decks at some of the most popular clubs in Europe. We rock the crowd as a duo now, for almost 13 years.
What was the biggest challenge of breaking into the male-dominated DJing domain? I have been lucky to get unconditional love and respect as a DJ from my colleagues. It’s been more like a mutual admiration than competition on the decks. And what helped me make my performance different from others was that I started my gigs by wearing desi clothes, while playing my set. So I was playing my DJ set in clubs in a sari. That was special and people just loved it.
What has been your most memorable set so far? It would be my latest performance at an Holi Festival in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The crowd (about 6,000 people) went absolutely crazy. I still get goose-bumps thinking about the amazing atmosphere and spirit. The crowd was a mix of different cultures. I’m sure that together we had the party of our life.
What kind of music do you play and how much of it is planned beforehand? My set is a mix of Bollywood, UK bhangra and EDM. It generally depends on which event you are going to play, but the top goal should be to become one with the crowd you’re playing for. So I try to check what kind of music is expected from me before the gig. But, mostly, my intuition and feelings of the moment decide what the set will look like in the end and thus influence my performance.
Do you have go-to songs that never fail? Daler Mehndi helps me out of any situation on all occasions. When Dalerji’s songs are played, you only see and hear happy people.
What, according to you, is the secret of a great DJ set? Never follow the plan. Follow the crowd. Follow the moment.
Can you share with us any stories from your DJ adventures? I have so many great memories. Most just made me love DJing more and more. Once during a gig in Frankfurt the music went off because of technical issues. But the crowd was so hyped up that they just started to sing and continued dancing. It made me realise that even if everything else goes wrong, the right people manage to find and make something beautiful out of it.
Tell us about the time you and your husband were booked for the official Gully Boy aftershow party in Berlin? I remember, we suddenly got to meet Ram-Bajirao-Allaudin himself! And, of course, our Bollywood king Ranveer Singh. And all the great things you hear about him are true. He’s humble, fun and it was an absolute honour to be able to talk to him. I’ll never forget that DJing made this possible. I’ll cherish all the chances and opportunities I had, and hopefully will still have.
What music do you like listening to? If you see my playlist on Spotify, you would see the variety it has to offer. But my favourite songs are from the good old 1990s.
What is the master plan going forward? Growth comes with motivation, hard work and passion. I keep myself curious and open to new people and new projects, like this interview. This is another important step for me towards growth.
You are multi-talented, but will you venture into other areas? I wish I could sing. Even comparing me to a bathroom singer would be an insult. But I would love to try it out one day. If I can find a deaf vocal coach, maybe next year you can dance to my own song.
Tell us, what is the best advice you ever got? ‘Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground!’ Google gave me this advice and I love it. Dream big, but never forget where you come from.
What inspires you? People. Loyal, honest, hardworking and kind people, who treat each and everyone with respect. I try to walk through this world with open eyes and an open mind. Everyone who gives you a smile with or without a reason is not only an inspiration, but also a personal enrichment for my life.
Why do you love DJing? It makes people forget their stress and sorrows while dancing to your tune. You travel worlwide and meet amazing new people, and your life becomes so much more exciting (after 1 am). But, honestly, you give those people music and in exchange, they give you love and respect, which is one of the best feelings in the world. Also, as a DJ, you have a massive influence on whether a song becomes a dance hit or not. (Laughs) This is a kind of secret super power.