Ahmed Zainal is what happens when you combine talent, passion, and the adamant drive to make people dance? Startup MGZN gets to find out how.
Ahmed, tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Bahraini who is passionate about music. During the day I work as a PR Specialist at Tatweer Petroleum, and spend the remaining of my waking hours on music. I am a House, Techno and Electronica Producer and DJ, and I’d like to witness an increase in the culture of collaboration in Bahrain and fight the standard of mediocrity we seem to casually accept from artists and DJs.
People can’t really call it a switch, but why did Ahmed, the PR Man, turn into music and music production?
I am a musician before I am anything else. If I do not have my music then I do not know who I am. It takes up a large part of my personality and it is my main method of self expression. My father has a massive disco and soul record collection and he was a big influence on my love for the funky side of music. A friend of mine got me a CD full of pirated software when I was 15; it was then that I started making music and never looked back.
How was that journey? What were you the greatest challenges?
For a long time I blamed lack of tangible support around me. One day, a friend of mine put me on the spot and helped me realize that I was the biggest obstacle to my own advancement in music. Ever since then, I have put all my focus on helping myself get to where I want in music. So far, it has been paying off. The progress has been steady and I have been receiving gigs on a regular basis and having much more fun performing and producing. I am a much happier musician now.
Were you ever worried that getting into music might not work out?
It is natural to doubt yourself no matter what you are going through, I myself included am no different. The trick is to remember what got you into making music in the first place. I want to make people dance, and as long as this is what I am doing, I am happy. As artists, we are constantly developing and learning, and there is no cap unless you decide to stop. Just don’t stop, and keep pushing your boundaries until, hopefully one day, you fulfill your goals and people start paying attention to you.
Was producing music something that just made sense to you or was it something your learned and acquired over time?
Both! And I am still learning. You need to have an ear for good music and be aware of what you want to produce. The skills come with practice and experience. I listen to many different styles of music, the ones I like, the ones I dislike and styles I have not heard before. I use what I hear to pick out elements I want to include and avoid in my productions. I use the Internet heavily to gain technical production knowledge as there are many people out there willing to share their experience. I try my best to share my experience with anyone that is interested in making music.
What were your biggest achievements of this year? What are your plans for next year?
This year I got more gigs than any other year, and I am proud to be one of the organizers of the Bahrain Music Conference. Next year will be a busy musical year for me, as my live shows will include live production aside from the conventional DJ set. I have drawn inspiration for this from the headliner at the BMC the Greek artist And.id. I am already working on a live set and cannot wait until it is ready for the stage. I also have many collaboration projects in the pipeline in many different genres.
Is there an audience for the kind of music you produce of interested in?
Bahrain has a vibrant electronic music scene that is fueled by dance music fans looking to accompany their nights with amazing music. DJs and producers like me are lucky to have these party people in Bahrain. For a long time this island has had the best DJs in the GCC and our nightlife is one of the most buzzing, great music included. There is an appetite for music that is not being played on the radio and we are here to dish it to the masses.
What do you usually do in your spare time? What do you do for fun? What do you do to wind-down?
Spare time is for music and music is what I do for fun. But there are times when I need to give my ears a break to get a fresh perspective on a production so I distract myself with various activities, like spending time with friends and family. I also try to involve myself in other creative outlets. On November 27th a short film was screened at Anamil Short Film Exhibition which I was involved in not just with the audio, but with the acting as well. I do my best to be as productive with all my time as possible.
What are your thoughts on piracy in the music industry?
One of my proudest moments was seeing my music on a peer to peer sharing network. This told me that someone liked my music so much that they found it worthy to be pirated. I am not against pirating as I believe that it gives me a better chance of exposure. If someone likes my music enough, they will help support me by buying it. In the end, I make music because I love it, it’s how I express myself and ultimately I just want to make people dance. I do not do it for the money.
What is the creative process like when producing music?
Inspiration can hit you at any time. We do not always have the chance to jump onto the computer and create as soon as the muse whispers in our ears. I usually record notes to remember ideas and refer to them later. A track can start of with any element, be it a beat, a melody, a bassline, a vocal or some random noise, like the monotonous hum of an air conditioner. Once I put the element down, I build the track around it, usually as a short sample. I then sequence the whole track then go through it adding and removing different elements to complete it. Once the composition phase is complete, I mix the track and prepare it for mastering. Sometimes I master my track myself, but a better known practice is to let someone else master the track for you. Once a track is mastered I publish it online for feedback and listening pleasure. Sometimes I play my tracks in my DJ sets to test them out on a crowd with bigger sound system.
What is happiness for you?
Happiness is being behind the decks, dancing with the crowd who are responding to the music you are mixing; the music you love.
Ahmed, please tell us about the BMC. What is it and why was it created?
The BMC is a musical platform for inspiration, collaboration and talent. The event was on October 31st of this year, and spanned for a duration of three days. With a holistic array of professional workshops, international industry trade-shows and night time performances; many genres were involved in the BMC as venues around the capital hosted different styles, and there was something for everyone.
What were some of the challenges you faced whilst organizing this event?
The main issue was the initial lack of interest in sponsorship. Apart from all the venues, there was a financial gap that was always haunting us as we came closer to the dates. But in the end, we pulled through and organized a successful event.
What kind of response did you get, overall? What are you planning on doing with that feedback?
The response from the participants was great. Everyone left the conference with a positive attitude and an appetite for creating amazing music. We aimed to bring many different artists under one roof and we succeeded. We helped create a network for the artists and provided them with a stage to help them showcase their talents to the public. We just wanted to do our part in creating a buzz that this little island is big with music and talent.
What were the most interesting things about the event? Things you know went well.
The workshops were very insightful and the presenters provided a rare glimpse into their experience-rich careers.The Pro Pass holders and organizers alike gained a lot of knowledge that we can use to better ourselves as artists and DJs. We were pleasantly surprised with some of the newcomers that performed. We have faith in their bright musical futures.
I’m sure you’ve read Sha3wa’s excellent review of the BMC, would you like to address any of the points they’ve talked about?
The biggest problem in Bahrain is a standard for mediocrity. We do not want a pat on the back and a “nice job”. We need constructive feedback. After accepting our invitation to attend the event as a media partner, Shda3wa.com were gracious enough to review the BMC and highlighted the good as well as the bad in our event and we are thankful for their honesty. We are adamant on making the BMC an annual event, accompanied with a series of events throughout the year, and we intend to do it better and improve upon each one. Without honest and critical feedback from the third party perspective, we complacency will start to erode the quality of the BMC. We are all for transparency and welcome everyone to help us make our event more successful with their feedback.