Hard Fist meets Wadi Rum Festival

We’re delighted to launch a new label feature and for this first edition we invite Hard Fist founders Tushen Raï and Cornelius Doctor to talk about their inspiration for the label and their exciting collaboration with Shadi Khries of the Wadi Rum Festival. An amazing event held in a Bedouin camp in the Jordan wilderness which brings together likeminded, creative souls and promotes the beauty of cultural exchange.

In addition, we also share a special  “Prince Of Abzu” mix, celebrating the release on Hard Fist on May 25th. Influenced by arabic folk music, traditional instruments, trance rhythms, psychedelic melodies, downtempo beats and acid lines.

It’s exactly the kind of set you can play at Wadi Rum in the sunrise, when everyone on the dancefloor is connected to the desert’ Cornelius Doctor

Who are you?

Tushen Raï: I’m a cheese, travel and wine lover. I think Hedonist is the right word! I started making music as a singer in a kind of punk band. I began collecting records with the little money I earned from summer jobs. I don’t just see records as music but love what it represents: a community of passionate people, symbol of a music lovers sub-society. Now, with Cornelius Doctor and the support of the crew, we run the “Hard Fist” imprint which is such an exciting experience.

Cornelius Doctor: I started music over 20 years ago. I played in a hip hop band and travelled a lot. I had several lives as a producer and a DJ and for almost 10 years, I promote parties with a collective called Art Feast in Lyon. During the day, I also run a cultural bar called “La Madone”. Whilst at night, I’m Cornelius Doctor, exploring discoïde sounds and experimental electronic music. I also do the artistic direction of Hard Fist together with Tushen Raï.

Shadi Khries: I’m a musician, originally a percussionist from Jordan. I started making music 20 years ago with a band. At first, we created tracks for movies and we re-arranged it for live shows. It was essentially traditional music.

Then I moved to France, where I live now. As a percussionist, I met many people who produce music close to what I do. I also started going out in clubs where I met Guido, from Acid Arab with who I worked with a couple of years ago. Then I meet Gilb’r from Versatile and we did the King Ghazi project together.

What have been your highlights from the last 12 months?

Tushen Raï : So many things! The last 12 months have been particularly intense on both professional and personal levels. But I can say that our Jordanian experience with the Hard Fist crew has really been my n°1 highlight. This festival is one of the most exceptional events on earth at the moment. Imagine a group of 200 people coming from the Middle-Eastern underground scene, lost backpackers, artists from all over the world, European communities of friends in love with electronic music, all joining in the desert alongside the Bedouin communities who have lived there for a thousand years.

We crossed the country from North to South, from Amman the capital, to the desert of Wadi Rum. We were all together… artists, technicians, journalists, promoters, festival goers in one big bus for 5hrs, stopped every 30 minutes by police checks. Once we arrived at the border of the desert, the Bedouins picked us up in jeeps and drove us straight to the camp. I remember seeing the shadow of the giant rocks in the middle of the desert by the light of the moon.

Cornelius Doctor: Ali, the head of the Bedouin camp and his community warmly welcomed and hosted us. They played music and danced with us all night long. They bring a unique vibe in the organization of this event. The first night, we did an after party in one of the Bedouin tent. It was 7:00am and Station Endlos were playing cool percussive deep house (100% Berlin style) and half of the crowd still awake was made up of Bedouins from the camp, dancing in trance, lost in the music, it was incredible. Wadi Rum is definitely more than a music festival.

Tell us more about Wadi Rum and the inspiration for the festival?

Shadi Khries: Wadi Rum is a place to mix cultures. Organizing an event in the desert in Jordan is a way to go back to my origins and cross culture with Europe where I live now. This year I invited Acid Arab and Hard Fist from France, Station Endlos from Germany, amongst many others. We shared music during 4 days. Above all, Wadi Rum is a cultural meeting and a space dedicated to creation.

How was your experience in a country where electronic music is not warmly accepted by the authorities?

Tushen Raï: To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect… The only things I knew about Jordan were Dabke and hummus. When you tell your friends and family, that you are going to play in a festival in the Jordanian desert everyone is surprised. In the EU we can be very confused about this region of the world. We mostly hear about it through the media, but we don’t actually know much about life over there. I think people have the same kind of confusion in countries like Jordan regarding electronic music. They seem to be afraid as they don’t really know what it is.

Cornelius Doctor: Playing occidental electronic music in Jordan is not usual at all. After a few days spent in the country, you can understand that djing is a concept most of people don’t really understand there. When you are born in Jordan, like Shadi, and you want to develop this scene, you have to build a vision and expand an entire new culture, it’s a real challenge.

Tushen Raï: We met the young underground scene of Amman who started to fight for venues, events, media… any tools to express their art and culture. When you talk with them, you quickly understand how difficult it is. And you realize how the fight for a Pioneer in electronic music in the 90’s was important to our generation. They are at the outset of a new cultural revolution, organizing themselves smartly and spending all their free time in developing a scene which is surely going to be incredibly exciting.

Shadi Khries: The electronic scene in Jordan is very new. It started 7 years ago. It needs time to grow. Before that, there were no shops to buy machines and no way to learn about it. It was impossible to be a professional, and it is still hard nowadays.

I travelled a lot and discovered many places in the world. However, I’m still into making the very organic music I learned in Jordan. I build my percussions in a very traditional way. My last track, Semsemeh, is a good example of how I mix traditional music with electronic music. But even now, I still need help from someone with more experience in the electronic part. So Jordan needs time. It’s difficult to have the right machines and to practice over there. I only bought my machines two years ago. 

How important do you think cultural exchange is and the role electronic music can play in bringing different cultures together?

Shadi Khries: When I came to Paris and Berlin, I discovered different ways to play and enjoy music, and other ways to party. Tracks are longer and behave differently. Nowadays, you have music productions mixing cultures, like Omar Souleyman does for instance. Machine are just tools, but mixed culture is really the thing that brings new art. Everyone can buy a machine and make the same kick, the same bass. Exchanging and sharing is very important as it brings new culture and new ways to see and represent the world.

Tushen Raï: Cultural exchange is essential, we live in a globalised world, even if we haven’t chosen it. “Global” is a capitalist term, mainly used in economics. However there is also global exchange with culture. Increasing mobility with cheap flights, and faster ways to communicate with social networks and the Internet have totally modified our way to share and grasp the world. As a producer, it definitely inspires me. It is an incredible way to learn about the world, mix cultures and create new ones. It’s like a DIY school the new generations can’t miss, a big opportunity to change the rules and eliminate nationalist issues step by step.

What do you have lined up for the coming year?

Tushen Raï: Listening to music, producing music, playing music, sharing music.

We have already 4 or 5 EPs to release after Princes Of Abzuموالي أبزو. The next one will be our first full EP together with Cornelius Doctor. We have to finalise the tracks and wait for the remixes. You will definitely hear about it this coming summer. It’s too soon to announce who is going to sign on it, but I can tell that they are highly talented artists from all over the world.

Cornelius Doctor: We keep releasing artists from many places, it’s our way to explore the world. We will present an afro acid release, a dark disco release with new wave influences, a down tempo psychedelic dance release, trance inducing Arabic tracks, and a big mix of weirdo sounds which I hope will bring everyone on the dancefloor!

We will also have some showcases this summer: Berlin with our friends of Deja Groove, Warsaw at Jasna 1, Paris at Garage and Geneva at Audio. If you are around, come and party with us!

Which track in the mix is your favourite right now?

Tushen Raï: Hard question … Maybe the Timothy Clerkin’s one named Akama. It’s exactly the kind of track I love because it’s a mix of many influences including live instruments. It brings something unique. The last track is also one of my fav edit of Middle-Eastern music. I think I discovered Simple Symmetry with this one.

What is your favourite track of the last 12 months?

Tushen Raï: They are so many ! Let’s say Lipelis – Children Song.

What is the last record you bought?

Tushen Raï: Iñigo Vontier – Wirikuta and the reedition of the cult Denizaltı Rüzgarları of Okay Temiz made by Arsivplak.

Do you have a ritual before you start playing or straight after?

Tushen Raï & Cornelius Doctor: Sure, “Apéro”.

Tell us about 3 DJ’s / Producer’s we may not know but should be looking out for?

Cornelius Doctor: If you don’t know yet Leonor you should check his last release out a few weeks ago on Tom Tom Disco, it’s a bomba!

Tushen Raï: There are a lot of other names: Strapontin, Feller, Que Sakamoto, etc. Check out our monthly radio show on Nova Lyon that we run together with Cornelius Doctor: Ride The Rhythm. Each month we invite a “must known” artist for a one hour mix, so the best answers are there!

Cornelius Doctor: And of course, all the guys who collaborated with Hard Fist: Bawrut, Ko Shin Moon, J.AK.A.M., Timothy Clerkin, Fringe Society and Simple Symmetry.

Do you think there is inequality or disbalance in dance music, whether it is gender or race? If yes, what do think can be done?

Cornelius Doctor: There is definitely gender inequality and racism in some clubs and events. Promoters and venues have to remain alert on these issues, as we all do. A dancefloor can also be a magic place where all inequalities temporarily disappear. All stakeholders of the dance music scene should fight for it and make it permanent.

Tushen Raï: Women are also very much less represented as artists. Hopefully things are slowly changing. As it became an open discussed topic, women are more often booked in festivals and clubs and it inspires the younger generations. We should keep talking and acting about it.

To follow-up with what Shadi said, dance music culture is different in each country. It is easier in some places to professionalize than in others – so there is inequality in dance music production. Exchanging culture is a way to fight it. It gives us a better understanding of each other, enables us to share practices and tools, and in the end drives us to new and exciting forms of music.

What’s your opinion on the importance of roots , traditions, respecting originals and sources? Should all music be open source and open to editing or do you think cultural and artistic misappropriation is an issue?

Tushen Raï: All tracks take source in traditions. We only make something new out of something old. To me, respecting tradition is not opposed with sharing and exchanging culture.

Secret studio / DJ trick?

Tushen Raï: Studio trick : coming with a really off beat “field recording vinyl with a lot of scratch and many elements playing at the same time and say to Cornelius Doctor : “hey man, let’s do a banger club track with that”!

Cornelius Doctor: Making a good loop and …. Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste – Copy / Paste…

If to live in a lost civilization or culture, which one would it be?

Tushen Raï & Cornelius Doctor: Mesopotamian.

What makes you smile?

Tushen Raï: Cheese.