“I tried to bring together a mix of some common and quite famous artists with a selection of low-key, niche artists for the music connoisseurs and enthusiasts. The story behind the mix was to propose something that you have never had on The EDWIN Music Channel. I could have done a “stereotyped” mixed playing exclusively techno, electro or bass, but I decided to offer the listeners something special with a vinyl selection that brings together Neo Soul, Hip Hop, Broken Beat, House and Techno through a one-hour journey.”
Right after high school, Hadj elevated his love for music into the endless spheres of vinyl digging, diving into all sorts of styles and genres from Middle Eastern traditional, African rhythms, and Philly Soul to Detroit Funk, techno, hip hop, UK grooves, and all that jazz.
Besides creating enthralling mixtapes for labels like Will Bankhead’s The Trilogy Tapes and Kassem Mosse’s Ominira imprint, he has also ran his monthly radio show on Rinse FR since 2016, distributing his wide stylistic taste with an all-vinyl show, that sometimes features guests like Meftah and Butterbandz from Detroit (USA) and JR Chaparro and Ko Saito from Tokyo.
As ever we had a deep talk with our host, who gave us an insight into his peculiar way of record collecting, his new label Earthwave Records, his musical favourites, and future aspirations.
Photography: Philip Skoczkowski
Q. What was your musical intake when you were younger? How did you become a “top-tier musical digger”?
A. Long story short, my parents had their own, small and humble records collection, probably around 200 gathering different genres (middle eastern music, French / US jazz, French disco, psych rock, but also charts from the 70s). In fact, being originally from Algeria and Turkey, born and raised partly in the western Parisian suburbs and spending a few years abroad mostly the UK, my musical landscape is diverse and varied, and represents well the versatility that I embody. From as young as I remember, every single Saturday or Sunday, my parents used to put their Rotel turntable, amplifier, and monitors in the middle of our living room, playing some records with all of us gather around it, it was a sort of ceremonial ritual that we’ve been really enjoying for our whole childhood. The next step was when I started recording some hip hop FM radio shows on tapes with my sister when I was in middle school. Then I dived into my parent’s collection again during high school. And finally started buying records and discovering new genres on my own (mostly electronic and worldwide music’s and subgenres) thanks to the internet (Youtube and Discogs, spending three or four hours a day listening to music).
The appellation top-tier comes from people looking at my collection, listening to my radio shows, or attending my gigs. It’s probably because I’m trying to be very eclectic, but simultaneously accurate in every single selection I’m doing for my mixes. I love digging and for me, music is comparable to the cosmos, a vortex with an infinity of genres/styles/grooves coming from everywhere. I can give you tips in French jazz and then recommend you some very niche west indies invisible records, or jungle 12inches.
Q. What’s the story behind your alias "Samiroquai“?
A. Sound familiar innit? As you probably guessed it’s a pun merging my real first name Samir with Jamiroquai. A cool pun giving a little preview of the groovy vibes I’m trying to share with the crowd while performing. UK music scene has been a massive influence on my personal tastes, and especially Jason Luis Cheetham, the incarnation of Acid Jazz. I will probably do this aka in the future for several projects ☺
Q. What are your favorite places/shops to dig for new music and why?
A. Before answering your question, I would first like to share with you what I call digging. Digging for me is the process by which we discover a musical project (vinyl, cd, cassette) in which we find a substance, something quite unique that we had rarely if ever heard before. Unfortunately, this definition is today biased by the (mainly virtual) speculative vinyl market, with an extraordinary rating system based on hype and other irrational factors in my opinion, forgetting the essential, music itself and what it can bring us.
My favourite places are flea markets (especially the Porte de Clignancourt one, including the outdoor on sidewalk parts and the indoor part in the covered antiquities market area and I strongly recommend you to go say hello to the Dizonord crew, and to David aka Gemini Cricket aka Boul_o). Then for worldwide, jazz and hip hop, my favorite spot is clearly Superfly records from the 5€ records crates to the rare records on the walls. And finally for electronic music my best spots in town are clearly Heartbeat and Syncrophone Records. I have so much respect for our elders and the previous DJs and records collectors’ generations. Such a priceless and endless source of knowledge. Every single interaction with them is a blessing.
Q. You do a residency at Rinse France. Since when do you do it and what do you try to accomplish with your radio show?
A. I’ve been running my monthly radio show on my own for more than five years now. The first one started in August 2016, the 22nd I think. Such an amazing and familiar platform where I have the opportunity to express widely and freely my art without any constraints. S/o to the whole crew, Manaré, Laurent, Luis and so on. I’m doing vinyl-only shows simply because I’m way more comfortable with vinyl decks in terms of sensations and especially in the way I build up a vibe all along a mix such as a journey for the crowd and listeners.
Q. At your show, you also play b2b sets with other artists like Meftah and Butterbandz from Detroit (USA) and JR Chaparro or Ko Saito from Tokyo (JP). How do you choose your guests and what do they need to get invited?
A. The only thing I can say is that I feel fortunate enough to have my own musical space and time slot where I’m able to share my own music and projects with my friends. So, most of my friends, mates in the scene come from natural interactions we had during gigs, or through social networks with mutual respect and attention to our respective works and the way we subjectively dedicate most of our times, energy, and money to our passion and sometimes jobs for a few of them. Therefore, hosting some of them on my radio show for me is a way to materialize and give relief to this fellowship in a sense.
Q. Your Rinse show also features a very wide array of styles, from Zouk to hip hop, from fourth-world grooves to house rhythms. Can you tell us a bit about your diversified taste, what style are you into right now, and if you are cautious about being put into a box?
A. I would (and I think that most of the people surrounding me could confirm) define me as a UK-like DJ and selector let’s say. I’m a very curious mind and I can put my attention simultaneously on distinct and diametrically opposed genres. So, my aim through the way I keep discovering and sharing some music and rare findings is to unexpectedly catch the attention on unsuspected common sonorities or rhythms similarities between basically way different styles of music. It could happen through samples, or music notes, etc. Not saying that it doesn’t exist in France, but I still have the feeling that we do highlight labelled DJs while running events putting them sometimes unconsciously in drawers: techno DJs, house music party, etc. I can’t sum up the way I collect and discover music through exclusively one or two styles of music.
But to give you a brief idea, the backbone of my musical curiosity is a generic term called “Black Music” from Soul to jazz passing by Detroit Techno / Electro, or Chicago House, broken beat, Afro Caribbean sub-styles, funk, boogie, etc.
However, once again, it can’t summarise what I have on my records shelves. I really miss London, I haven’t been there for almost two years and I nostalgically got back into D‘n’B, and Jungle lately, reminding me of the few years I’ve spent there when I was younger.
Q. Since 2017 you released four mixtapes for labels like The Trilogy Tapes from London or Ominira from Leipzig. How are you linked to these labels and did you compile the tapes in the same way you did your mix for EDWIN Music channel?
A. In correlation with what I said earlier about hosting friends in music on my radio show, I have amazing relationships with label owners (The Trilogy Tapes, Future Times, Ominira) respectively Will Bankhead, Andrew Field-Pickering aka Max D, and Gunnar Wendel aka Kassem Mosse. Much love and respect to them. I maintain a friendly or almost familiar intimate bond with them, and in the continuity for the respect we have for each other, we decided to collaborate by proposing quite unique musical projects and never done before on their label, while exposing each time another facet of my collection that people have usually not the opportunity to discover otherwise. Many thanks again to them for giving me the chance to express my art teaming up with them. The process of cooking up a mix is most of the time the same: I voluntarily choose a thematic, pick up the records suiting with it, and then spontaneously mix them for an hour or more.
Q. As a digger and DJ: for what qualities do you look in music? What makes a song/track special to you?
A. One word: Energy! I’m looking for songs that can make my soul and other people vibrate. Music is one of the best vectors to share emotions. Without emotions, music is pointless according to me.
Q. If you would do a forecast of what is the sound of tomorrow how would it look like?
A. I would say futuristic (involving new technologies and instruments) and hybrid, so unclassifiable with never heard before sonorities.
Q. What records from the past coined your life?
A. Lunatic – Mauvais Oeil
Hiroshi Yoshimura – Soundscape 1: Surround
Ahmed Malek – Musiques originales de films
Moodymann – The Silent Introduction (cf pictures)
Ali Mohamed Birra – Ali Mohamed Birra with the Adu Band
Here are a couple among an infinite list…
Q. Who are you listening to these days?
A. Everything, anything, newies, or oldies. No limits.
Q. What do you like to do in your free time?
A. I spend 60% of my time in medical research (sciences), I’m a biomedical engineer, researcher, and work on developing new innovative therapies against several forms of cancers or neurodegenerative diseases for instance. The other 40% is music-related stuff (sorting the 6k records, tapes, and CDs, and digging) mostly, and nowadays working on my brand-new label Earthwave Records that I run with my brother Kareem Lotfy where we will release our music material and music from artists we love and have been supporting for years. I’m also trying to launch a house parties’ series with two DJ partners and mates Aleqs Notal and Jean Nipon called Konfuzion proposing it to Parisian venues.
Beyond that, I’m trying to work and improve my image through social networks putting more light on my work and universe shaping my image and vectorizing it collaborating with friends such as Philip Skoczkowski who actually took the pictures joined to this interview. I’m also thinking of working on my own music productions and mixtapes I would release on my own label or on others. Let’s see in the future. You can keep being posted through my social networks (Insta, Soundcloud, and FB). Last but not least, I’ll be on French TV soon for a music documentary…
Q. What are five words that would describe your personal fashion style?
A. I’ve read five records and not five words so I’ll give you two essential ones to visually and musically describe it :
Ferkat Al Ard – أغنية (for the style and look – cf cover)
Larry Heard – Missing you (for the groove)
For the five words, I would say: Simple, efficient, groovy/funky, peaked and particular.
Q. Finish this sentence: ‘The world would be a better place if only…?
A. … racism didn’t exist (or at least ignorance).
Q. What ethos/motto do you try to live your life by?
A. Listen to yourself, look for total fulfillment. I’m trying to be a well-rounded human being.
Q. If somebody give you a million quid and you had 24 hours to rinse it, what would you do?
A. I would buy a big house by the seaside, with my parents, who would travel with me, and would invest most of the money left in the construction of wells and infrastructures such as schools for people in need in Africa. I’m not really attached to the value of money; I’m just looking for a comfortable but not wealthy standard of living. Here is a major nuance to seize.