“There is no better judge than the crowd”
Having made a name for herself in London’s music scene, DJ i-Candi is now playing the decks in Kuwait. But what’s it like being a female DJ in the Middle East and what’s the secret to working the crowd?
Please introduce yourself to our readers. Who is DJ?
Hi, my name is DJ iCandi. I am a DJ from the UK who has lived in Kuwait for 6 years.
Tell us about your education:
I studied sound engineering in London before I became a professional DJ and found that it was hugely helpful dealing with different types of sound equipment in different settings. Since the 1990s there have been many technological advances in the equipment used. As a club DJ you show up to a nightclub and use the equipment they have at the venue, so having the know-how to be versatile was definitely valuable.
Any childhood memories you live by:
As a child I was actually quite shy and awkward. I wouldn’t say that there is a particular memory that I live by, but I did find that when I started playing professionally in London I gained a confidence that had been lacking throughout my younger years. I would say that memories of being young and unsure help me embrace the present and have the confidence to express who I really am now.
When, where and how did it all start for you in terms of Deejaying and music?
I come from a musical family and was always surrounded with instruments and different styles of music growing up. I used to play the violin and piano so could read music and had an understanding of the structure of music, which was really helpful when I learned to mix. I started playing the decks when I was 15 years old. I had some friends that played and I remember watching them and wondering what was actually going on when the record was put on the deck. Yes it was many years ago, in the days of vinyl! Once I learned I caught the bug and when my mum saw that I was serious about wanting to learn, she bought me a set of Technics 1210 turntables. After that every spare penny I had went into my vinyl collection. In the following years I played at house parties and a few times publicly, but it wasn’t until I had finished my studies in London that I was offered a residency at a night club in Chelsea. I was out with a friend and there was a DJ playing who was not doing the best job. As someone who could mix, I couldn’t help but notice and mentioned this to a person we were with. That person turned out to be the one who booked the DJ! He gave me the opportunity to play a set and after that they offered me a weekly spot.
Was there anyone who really helped you on your way?
My mum was my main support and she helped me on my way initially by buying my decks which really kicked the whole thing off. In the years after that we would talk a lot about my image and being creative and having fun with my style. She was very happy to see my progression as I began playing in more and more clubs around London and would listen to my mixtapes, no matter what style of music I was mixing!
Can you remember some of your first DJ gigs – how did it feel when you first got on the decks and played to a crowd?
I remember some of the first times I played in public. It was very nerve racking! I used to get the shakes and I always hoped no-one would see the needle shaking as I put it onto the record. Back then there were hardly any female DJs so it really did feel like all eyes were on me, because of the novelty. But there was also a feeling of people not really believing I would play as well as a man and that they were waiting for me to make a mistake. There really is nothing like playing to a crowd though, having them join you on a musical journey for a few hours and seeing their response. Music appeals to our emotions and memories and providing a backdrop for times when friends get excited on hearing their favourite track or discover a new song that they can’t get enough of is so much fun.
What’s it like being a female DJ in Kuwait?
Being a female DJ in Kuwait is great. In a sense it reminds me of my earlier years as a DJ as there are people who are sometimes surprised when they see a woman on the decks. I really enjoy bringing the music I love to new crowds.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I take inspiration from the people who hear me play. I note their reactions to songs and styles of music because a huge part of being a DJ is providing the right vibe to the right crowd. There could be a tune that I love which doesn’t translate so well on the dance floor and equally tunes that are undeniably amazing for crowds, but that I wouldn’t put on my ‘most played’ playlist.
What style of music you are playing?
I play dance music, particularly house. I love big basslines and you will always hear British influences throughout my sets. I have been known to play different genres though, so you never know what you may get depending on the event.
If you could be eternally stuck in one year’s music scene, which year would it be?
Oh wow! I think to be stuck in one year’s music scene for eternity would be like torture. No matter how much you liked the songs of that year, they would become annoying hearing them over and over again!
Why did you choose the name ‘i-candi’?
I chose the name iCandi as it’s a fun play on words and it contains 5 letters of my first name.
What is one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you hear it?
Dear David – I’ve Been Waiting. This has been on my playlist at home for the last few years and there is something about it that gets me every time. I haven’t become bored of it yet. It is my longest running favourite tune (I still wouldn’t choose to play it for eternity and ruin it though!).
What is one mistake you see a lot of up-and-coming DJs making?
One mistake I see quite often is DJs playing only for themselves and not working the crowd. It is easy for anyone to play a list of their favourite songs, however the art of DJ’ing is in creating a vibe that appeals to the audience and draws them in to taking the journey with you.
The coolest place you have worked?
One of the coolest places I have played was alongside DJ Whoo Kid (G Unit) at a private event where 50 Cent launched his sneakers. It was an amazing party where 50 Cent got on the mic to one of the tracks for an impromptu performance on the dance floor. Everyone went absolutely crazy!
What achievements are you most proud of?
I am very proud that my music has enabled me to travel to countries I had never visited before. I think that travel is a great opportunity to grow and develop.
What are some of your other hobbies?
I love spending time with my family first and foremost. In the last few years I have taken up snowboarding which is so much fun. In my head I’m a pro but in reality I still have a way to go! I am also a bit of a bookworm.
What are some of your future plans?
I will be joining my partner in crime DJ Maha on the Driveback (1-3pm) 99.7 RKFM for Dance Week on the 16-20th April. I love to go and join her for some fun on the air waves whenever I get the chance. Future plans are to keep enjoying playing music to the people of Kuwait and beyond and living life to the fullest.
What advice would you give to aspiring DJs?
I would encourage them to get as much experience as possible playing in front of people. There is no better judge than the crowd.
If you were showing someone around who’d never been to Kuwait, where would you take them?
I would take them to the desert, which is what I did with my brother and sister-in-law when they came and they had a brilliant time. There is something to be said for the profound silence of the desert which you seldom experience anywhere else in the world. I also like to take people to Souk Al-Mubarakiya and the shooting ranges.
Your message for us at CP magazine:
I would like to thank everyone at CP magazine for providing a lifestyle magazine that covers the best of entertainment, fashion and leisure in Kuwait. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this issue, thank you!