Nicole Moudaber on the EDM Ritual: "Dancing Is the Oldest Form of Expression"
Nicole Moudaber is a veritable cultural force, a fearless revolutionary.
She was organizing the very first electronic dance music parties that the Lebanese capital of Beirut saw in the years following its horrific civil war. It was a dangerous time for anyone, let alone a woman pushing a Western music scene emblematic of hedonism and personal freedom.
Of course, these days Moudaber calls the dance music capital of London home. And dubbed the Queen of Techno, she reigns over dance floors across the globe.
Nicole Moudaber's new debut artist album Believe just dropped on Adam Beyer's iconic Drumcode imprint. And lucky for us, she will also be stopping by Mansion on Thursday as part of her North American album release tour. So we caught up with the Queen of Techno herself ahead of this week's gig to talk about her early days in the Beirut scene, the spiritual power of dance music, and her new album.
Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music and specifically techno? What was the moment that really turned you on to that style of music?
Nicole Moudaber: New York at Tunnel and Twilo. I had an "a-ha moment" and I've been hooked since -- I've been chasing that feeling I had since my first night. I produce for it and play for it. House, techno, and anything in between is where home is for me. I'm known for my techno, but I produce deeper stuff too. I'm not boxed in one style -- my album reflects that. I do have a better hold on techno, though. I understand it very well.
What was the electronic dance music scene like in mid-'90s Beirut, following the civil war, when you were first throwing parties? Do you think that the war and social turmoil drove people's disposition for good times and the escapism of dance music?
It was challenging yet liberating when I first threw a party in Beirut. I had all the support from the city. They needed to promote tourism again. And people like us, offering new ideas, were quickly embraced. One magical thing happened that night: we danced together all night, from all walks of life and backgrounds. Muslim, Christian, Druze, and Jews in one parking lot in the ruined city.
You famously threw your first Beirut parties next to the site of a bombed-out mosque and cathedral. One can't help but picture this scene of post-apocalyptic techno revelry. And in a way, it almost seems symbolic of the way electronic dance music has become a post-religious spiritual communal experience for people. As a DJ playing for thousands of people at a time, do you see that sort of transcendental effect of the music on people?
All the time. In intimate venues and festivals alike, the core of this ritual is constant. The party I threw in Beirut was chosen specifically around the mosque and the cathedral, both damaged and in ruins. We symbolically put our energies back into them. We lit them and blasted a 50,000-watt sound system, open air and under the stars. We had over a thousand people that night -- quite euphoric actually. I experience this in every show and every city. Besides, dancing is the oldest form of expression -- very spiritual and powerful.