Oh,the Places You’ll Go!

Jay-Z Yasalam
Welcome to the newly refurbished website. Corrie finally persuaded me to upgrade to a slicker format for phones and tablets. Hopefully it should be a lot easier to navigate and a bit more functional on hand held devices. I’ll be making more of an effort to keep the content updated on a regular basis. It’s been a busy few weeks with some amazing gigs back to back. Wedged in between two massive Sandance line ups was the Jay-Z concert for the F1 Yasalam weekend at Du Arena. Thanks once again to Flash for such an amazing opportunity. I’ve been listening to Jay-Z records since “Reasonable Doubt” in the mid nineties. Although I’m not necessarily as big a fan of his newer music as I was back then there’s no doubting he’s still got pulling power with a younger audience. He put on a great show and genuinely looked like he was having fun getting everyone involved at every opportunity. Seeing almost forty thousand people singing along at the end of his set was pretty spectacular.

After the show all that was really on my mind while driving back was chicken or shrimp at Popeye’s  He jumped in a helicopter to connect with a flight, launched an aftershave and went home to spoon Beyonce. I reflected on the fact I just got to open for the biggest rapper on the planet. That memory is almost as surreal as standing there in front of an arena full of people.  I can only shake my head about how absurdly different our two worlds are but for the one simple thing which connected every single person in the audience if only for that night, music.

If Hip-Hop was my girlfriend we’d be on a break. I used to love you but we both changed. I struggle now to find many new records which inspire but I still love to dig in the serato crates whenever I get the opportunity to drop an old skool set. Which is why I was so excited to guest on Dany Neville’s The Edge show on Radio 1 Dubai. It’s a bit of a national institution having been on the airwaves for 11 years and always championing new music as well as making an effort to showcase home grown talent. Here’s the mix if you missed it first time round at the weekend. (Click on photo)

chic sandance

The previous Sandance was possibly the best musical line up to date for me.  The highlight was undeniably Chic. Opening for them was pretty special. Playing away while the band appears on stage to warm up around you always gives me goose bumps. There was a nice energy building as Nile Rodgers appeared with a cup of tea and took some time to have banter with the crowd. I was almost peeing myself with excitement then he turned round, gave me the thumbs up, strolled across and we hugged it out. I wasn’t quick enough to steal a dreadlock or an eyelash or even a photograph but it was such an honest and simple gesture I was lost for words. I did manage a goofy smile though. Just when I thought my superfan moment was over, that night he was kind enough to reply to a message on twitter which blew my mind. I’m unashamedly overwhelmed by these occurrences, before anything I’m a music fan. I can remember borrowing my Uncle’s Chic records when I was a boy. I can’t wait to tell him about this one. I’m sure then he might forgive me for never giving it back.

NileRodgers twitter
Well done Sandance three years in and still raising the bar. Next up will be the Hogmanay party on the 31st. Confirmed so far are Paul Oakenfold, Axwell and the one I’m most excited about Emeli Sande. A few hundred people may remember her appearing at Soul lounge in the Warehouse in 2009. It was just before her career went stratospheric. Although no one could doubt her talent I’m not sure there’s anybody who could have predicted how massive she would become. Since then she’s become the biggest selling UK artist in 2012 winning numerous awards in the process. I’ve been lucky enough to have done a good few shows with her over the years and can’t wait to see her again in Dubai. I think she’ll set the tone perfectly for an amazing end to the year. Here’s an interview I did with her a few years back….

It hasn’t been all about the concerts and festivals this month. One of the best nights I’ve had since coming to Dubai took place at a house party with a small group of people on a terrace overlooking the marina. The special guest for the night all the way from New York was John Morales. I’m still not sure how the Sunstroke crew manage to convince him to do a house party. But I’m glad they did. On the night myself and Danny Kwang warmed things up before John jumped on and treated us to a disco master class. Sometimes everything aligns perfectly and you get great music, an amazing setting and just the right mix of like minded music lovers to create something special. Get in touch with the good people at Sunstroke about the invite only secret group for future parties.
infusion magazine

Last of all I can’t wait to celebrate 9 years in the game with the Infusion crew on Sandance beach December 6th. In the time I’ve been here they’ve been responsible for so many great memories and an equal number of sore heads.  They’ve pulled out all the stops and put together an amazing line up to mark the occasion Cypress Hill, Afrika Bambaataa, Stereo Mcs and the Cuban Brothers on the main stage and Josh Wink Moodymann and Karizma in the house arena. Support on the night from myself, March4, Somalie, MC Olly Wood, Lobito, Schooly, Andy Buchan, Conan Liquid, Smokingroove, Charl Chaka and The Recipe. Visuals by Vj Coldfusion.  RSVP@Infusion.ae / 055 2004321 for table bookings.

Rolling With the Punches

white collar boxing

It’s always on my mind to get on here and blog more frequently. I usually get caught up with life and time passes, days become weeks and weeks months. It doesn’t feel like so long ago I was dragging myself up in the mornings at 6am to get punched in the face. The most recent challenge I got myself involved in was the White Collar Boxing. As usual with these things it was a passing comment to a friend along the lines of “Yeah that sounds like fun…” weeks later against my better judgment we were signing up for two months of intensive boxing training at KO Gym.

I can honestly say it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. The day of the fight itself from the morning weigh in to the moment you step inside the ring is intense. Part apprehension, part excitement and an abundance of adrenalin all released the moment the bell rings.

Previous to training I had no idea how technical boxing was or the amount of fitness it required. Over the two months I had no shortage of aches and bruises from sparring and even managed to fracture a rib half way through. I’ve got nothing but respect for real boxers who step in there for ten plus rounds. I can safely say after going a few with my opponent I’ve got no future in boxing and I’ll be sticking to my day job safely behind the turntables( although I did have someone swing at me once for not playing a request.) It really was a fantastic experience and an unforgettable night. Possibly the most surreal moment was having Jeremy Guscott and Jim Rosenthal commentate the fight. Some great banter from start to finish from them both. Here’s a clip of me getting punched in the face. I’m fearing it could be my most popular one to date.

From next month I’ll be getting back on the road again. For enquiries contact the lovely people at Audio Tonic Agency they are looking after all my bookings from here on in. I’m looking foward to getting back out there and playing some different spots. Some exciting gigs already in the pipeline for the New Year.

It’s good to be back at Nasimi alongside Marko Smokingroove for another season. We launched to a packed beach with James Zabelia on Fridays night. There was a real nice vibe and clued up crowd from 2pm right through till 3 in the morning. This weekend we are migrating to the other side of the hotel for the season opener and the third anniversary of the Sandance festival. I’m excited to be playing before the Wailers and to get the chance to play some sundrenched reggae vibes and dub. The month after is the one I’m buzzing about with possibly the best line up to date. Jamiroquai, Chic and Rudimental. Here’s my tribute to the space cowboy to get you in the mood. Just follow the link to listen and download.

After forty two thousand individual votes being logged the shortlist for the best in Dubai is live on the Ahlan site. Thanks again to everyone who’s taken the time to log on, happy to say I’m in the final ten in the “Best Dj“ Category and looking forward to the awards night on the 22nd. If you’d still like to vote the last opportunity will be the Sunday the 20th of October. There’s also a chance to win Aed 10, 000. (With the magazine it’s not a personal bribe to vote for me. ) All I can offer is this recent mix I did for Ohm. All the very best of luck to everyone shortlisted.

I’ve been busy recently with the mixes recently. I think I’m on four in the last three weeks. Here’s another recording I did initially for Ohm but I was a bit early with it and ended up just putting it out there. Infusion Magazine described it as “ Funk-laiden trip, including classic hip-hop,soul,breaks and a little bit of sunshine house. Head nodding music at its finest.” I’ll still be putting everything out via mixcrate but from here on in I’ll only be adding download links on the facebook music page . Click on the “Free Download” tab there for a copy.

Here’s a recent interview I did with the good people at Society Perrier chatting about life as a dj, fashion, inspirations and guilty pleasures. Just click on the banner to read it.

Finally getting back in to my much neglected video page. I’ve got a few bits and pieces from recent adventures at the top of Kiliamnjaro and a stage cameo at the Moulan Rouge in Paris to upload so keep logging on for fresh content. Here’s another mix I did recently with Infusion Magazine for their Weekend Warmup session in the office. That should set the tone nicely for your weekend. To watch the full set (Click Me) There’s a great selection of mixes up there from some of my favourite dj’s in Dubai.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Every summer my grandfather would open the skylight on the roof anticipating the arrival of the swallows. For a couple of months the loft would be alive with movement and the sounds of bird song. I remember being fascinated by them as he explained they come back to the same place every year to nest and then migrate south of the equator. Then I had no concept of exactly what that journey involved. Years later I remembered those days with a smile as I looked up and saw them circling above the narrow winding streets of Nablus. We’d both come a long way from a small fishing village in the North East of Scotland.

I’d grown up with an idea of what Palestine was framed by the western media to represent a reality which only partially existed. Even after moving to the Middle East and seeing a different perspective and reading up as much as I could on the history of the region I wasn’t really prepared for what I saw. After walking seven hours in the Northern highlands through rocky shepherds paths , olive groves and wheat fields I stood at the top of a hill and looked out over an abundant land, peaceful and serene surrounded by more butterflies than I’ve ever seen in my life. The only thing which blighted the panorama was an illegal settlement ominously perched on a hilltop across the valley.

The more we walked the more settlements we saw. In the cities they’ve have carved up the West Bank controlling all movement with checkpoints on roads only they can use connecting gated communities and in the process isolating the Palestinians more effectively even than their illegal separation wall ever could. The beauty of the place is breathtaking and the warmth of its people overwhelming but they are being slowly strangled on all sides by a brutal occupation intent on robbing them of their freedom, the ability to sustain themselves and the opportunity to enjoy the basic things we all take for granted on a daily basis.

On the seventh day we finished our walk after a tough week in which temperatures rose to around 40c our endurance was tested climbing steep canyons and hiking long desert tracks. It was a great opportunity to get acquainted with each other and hear the stories from our fantastic guides George and Habib. Both were very knowledgeable about local culture and the history of the region. After two nights of home stays with local families we spend the third under the stars at a local Bedouin camp and were treated to the story of their struggle from our host. At times we all found the hike difficult in different ways but managed to keep each other on track when required. The end of the challenge was marked by a stunning sight as the monastery of Mar Saba came in to view, carved spectacularly in to the adjacent cliff side.

From there we headed to the Hope Flowers to meet the director Ibrahim Issa, the teachers and children of the school. We spent the afternoon surrounded by almost one hundred happy kids assembling paper kites. After frantically running around decorating and colouring them they rushed out in to the playground and I stood above in the classroom and watched them for a while and hoped when they grew up things would be different. My moment of optimism challenged by the watch tower and settlement on the hillside above.

As always I can’t thank you all enough for donating. Thanks to all my great friends who helped with the quiz night ( Dubai Quiz Master ) and the boat party, the djs who played (Charl,Schooly, Lobito, Jack) (Marty and Mareena for the design)and everyone who came along to both. Together and collectively with the rest of the Gulf for Good challengers we’ve raised a substantial amount which will be equaled by another two international charities to enable Hope Flowers to begin building their extension will include disabled access toilets, physiotherapy and occupational therapy facilities and special education classrooms for kids with learning disabilities and special needs.
It’s hard to come back to reality with the knowledge of how things really are there. We were lucky enough to meet Steve Sosebee of PCRF’ while there. One of the things he said after dinner was once you know it becomes your responsibility to do something about it..Those words have really stuck with me.

Thanks to Gulf for Good again for making it happen and introducing me to another great life experience. If you are interested in getting involved they have an information evening tonight. All the information can be found here. To George, our guide with your relentless enthusiasm, endless supply of comedy and passionate recollection of local history thank you for a wonderful experience and introduction to your country. I can’t wait to return. It’s said the swallow is a symbol of hope and represents freedom. Sailors used to associate them with homecoming I hope someday soon every Palestinian can return to their land and enjoy its beauty once again.

For some wonderful photos of the whole experience please see David Butchers website. The benefits of having a professional photographer in the group. As a thank you for taking the time to read this here’s a recent mix recorded recently  at Nasimi Beach. All download links on Mixcrate.

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore, –
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings!
Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Hope Springs Eternal

Once again I’ve got to thank Ahlan Magazine for including me in this years Hot 100 in the trendsetters category. I’m flattered to be featured alongside some really inspirational people who are doing great things in the region. It’s always nice to be recognised for your contribution in your respective field. If you are in the UAE the Hot 100 is free with the purchase of Ahlan this week if not here’s the online link to my interview. Thanks to Junaid and his team at Regent & Brummell for kitting me out last minute in a fantastic bespoke tailored suit.

I’m still trying to message all fifty one of you individually to say a final thank you for your kind donations, support, advice and words of encouragement over the last four months. It’s without a doubt one of the toughest challenges I’ve undertaken. The truest thing said to me about running a marathon was “its one good way to really find out about yourself…” Although I was pretty well prepared, the prospect of failure was still with me on the day of the run. Fortunately I managed to relax and get through it for the most part with a smile. The last ten hurt but as soon as the Burj Khalifa was in site and getting closer I felt a sense of relief and elation. It was a fantastic experience made all the more special by the knowledge that together we managed to raise one thousand seven hundred and eighty pounds in the process for Macmillan Cancer Support. As always thanks to Puma for kitting me out for the occasion the Faas 500’s were perfect.

As one adventure ends another begins. I decided this week it was time for another Gulf for Good challenge. I’ll be setting off on the 26th of April on a 7 day hike on the Palestine Trail- in the Footsteps of Ibrahim. I’m fascinated by the history there and eager to see it for myself in the hope of better understanding the situation. The charity we will be supporting is called Hope Flowers it is an independent, non-political, co-ed school in Bethlehem providing education to refugee and disadvantaged children, aged 5 – 13. Many of the children educated at HFS suffer trauma or learning disabilities or have special needs.

The other participants in the challenge and I will be collecting sponsorship to be used to add a second floor extension to the existing building. The extension will include disabled access toilets, physiotherapy and occupational therapy facilities and special education classrooms, plus a large lift for access. The school operates with an educational philosophy dedicated to peace and democratic education. The founder thought that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be solved non-violently if Palestinians create a new generation believing in peace, coexistence and respect for each others’ rights. I’m really excited to meet the kids and raising as much money as possible for a fantastic charity. I think the name says it all really. http://www.hopeflowersschool.org/intro.html If you are interested in sponsoring me or making donating please get in touch info@djdavidcraig.co.uk 971(0)553293784.

Well done to everyone involved in ’From Dubai, Here is Damascus’’ A benefit Hip-Hop concert for the Syrian refugees camp on the Jordanian borders. It was nice meeting everyone from the Palestinian & Libyan Cultural Clubs& UAE Red Crescent pre-event. It’s always inspiring when people from different backgrounds are brought together by a common cause. Thanks to Caira for leading the way and both Oliver and Klara who gave up a whole afternoon to accompany me cart blankets and towels back and forth from Atlantis Hotel.

Also this month I’ll be linking up with START for the first time on an event. I’m really happy to get involved with another children’s charity. I also love the concept of art as one of the simplest and purest form of self expression alongside music. START run workshops in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and India as well as the UAE offering art education for refugees and orphaned children and children with special needs, reaching over one thousand kids per week. For more info on the charity, volunteering or sponsorship get in touch via their site http://www.startworld.org

To show my appreciation for you actually taking the time to log on and read through the blog here’s a couple of mixes I uploaded recently. The first called Invocations was a shelved project for an album which never got off the ground. It’s a mix of sundown, down-tempo stuff I’d typically play at Nasimi Beach

The second is a bit more soulful, skipping between house and broken beat it was recorded at Nasimi Beach under a full moon. Now I’ve updated the serato I’ll be recording a lot more live sets again. Keep checking the audio section for new additions. For downloads head to my mixcrate page.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
-Alexander Pope,

The Anonymous Small Gods of Coincidence

Another defining moment in my adventures as a dj was without a doubt last week’s concert warm up for the Jacksons. The Jackson 5 was responsible for some of my earliest memories of music. I didn’t really know how to describe it at the time but I could feel it was different it struck a chord with me. It’s surreal to think back to those times as a kid listening to their music. I could never have envisioned a time that very same music which had inspired me would actually bring us together thirty years later one Friday night in the Middle East. Another instance in my life where reality is definitely stranger than any fiction I could have imagined.

I really enjoyed opening for them. At one point I looked up to see a collection of people of all ages from all over the world stamping their feet,nodding along or singing out loud to the one thing which brought us all together on that night, the music. That’s as good as it gets for me. I’ll admit to being a bit apprehensive about seeing the Jacksons perform after all these years and of course with the absence of their brother. But there was a real buzz of anticipation before they arrived onstage and for the next hour and a half Tito, Marlon, Jackie and Jermaine treated us to a nostalgic trip back in time covering all the Jackson 5 classics as well as a special tribute to Michael. I’ve been asked the question so many times in interviews which song can you always rely on to get the dance floor going. My usual answer is anything by the Jackson 5. That’s been reaffirmed after last week’s performance.

A series of coincidences got me thinking about chance and how we define ourselves by our reactions to things which occur in our lives. People come and go but every meeting or encounter good or bad leaves its impression and gives us the opportunity to learn and improve. I always ask  “what are the chances..?” Standing next to the Jacksons I found myself revisiting these familiar thoughts, things have got a strange way of coming round full circle. With the end of another year almost upon us I’m reminded to be grateful to the many people who I’ve encountered who have helped me and given me opportunities along the way. I’ll try my best to keep the momentum going by passing it on.

I finally remembered to record a concert warm up. My party trick is usually to take an mp3 recorder and camera and forget to switch either on. As you can see I’ve actually got a full photo album, albeit mostly stolen from friends.  Sadly I left the mp3 player behind on the night and someone nicked it. So there does exist a recording somewhere, we’ll just never hear it unfortunately. I was explaining this to a friend when a co-worker came up to me mid track at Nasimi and said “I love this. It’s my death row song….” She broke it down as a desert island disc with a dark twist. After much thought I went with Nina Simone –Sinnerman. Thought it was apt and it’s 12 minutes long. What would be your final track? The song playing she was actually referring to is a favourite of mine for completely different reasons. I was introduced to it by a special person about a year back one afternoon on a beach.She smiled as I sat down beside her and placed her headphones on my ears. Every time since that I listen to it I’m taken back to that moment.Sometimes words aren’t necessary.

Here’s a preview of my latest offering on  www.inthemix.me log on for the full 2 hrs. There’s a  whole heap of other mixes on the site too from local and international djs. As usual I’m throwing together everything from reggae to soul, funk, hip-hop and drum n bass. Just a collection of new music which I love and classics which I never tire of. The funny thing of late which got me thinking was how closely they were all related. As a kid I got in to reggae and motown , leading me to soul and rnb, taking in hip-hop along the way. hip-hop and sampling introduced me to jazz and funk. Then they all came together with elements of house.I hope that comes across in the mix. As the old saying goes there’s only two kinds of music,good and bad. Thanks to everyone who logged on to the chatroom last week with requests, shout outs and general banter. Most of us met through music one way or another and I’m happy to say years later it’s sustained our friendships wherever in the world we’ve all ended up.

Recently I’ve had a few embarrassing episodes involving greetings. The first one I was a touch overzealous on an unsuspecting mime. I was genuinely enthusiastic about meeting the guy and went in there with conviction. He met me with a floppy hand and by mistake I rotated a couple of his knuckles. It happened again at work soon after when the sound guy met me with a floppy grasp. I’m in the process of reviewing my handshake. I’ll be going with salutes, trigger finger and wink or knuckle pounds till further notice. Thanks for coming to the gigs, downloading the mixes, checking out the blogs and keeping me inspired to play the music I love. Seasons greetings to you and yours and all the very best in the New Year.