Leila Sohrab, also well known as DJ Leil, started her Disk Jockey career in 1998. She is specialized in private parties of all types and has performed in Bahrain, UAE, KSA, Qatar and Oman and France. DJ Leil has played alongside the best bands and singers in the Arabian Gulf and is also a self learnt Sound engineer for events, theater plays, bands, conferences, fashion shows and weddings. She has performed in over 3000 events and has been nominated as the number one DJ in Bahrain’s biggest parks. DJ Leil was selected to be the warm up DJ for various concerts and events for Arabian singers like Najwa Karam, Tamer Husni, Hala Turk, Salah Zadjali, Shireen, Balqees, Abdulmajid Abdulla, Mona Amarsha, Khalid Fouad and many others. DJ Leil was the first female DJ in the Gulf to organize the most successful ladies night events that took place in Bahrain.
She never specialized in a certain type of music, rather played all types of different languages at all sorts of different events. She also composed various electronic style remixes and tracks among which stands out:
- Real and will stand up ft. Amy Winehouse voice extracted from one of her interviews
- Culture Jail
- Budaia Rush
Bahrain This Week caught up with Dj Leil and we bring to you an exclusive interview with the star of the night life telling us about all her experiences as a female DJ in the Arab world:
What drove you to become a DJ?
My great passion for music basically drove me to get into Dj-ing. Music touches my soul and it takes me to a different state of mind. Being a Dj is a great feeling, you get a sense of control over people’s emotions in events you can control their feelings through music. I LOVE watching people getting happy and joyful. A good Dj makes good memories in special events for people and I love being a part of people’s happiness.
Do you think that the “DJ world” is a men’s world? In your opinion is it harder for females to become DJs?
Music is for all human beings, regardless of their race, age or gender. However, I have to say that it is so much harder for women to practice this career in the Middle East, based on cultural and social orientations. Even network wise, and due to the scarcity of women in this field, we need to pay extra effort in order get trust-worthy “male friends” and get guided on the right path. It’s also harder for a female to become a DJ because you put your reputation on stake; either for staying out late or playing music at various types of parties. So you have to be strong enough to cope with people’s views.
Can you tell our readers what type of music do you love playing?
I love all types of music and never restrict to a certain type. To me, the bass, beats and rhythms are an international language that captures every individual, with regardless of age, race, gender, culture etc.
Being the first female to ever enter this field, in the GCC world, did you face any difficulties?
I started in 1998, back then the CD player was an invention that had just been introduced. I used to play in parties with cassette player. I wasn’t well-off at all and I had no one to help me and plus there were no female Djs in this business yet. I started playing for friends and family for minimal or no fees and then I stood on my feet in 2001 to buy my first dj system after saving enough money for it. The equipment was so heavy to carry and people never paid much. I remember having to carry the 25 kilo speakers and the 15 kilo amps up stairs at some events and install the entire Dj system myself. I faced all sorts of technical issues and all sorts of client interaction issues some people would not even pay on time and some would pay less than agreed. Some were so rude and mean and some were just so demanding. I took all with a smile and I kept moving and getting more known. Sometimes when I remember all the things I went through, I feel so proud that I could handle all that because in addition to being a Dj, I had a day job too and I kept doing both for the past 16 years.
What are your future plans?
To have my own business in the same field, aid the young woman to stand up on their feet and motivate them to make it happen, on their own. “Woman empowerment and self-dependency” participations is basically what I want to achieve!
We know how much you have to travel in this business; where have you performed, internationally?
Yes, I travel almost every week and I have done many parties in the gulf (UAE, Saudi, Qatar, and Oman) and in Paris
The best place/gig you have worked in?
I would say Formula one, my 6 ladies nights, water parks in Bahrain, Najwa Karam concert warm up and private events with different top Arab star singers. Once I performed at a party where the famous Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan was the host!
Describe your feelings when you play your music?
It’s a sublime state of excitement and happiness. It takes control of the situations and the ability to make people groove and make them happy. It’s an addiction to present/perform music in the best way. I measure my success by having people dance as crazy as they ever did (that’s when I know I did a good job!)
How different is it to DJ in weddings than in parties? Also, what do you think is more popular in Bahrain?
Weddings are more popular, and the difference between regular parties and weddings is that regular parties could be more casual and free style while in weddings it is more formal and schedule strict. But in both, the music choice varies in accordance to the crowds age, gender, background, nationality, number; I have to keep all these factors in mind and in addition to that calculate the timings precisely. It’s all built in me through experience by now.
We have a quote from you “People in Bahrain must really consider keeping a good space for Djs and stop squeezing us in the worst and limited spaces”. Can you express your feelings regarding that?
Well, a dj is the soul of the party, Djs can either take your party up or down so considering a good space/ location for a Dj is very advisable. In the western countries and in the UAE, they provide a stage to the Dj or they locate them in an area facing the dance floor. But in the case of Bahrain it is very different (especially when I talk about low paid private party Djs), a lot of Djs are kept in closed rooms or under the stairs or next to the doors or washrooms or even in a very narrow space which is so degrading. Remember, if you keep your Dj happy, they will do their best to give it back.
When was your first major gig as a Dj, in front of a large crowd and did you feel confident about your Djing skills and selections at that event?
It was in 2008. In one of Bahrain’s water parks. I had around 5000 people to perform in front of. I left a huge impact at those events that pushed me up in a way that none of the years 1998-2007 did. It was time to show people what I was capable of and I did a great job. I also knew I impacted positively on the event by attracting people back, due to my good performance.
After you started Djing and succeeded, it opened doors for female Djs to enter the market which became a trend! What are your comments on that?
I actually contributed in encouraging and giving the initial training to over 7 girls in this field. It is true that each one has a different style in Dj-ing; some still lack the professional skills to mix songs, but I am so glad and happy to find that other female colleagues are also working in this “man dominated” field. This market is in need for more women, as “based on our culture” many weddings, in specific, are restricted to women only and that’s where the need for more good female Djs rise. I shall open my doors to guide and direct any new female Djs who wishes to enter this field.
What are your goals?
Well, my Dj business has enabled me to fulfill most of my goals. Yet, in the long run, I still strive to secure my future and plan for a future business in the same field though my current goal is to sustain my good reputation, keep up to my clients expectations and remain as the top female Dj in the region, in terms of Dj skills and performance quality.
What quote to you live by?
“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself”. – D. H. Lawrence
As a strong lady, what message would you like to give to all the ladies out there?
I respect all the Arab women who managed to rise and make it in the midst of all the suppressing cultural, social obstacles and barriers. For being able to succeed, it requires a great deal of courage and ambition. I would like to encourage all women to stand up, keep their heads high, have faith in their abilities and believe that they can succeed and accomplish all their dreams by hard work and commitment. I believe that if you have a dream and if you want to make it happen, then you will and you can surely find a way.