Djebali Brings the French House Groove to South Beach on Saturday

Djebali plays Do Not Sit On The Furniture on October 24.EXPAND
Djebali plays Do Not Sit On The Furniture on October 24.
Photo Courtesy of the Artist

France's contributions to electronic dance music are considerable. And not just by way of commercial heavyweights like Daft Punk and David Guetta. Paris is also home to a fruitful underground house and techno scene which has grown by leaps and bounds since the 2000s.

Among the Parisian scene's prime movers and shakers is Mehdi Djebali, an internationally celebrated DJ/producer boasting the quintessential French tech-house sound: deep and elegantly understated four-to-the-floor funk — the type of edgy, driving grooves that take summer season by storm in the dance mecca of Ibiza, where Djebali has presided as resident DJ at the legendary DC10.

And considering Djebali plays for upwards of two-thousand revelers at megaclubs like DC10 on any given night, it's more rare to catch him serving it up for an intimate small room like Miami's Do Not Sit On The Furniture. Ahead of Saturday's gig, we caught up with the man himself to chat about the French groove, his namesake label, and upcoming releases.

New Times: How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music, particularly house? Were you exposed to much of it while growing up in Paris?
Djebali: Actually, I wasn't. Growing up in Paris, I was surrounded more by hip-hop culture. I was listening to a lot of French rap music in my childhood. Around this time, I was already into DJing and watched a lot of DMC shows around the mid '90s. Then I discovered house and electronic music culture through Radio Nova, where the Sunday night show featured French DJs like Dan Ghenacia from 8 p.m. 'til midnight. I used to record a lot of these shows, on cassette tapes around this time, and tried to go to record shops during the week to find the records I liked. I was listening to vinyl through a poor turntable my parents had. Then came my first Technics 1200s.

France was not known as a major exporter of popular music in past decades. But since the '90s, it has become a major electronic dance music hotbed. Why do you think France excels so much at this type of music, while it didn't with other genres like rock?
It's hard to say, but I think that the local scene in France was always difficult for electronic music. Now it is really big, but before, it was hard. In other countries like the U.K., the local scene was so huge in every kind of music that it created a big movement and interest. In France, rock music had a big scene but electronic music artists had no other choice than to export themselves to other countries, by making music on vinyl, etc. What gave us a chance is that this small scene is also worldwide, so French artists in electronic music started to be known by selling their music around the world — thanks to a lot of passionate people who made all of this possible: record dealers, radio DJs, etc. — and started to DJ or perform a lot worldwide. Most of the French DJs built their career in foreign countries before becoming well-known in France. 

Do you think there is a sound that is uniquely French in house music?
A lot of people I've met talk to me about the “French groove." I don’t know exactly what it means, but it seems French electronic music brings something special. But I am unable to tell you what.

What turns you on musically the most? As both a listener and DJ, are there any particular sonic ingredients you look for in records?
As a DJ, I am used to listening to the music really quickly. In record shops, you never listen to all the record, you listen to the beginning, the middle, the break, and the end. So I need something to catch me straight away — you know, a sound, a groove, something special. Of course, I occasionally miss some jams listening this way because you may miss some of the emotion or narrative in a record that you listened to quickly. Basically, I can be caught immediately by a good drum groove and how it sounds — if it's warm, it's for me.

Is there a special concept behind Djebali Presents? Is there a particular sound or aesthetic you're looking for to define the label?
I started the Djebali Presents project to release my own music. After few releases, I started to receive a lot of music and demos from all around the world, but it was not the purpose of the label. Then, a French guy called Mr KS sent me music, and after the summer, he told me that it hadn't been signed. I played and loved the tracks so much that I decided to release them. I created Djebali Presents to help new producers to get in the industry, so basically, Djebali Presents is for the new generation of producers, newcomers, or new projects. I also thought that one of the things that's missing most when you start in the industry is connections with other artists, so I decided to put one rule on the label: each artist who makes an EP on Djebali Presents has to remix a track from the next EP. Like this, it creates connections between everyone who releases stuff on the label.

So what do you have going on in the production front at the moment? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to?
I am working on Djebali 10. That's almost finished now, but before that hits the streets, you can find some other bits and pieces: a track by Premiesku called "In My Check" with my remix — release planned for November. Also, a new remix for Alex Arnout on the U.K. label run by Geddes, Nofitstate, and also a remix for Sebo K and his new vinyl-only label Scenario. On my label, you'll find the new Djebali Presents made by Rhythm & Soul, with a remix from Two Diggers. Also, some EPs are forthcoming, with remixes of my tracks by Chez Damier, Mandar, Tuccillo, Alci, and more.

Upcoming Events

We're excited to see you play at Do Not Sit On The Furniture on Saturday. What can we expect? Do you typically program your sets differently for intimate small rooms like this one than for, say, big Ibiza megaclubs like DC10?
I’m actually not preparing properly a set. I listen to a lot of music before playing anywhere, and I try to keep focused on what can fit into a set, but I always let myself go behind the decks. You can't just prepare every track you're gonna play because DJing is an interaction with the people, so I need to be able to adapt myself, paying attention to the crowd, the place, the time of night, the vibe, the mood — so many parameters that make it boring to prepare a set.

Djebali. 10 p.m. Saturday, October 24, at Do Not Sit on the Furniture, 423 16th St., Miami Beach; 305-450-3809; facebook.com/DoNotSit. Tickets cost $10 to $15 plus fees via residentadvisor.net.

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Do Not Sit on the Furniture

423 16th St.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

510-550-5067

www.facebook.com/DoNotSit


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