Arab American Di Refugee: Music is open to all [Arab American News, The]
(Arab American News, The Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) DEARBORN - To local Arab American DJ Ali Saad, music is not just a source of living; it is a medium of expression that creates a bond between people from different cultures and backgrounds.
"Music has no color," says Saad, whose stage name is DJ Refugee.
Saad was recently announced as a guest DJ, on holiday weekends, for WJLB FM radio.
DJ Refugee has been in the music industry for more than a decade. During his career, he has worked with highly acclaimed artists, including 50 Cent.
He says he started working with music when he was 15.
"When I was in middle school, my brother bought turntables. I started playing with them as a hobby," says the DJ. "He taught me a little bit, but 1 loved being a DJ."
Saad adds that it was hard to break into the music industry in Detroit, but the community was supportive of him.
"It is hard to go anywhere without the support of the people around you," he says. "There is no stigma about being a DJ in the Arab community. It is 2013."
Besides being a DJ, Saad is a music producer and promoter. Last year, he started his own record label "Shut It Down Records," with his music partner Showtime.
He says that he is searching for local talent to sign to the record label.
Saad has produced four mix tapes of Arabic music with western beats, and vice versa.
"When I made the first "Arabica" CD, I was just fooling around, but people would listen to it in my car and ask for a copy," he says. "I thought maybe I'm on to something. The records turned out to be a success."
According to Saad, the music industry nowadays is open equally to artists from all backgrounds.
"If you have talent and you promote yourself the right way, you're going to make it, regardless of who you are and where you come from," he says.
Saad uses the example of DJ Khalid, a Palestinian American DJ, who has collaborated with the most celebrated names in hip hop.
He says that self-promotion and connections are key to success in the music business, adding that he landed his recent gig on the radio, after Kim James, the mix show coordinator at WJLB, heard about his work and contacted him through Instagram.
"It is about who you know," he says. "And then you have all sorts of social media, where you can get attention and support for your work."
He adds that some unknown artists might be more talented than famous ones, but without support, they remain in the shadows and their music products remain unheard by the public.
The DJ says music is a great way to combat negative stereotypes against Arab Americans.
"It is a way to express ourselves; to let people know what we're all about," he explains. "With the exposure music gives us, we can show them what we are not; we do not fit the stereotypes they associate us with."
Saad adds that the collaboration between different groups in music makes the industry "universal."
Although Saad plays hip hop for the radio, he says he works with all kinds of music and does not stick to one genre.
The DJ adds that he would like to work with Arab artists in the future, especially Lebanese singer Fares Karam. French Montana and Swizz Beats are also on the list of artists he would like to collaborate with.
DJ Refugee's advice to aspiring artists is to "stay working, be consistent, stick to a plan and be on top of the marketing and promoting game."
* By Ali Harb
The Arab American News
(c) 2013 Arab American News
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