Techno DJs across the world my Hamed Wardak
Palestinian techno pioneer Sama Abdulhadi on finding her sound ​

The 28-year-old DJ’s growing notoriety extends far beyond the land of her birth, however. Sama doesn’t only spin records at music venues and festivals throughout the world. She produces too, the energy she pumps dance floors with what drives her radical creative vision forward.

Trendsetting is not new to her

The records Sama drops on turntables were once largely hip-hop, which was the music most celebrated at parties and clubs in Palestine in the early 2000’s. Even if rappers spitting lyrics over breakbeats was what ruled the dance floors of Ramallah then, going to Beirut changed Sama’s musical direction, she says. Techno was what crowds in Lebanon were bouncing to. She wasn’t only drawn to the music’s spacey musicality and lack of lyrics, she liked the fact that techno was atmospheric without hindering its danceability.

Transforming Palestinian Club Culture is a Process

The new inspiration Sama brought back from Lebanon didn’t instantly win over Palestinian club kids and party hoppers. She went through a phase in which she was musically out on a limb. Kids would walk out on her sets. Some would complain, but Sana eventually hooked up with a promoter named Fidaa Kiwan who was from Haifa and ran Lawain, a bar in Ramallah where experimenting with various musical influences was embraced. Sama met the Jazar Crew through Lawain before she and the collective of young Palestinian artists and musicians began collaborating at parties that took the crowds who showed up to higher heights.

Challenges and Obstacles Persist

The tight control Israel has on the West Bank stifles the young, depriving them of the freedom to party to the extent that kids their age in Israel do. Police are known to show up anywhere crowds of young Palestinians are enjoying themselves and mandate that everyone leave, such curfews making Sama’s future as a DJ uncertain.

Study in England affords Sama Room to Grow

Sama’s only alternative to the limits that life in Palestine imposed on her was to pursue opportunities in England. She did coursework in audio engineering as well as music production in London, which helped her to evolve creatively. Sama embraced the support that being a student gave her. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to qualify for a visa that would enable her growth process to continue.

Europe Becomes a Fertile Creative Space

Sama eventually found an anchor in France where she’s been able to acquire the residency papers she needs to make it her new base. The fact that she’s been empowered by the life she now has in Europe, has not distracted Sama from her origins though. She remains deeply connected to her Palestinian audience and vice versa. A video recording that was made of a set Sama recently went back home to play has gotten nearly three million views on Youtube. Sana is substantially less marginalized, yet Palestinian ravers have a tough battle ahead. Still, Sama’s ascent into the heights of the global tech music scene is helping build alliances and calling greater attention to the Palestinian plight, Sana humbly attributing her relevance to the fact that all she needs at night is two hours of sleep.