On the stage, a young woman stands before a set of Pioneer DJ decks while dressed in a black blazer with metallic-silver details. Beneath cat-themed visuals and violet lights, she gazes across the crowd and fades the mixer into her signature deep house sound.
She stands surrounded by artwork created by women: the blazer and the cats were the brainchildren of Saudi women designers, and a woman photographer is capturing the scene. Rewind just three years, and none of this would have been imaginable.
Over four days in December 2021, more than 720,000 people descended on a sprawling, purpose-built site just outside of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. People from Saudi Arabia and all over the Middle East and a handful from Europe were there to attend the second edition of MDLBeast Soundstorm, the largest-ever music event in the Middle East and the first electronic music festival in Saudi Arabia.
Some 200 artists played across eight stages, featuring performances from high-profile American and European producers like David Guetta, Adam Beyer, and Nina Kraviz. But also on the line-up was a smattering of Saudi DJs with names like “Baloo” and “Vinyl Mode.” These DJs were leaders of a deep underground house and techno scene in Saudi Arabia dating back to the 1990s and early 2000s, back when dance parties were illegal. More remarkable still were the ten women Saudi DJs on the list: Biirdperson, Dorar, Kayan, Solskin, Danah, Mender, Mariam Arab, LeSad, Missy, and Cosmicat…