Women and non-binary DJs in Cairo and the diaspora are reshaping the electronic music scene. Above all, they are building communities for mutual support, creating safer spaces in Cairo’s nightlife, breaking glass ceilings and even changing mentalities.
In a darkened restaurant turned dance hall in Cairo, partygoers move to booming beats played by female DJs.
This generation of women are reinventing Egypt’s underground electronic music scene by stepping into the mix of the male dominated industry.
Even though the patriarchal conservative country is cultural establishment marginalizes and even bans electronic music artists.
"The biggest challenge is in finding venues. We need places to play our music. Unfortunately, since there are not venues, we're not able to play our music," deplores Yaas Meen Selectra, a notorious DJ in the underground electronic music business.
Female partygoers for years have complained about harassment in the capital’s nightclubs, while many revelers find mainstream venues too pricey.
This generation of emerging young women DJs are forging a path to create more inclusive spaces for performers and partygoers alike.
As explained promptly by Dalia Hassan, Egyptian DJ: "We play at female-only parties, such as bachelorette parties or gender-segregated weddings. Some Arabs from the Gulf region prefer to hold female-only weddings. In a female-only party, where the DJ is a woman, the ladies feel more comfortable, they feel free to let loose, to get dressed up and dance as they please, especially that there are many veiled women in Egypt."
These women Djs have many fans, and not all of them are women. Some men support the evolving customs and rejoice at the fact that more women are taking on traditionally masculine positions.
According to AFP, Less than 20% of women are officially employed in the country of 104 million inhabitants.
"I specifically came for Yas Meen. I don’t see that there is a difference between men and women in this regard. I think it is no longer an issue nowadays. In the past, there was criticism, especially at the working-class level, of women who sing; who work as drivers, but it's no longer the case," defends Omar Sherif, young reveler, fan of electronic music.
Despite rising numbers of female DJs, the scene remains dominated by men especially in production and management.