Emerging Headliner

Ashibah on Music Production and 'My Eyes Only'

Having already taken South America by storm, Danish/Egyptian DJ, producer, songwriter and vocalist Ashibah is now laser-focused on bringing her explosive sets to an international audience, and has been using her downtime during the pandemic to get in the studio and “make as much music as humanly possible”. And as a self-confessed control freak, she pretty much does everything herself…

“I try to at least,” she tells Headliner when questioned on the matter. “But I’m also good at figuring out what my limitations are and reaching out to people who are better than me that can help.”

And while she mostly works within the house music genre, there’s something quite niche about her approach in terms of its methodology, her unique vocal, and her sound’s overall appeal.

“The vocal is what connects everything for me,” she explains. “I always try to start with a good melody and achieve a nice crossover between house and something that people can connect with lyrics-wise.”

Ashibah’s latest record My Eyes Only, which she released on Defected sub-label D4 D4NCE, demonstrates her polished and refined sound at its very best; her exquisite self-recorded vocal combining effortlessly with audibly slick production.

“It happened in lockdown,” she reveals. “I was in the studio and I wanted to write one of those songs that just uplifts people wherever they are. All my songs I write with my partner, who also happens to be my wife. We sat in the studio with another songwriter, and started working on the lyrics and melodies. After we did the vocal, I threw all the production out and started from the beginning, because I felt it gave the track a completely different vibe.”

Born in Denmark, Ashibah’s family moved to Cairo when she was a small child, where she lived until the end of high school. In the pursuit of a musical career, she moved back to Denmark, although she soon fell in love with Brazil after making some tracks that particularly resonated with Latin American audiences.

“I did move to Brazil for a while, but then moved back here to Copenhagen because of Covid,” she says. “I love to travel and I love adventures, so I just kind of go where the music takes me.

“Those three places have got very different, unique musical communities, each with their gems, so I try to take the best out of all of those worlds.”

Clearly inspired by her rich cultural heritage, it’s from her waterfront studio in Copenhagen where Ashibah joins Headliner for this very interview over Zoom:

“I had a bigger studio and I decided to scale down because I felt like I wanted something cosier and smaller, so that when I bring songwriters in here, they feel comfortable and can turn on their creative button when they feel like it. I have some analogue synths here and there, but because I’ve travelled so much I’ve tried to create a setup that is really flexible.”

I think that once you dedicate yourself to something and really go at it 110%, it elevates things to another level.

Ashibah’s setup is also a minimalistic one, and includes her laptop, audio interface and her Shure SM7B mic, along with an SSD disk and a set of headphones from Danish modular headphone company AIAIAI Audio, “which are pretty much my favourite things that I can take anywhere.

“I also have my vinyl and DJ setup in the back,” she adds. “Sometimes I love being able to stop, go put on a couple of tracks, and just stand there and have a little fun.”

This month sees Ashibah back out in Brazil for her latest tour, “so I’ve been trying to get as many vocals and tracks done as possible that I can take with me on the road, and start testing and start playing with,” she says. “I’m really excited about that. Next year I’m headed for the US, and then hopefully we’re going to hit the European summer next year…”

And as the conversation comes to a close, Headliner is interested to learn that Ashibah is certainly not your average DJ and music producer; she is in fact the youngest ever player on the Egyptian national basketball team.

“We were a basketball family, and my dad put a ball in my hand as soon as I could walk,” she recalls fondly. “I was really good at it so I played in school, and then I was going to head to college in the States, but I decided to go to Denmark and pursue music instead, because while I tried a lot of things, music was always the one thing that was loudest within me. However, I kept playing basketball and got better and better, and then I went to tryouts and made the national team which was an amazing time; it was so much fun. You get to travel and you meet so many great people when you play at that kind of level.

“I think that once you dedicate yourself to something and really go at it 110%, it elevates things to another level, and it was at that point I really felt like things completely changed with my music. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I decided that I’ll just learn everything about music production, as much as I possibly can!”

Keep an eye out for more new music from Ashibah, which Headliner is told will be dropping very soon…

Photography: Nikolaj Storm