I’ve come to notice this – or imagine it – about a lot of DJs I finally see out from behind a set of decks, but Omar Sherif is a lot taller than you’d think. He seems jolly enough, quite chilled and undemanding. It’s not till he sees the combination of a camera and freshly printed set of questions that he starts to wonder what he’s let himself in for, as he sits days away from a huge gig on Friday 3rd of November at Cairo Jazz Club, where he celebratesaten year residency alongside peers and friends such as Mohasseb, Shawky, Tahawy, Ashmawy and Shinnawy.
“I’m just thinking about the answers,” he says as he scans the piece of paper. “I want to try to get it right the first time.”
I don’t quite understand until I realise that he thinks this is a video interview. He goes onto explain, in quiet relief, that the last time he did a video interview, he kept fluffing his answers. After the brief interlude of confusion, he seems ten times more relaxed, even kicking back a little in his chair. He might be more comfortable with a set of headphones on and fine-tuning various knobs, but Omar is the kind of man you’d say ‘lives music’. He plays it, makes it, he’s a fan of it and he has no problem talking about it – just as long as he’s not being filmed, of course.
“In the late nineties, when electronic music was coming to Egypt, it was something completely new,” he remembers, before rifling off a list of the first electronic DJs and producers he first heard, almost with a sense of nostalgia. “Paul Van Dyk, ArminVan Burren,Tiesto, Hernan Cattaneo, Sasha – I was listening to all of those guys”
But back then, it wasn’t as easy for Egyptians to really get into electronic music.
“The machinery and all the equipment was really expensive and most of it didn’t exist in Egypt,” he explains. “But I got a few beginner pieces from abroad and tried to teach myself. I just improvised.”
But the first time Omar really considered this all as a serious career path was when he experienced music as a clubber, after all but giving up on what seemed like an impossible dream.