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Student DJ: Gasser El Safty Vs Marwan Akl

Round three is on the way this Thursday, so we sit down with the budding competitors to get to know them a little better...

It’s round three and the competition is seriously heating up. This week guitarist-turned-DJ Gasser El Safty takes on veteran spinner Marwan Akl atop the Fairmont Nile City towers, as Aly Goede warms things up and none other than London lasses Eli & Fur headline another epic Thursday night. We get to know the finalists before they do battle…

Gasser El Safty:

An editor by profession and a musician since he was just a wee teenager, jamming with friends, 24-year old Gasser El Safty brings years of traditional musical experience and an ear for acoustic samples with him to the decks. His leap from live guitarist to spinning behind the decks was cemented at the Student DJ boot camp and he plans to use his Rock and Metal background to create unique sound.

Marwan Akl:

Having been DJing and producing for eight years now, 22-year old Marwan Akl is a veritable surgeon of spinning and is a certified audio engineer. An electronic musician through and through, the young pro has also worked in professional studio, recording and mastering anything from Rock to Blues and expects his experience to give him an edge over the competition.  

Why do you want to be a DJ?

Gasser:  It’s an interesting skill set to have for me in addition to being a producer.

Marwan:  I always wanted to be a musician but I couldn’t play any instruments so my set was the first instrument I actually picked up!

What kind of music can we expect from you at the battle? What kind of vibe?

Gasser:  Probably the same stuff I usually play but just catering a little more to the crowd at Sky Pool. It’ll still be Tech House and Techno but a little more dance-y. I generally like groovy music in any style but it’ll leans more towards the darker stuff towards the end, just to give some contrast in the set.

Marwan: Tech House more energetic and loud, rather than chilled out. You can also expect some Acid sounds in the middle.  

How do you think your style differentiates from other DJs?

Gasser: Well, most of my influences aren’t even electronic so it gives me a different perspective. I grew up playing guitar in bands and listening to Pink Floyd, so my sets have a lot of acoustic instruments and sounds you wouldn’t otherwise hear in electronic music.

Marwan: I think everyone has a different ear and the way how they perceive music is different. I’m 100% electronic and I’ve been DJing and producing for eight years now, so I have the edge in that regard.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned at boot camp?

Gasser: Getting enough sleep! We weren’t getting enough sleep for the first two days and then came time for the assessment at the end everyone was freaking out and panicking. I just packed my shit and went back to bed, got a good seven hours of sleep and then the assessment was a lot better than I thought!

Marwan: Never be in a room with 20 DJs.  It was a lot of bass! That was the huge problem; you’d have headphones on but you can still hear music from the outside, it was really hard!

How does the partying culture influence your musical approach?

Gasser: If I didn’t participate in the partying culture I probably would’ve never gotten into electronic music to begin with. I played in bands, I played rock and metal music as I was growing up and it was only when I started going to these events and seeing DJs and how they interact with the crowd and how they can influence how the crowd dances or how they feel throughout the night… That’s what really got me into electronic music.

Marwan: When I’m mixing music I can imagine the crowd in front of me and imagine how would the people react to this type of music. It also influences my productions; I ask myself ‘Is this going to actually make the people relate to the same experience they always get when they’re clubbing?’ The culture all about love, peace and just having fun all the time. So I try an imagine that when I’m making music.

When you’re creating your sets, do you think about what the crowd wants to hear or do you play a sound that’s true to yourself?

Gasser: I think as a DJ, it’s like you’re nominated by the crowd. Essentially what you are is a person who has good taste in music. Everything that comes after that, technically in terms of your mixing and your skill, is something that you acquire along the way but essentially you just know how to pick good music. Where that comes from is probably also influenced by where you go to listen to music, so in the back of your mind you’re always thinking, this is going to sound great at this venue or that part. Or, for example, I think I’ve never heard anything like this before, maybe they won’t like it.

Marwan: It’s not what the crowd wants to hear, it’s more like, what I can choose from my music that would please the crowd? I would never, for example, place a track that I don’t like just to please the crowd – I think hard about finding things in my collection that is also relatable for the average partyer.  

What do you think about the DJs that are just crowd pleasers?

Gasser: I don’t know what satisfaction they get out of what they’re doing. To me, it’s completely unfulfilling to play something that I don’t like, I wouldn’t even know what to do! Like I would stand up there on stage and press some buttons?

Marwan: It kind of turns into a proper desk job. You’re there pressing buttons to please a crowd. There’s no fun in that.  

What’s the worst thing about your opponent?

Gasser: I think the worst thing about Marwan is the fact that I haven’t heard much of his music so I don’t really know what to expect!

Marwan: I get really scared when I see Gasser around his gadgets. I don’t know he just came up with a lot of stuff at the boot camp! He was holding a guitar and like a controller on the side and he’s standing on a table with 15 things in front of him and you’re like what the hell man!?

What’s your biggest pet peeve about the DJing scene?

Gasser:  When they’re all the same. Like the period when Deep House was really big it - drove me insane! If I’m out every weekend, it’s the same songs on repeat, the set doesn’t progress from Deep House to anything and it’s the same 20 or 30 songs being played everywhere.

Marwan: I agree with Gasser; when something becomes a trend and then you go everywhere and you hear it. These days it’s Nu Disco and G-House.

When you go out can you have fun or do you always end up analysing the music and the DJ’s skills?

Gasser: I don’t think I can switch it off. I’ve been a musician since I was 14. I analyse every single sound that I hear, not just music. It’s just that matter of letting go.

Marwan: It becomes a habit, you can’t really stop it like he said. Once you know what’s going on then you can’t really stop your ears from judging everything that you listen to. But I still try to forget about it sometimes and have some fun.

DJing: a science or an art?

Gasser: You can say a lot of things are science when it comes to music; instead of referencing a note, you can reference it by its frequency, for instance. It’s interesting to get into the science of it but essentially, in your mind when you’re creating, it doesn’t feel like its science. it feels like you’re being inspired to do something and I don’t think you can explain inspiration in scientific terms.

Marwan: It’s a different kind of art. There are people who are artists and they produce the music but DJs are still artists because they take the music and blend it in a sort of way that no one else can do it. For example, even if Gasser and I could create completely different sets, even if you gave us the exact same tracks. That’s the art in it.

Time for word association! Turntable…

Gasser: Fun.

Marwan: Scratch.

Vinyl…

Gasser: Vintage.

Marwan: Scratch. 

Scratch…

Marwan: Crossfader!

Dance floor…

Gasser: Euphoria.

Lemonade…

Gasser: Heartburn!

Come on Marwan, join in…

Marwan: I’m really slow…

Catch Marwan Akl and Gasser El Safty in action on Thursday 20th Novembe at Fairmont Nile City's Sky Pool starting from 10pm.


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