Nur Jaber, a Lebanese DJ currently setting stages alight across Europe, risked it all by moving to Berlin to pursue her dream. From Beirut to playing drums and the bass in a basement studio in Boston, Jaber has gone on to work with some of the world’s leading DJs. Here, she tells her story in her own words.
Look, I know it sounds cheesy, but if you believe in yourself then nothing will stop you. Some people fight fearlessly for love, their education, or to be the boss of a multi-million dollar company. I fought for music, to get my space on the stage where I could translate certain emotions through sound. I’m still very much on the journey, but that’s what keeps it interesting for me – the fight, the chase, the hunger to be the best that I can be.
It all started with my father introducing me to classical music when I was eight. I became infatuated with the sounds of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. I vividly remember one particular moment. I was in my parents’ bedroom dancing away to one of Bach’s symphonies in my pyjamas. I had my mum’s elegant white scarf in my hands, swaying from side to side. I felt a rush of joy, looked in the mirror and suddenly realised that that was what I wanted to do – to write a symphony, and unite the world through the language of music. I get emotional thinking about it. It’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives and then forget to pause and reflect.
As the years went by, my father introduced me to a new world of music. I soon discovered Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Dream Theatre and all things rock and metal. It was the perfect outlet to release all my high school angst. Music soon became my vessel to escape the world I was confronted with.
I went to Berklee College of Music in Boston to study drums in jazz and rock and started listening to Tiesto and Armin van Buuren. They were my saviours and they opened up my spiritual side. It was at this point that I began singing and writing lyrics. Inspired by Janis Joplin, my basement studio – with my Fender bass guitar, Fender speaker and Yamaha drum kit – became my personal sanctuary. I started going to trance raves in Beirut. They were so euphoric. My highlights would be when there was a live vocalist, Susana to be specific, with Armin van Buuren. A few years later, a single post-graduation trip to Berlin and its famous Berghain dancefloor changed the entire course of my life.
Back in Beirut I continued working with my father but also took DJ and music production lessons at Per-vurt. At some point I became really depressed, and took a two-month break in Goa for some healing and cleansing. When I came back, I knew what it was I wanted to do – move to Berlin to become a DJ.
My parents were not happy with the idea, and were very opposed to me playing in clubs for ‘people who take drugs’. It wasn’t what respectable women do. This is what my dad and many of my male DJing peers told me, but that just made me want to go even more. I realise now that by making that move I took a huge step towards fighting for my feminine shakti energy, and for the rest of the women in Lebanon.
I arrived in Berlin, with little cash and zero experience on how to live and sustain yourself in a foreign country. I didn’t speak the language, and people weren’t friendly. I cried most nights. The culture shock was hard, but I kept fighting, kept believing.
I took German courses, and started going to clubs and afterparties, meeting people, making connections and playing every single club in Berlin. €50 to play an 8 hour set? Sure! Where and when? Anything that could help me survive and acheive my dream. However, in 2015 after a house set on the waterfloor at Watergate club, I decided to stop playing and wait for that Berghain opportunity.
It was around 2016 when my sister and I started to throw parties at a small club in Beirut. We put on nights with Dax J, Rebekah, The Gods Planet and Objekt. Crazily enough, in the midst of this I received a message from a girl I met in Berlin, asking me if I wanted to play at Berghain after a concert she was throwing. That was what I’d been waiting for. I took the gig.
As it turned out, the bookers for Berghain watched me play that private show, and a few months later I was playing a Klubnacht show. This was the key moment for me as an artist. The moment that made me realise that every single obstacle I overcame was worth it. I made it. A Lebanese woman made it to the Berghain stage and after that many amazing stages and festivals around the globe, playing with some of the world’s top DJs. You see, dreams really do come true.