Techno Queen, Nicole Moudaber at SXM Festival: A VMag Exclusive

Techno Queen, Nicole Moudaber at SXM Festival: A VMag Exclusive

"La Reina de Techno" is spilling all the tea about her experience as a DJ, activist, and woman.

"La Reina de Techno" is spilling all the tea about her experience as a DJ, activist, and woman.

Text: Reshmi Kaur Oberoi

Day 1 - Happy Bay, Sint Marteen

Nicole Moudaber, “La Reina de Techno,” is one of the headliners at the SXM festival in Sint Marteen – a bifurcated but very much bipartisan Dutch and French territory where the motto is “be nice” and everyone chimes in with the national joke, “that will be x-dollars,” followed by a chuckle and “just kidding.” Who isn’t kidding? The reigning queen – she isn’t kidding when she says she doesn’t care for the label, “female DJ,” or fellow house, techno, and dance music ravers’ penchant for mocking those who dare to cross over into more mainstream music. For Moudaber, those people need to live and let live. Make no mistake, this techno equivalent to the queen of pop; Lady Gaga - who just appeared on V’s latest cover for her 25th time – isn’t a wandering gypsy. She’s a nomad. She has a destination, multiple in facts, on tour in over 25 cities and 110 shows in 2018 and a North American tour from March until May. She’s already on a flight to Miami where she is set on “showing some love” to her unseen apartment, her place of recourse.

V met up with Lebanese-born, Nicole, at the premiere 5-star hotel on Sint Maarten’s French side, the Belmond La Samanna. Escorted by her camera-wielding agent, Adri, Moudaber settled on sitting on the cushioned wicker chairs on the hillside terrace. Dressed all in black – a loose-fitting, wrinkle-free, black crew-neck over a relaxed ankle-length black pant that unintentionally resembled the parole – a sarong-like garment well-known amongst the French side’s famed Pinel Island, black slide-ons, and large square-framed black sunglasses. Her characteristic wild mane was simply fluffed with her palms. “It’s full of oil right now,” she said with a smile.

In line with the SXM pluralistic spirit – catering to no one in particular in spite of its niche musical genre – house and techno – Moudaber wants everyone to be moved by the music, everyone to have the opportunity to share in experiences that the privileged get to experience. For example, her radio station, Mood, broke all records for their live broadcasting at the musical conference held in Ibiza, beating out 500 other stations. “Everyone wants Ibiza, so we gave the world a piece of that.” She prides herself for assembling a broadcast that proved able to compete with the mainstream stations by leaps and bounds, but she also proclaims “I don’t consider myself and techno music to be the minority.” Moudaber is a citizen of the world – quite literally.

When asked where home is, she had no answer except: “within myself.” While one could be quick to judge this as having a penchant for maintaining an air of mystery, usually designated by a pseudonym, Moudaber follows up without missing a beat – pun intended. “I am rooted within myself,” she said. “In this line of work, you have to be. You’re worked to the ground and if you don’t adapt to different environments, you’re bound to be scattered.” She skirted around the question of family, her native Lebanon or any early memories. It was as if her life started in university, where she was first introduced to dance music and raves. Moudaber studied the humanities, an interdisciplinary combination of sociology, history, and anthropology. She minored in women’s studies.

It’s no surprise then that on International Women’s Day, she dropped a mix to critical acclaim that highlighted an array of women artists including old-school songs from techno pioneer, Anne Clark, to pop sensations Aretha Franklin and Madonna, to millenial-favorite, Janelle Moneae. The sun was setting and the horizon turned orange, the wind picked up, the waves rolled, and dusk was approaching, but there was no mistaking her instantaneous shifting and the ginger-way she pushed down her glasses frames to look me in the eye when I broached the subject of the sexist “female DJ” v “DJ” label, the former of which she considers an unnecessarily sexist label.

Moudaber is passionate about one very pointed subject matter regarding women. FGM: Female Genital Mutilation. Her first introduction to it was in college, but the academic setting did nothing to provoke her. It wasn’t until she was in her London apartment with CNN on in the background, that she literally sprang into action. “I heard screams from the other room. Sounds that came out of a 7-year-old-child,” she recalled, clearly shaken. “I ran to the other room and saw what was going on. Of course, it wasn’t explicit, but I saw a razor and her legs,” Moudaber said. It was enough to imprint a not-soon-forgotten image. And the result was her FGM victim advocacy organization, Eleven, partnered with fellow-England resident, a journalist and psychologist, Leyla Hussein.

Moudaber’s participation in SXM, though short-lived, falls in line with the collective spirit that the festival embodies, actively participating in post-Hurricane Irma relief and sources all of the décor and labor (apart from the architects, visual and sound artists for quality-proofing to ultimately serve the audience – including the islanders), from the Island itself. The revenue procured by the festival has made Sint Maarten a thriving multinational community built on treating tourists as their own – haggling and ripping off is a non-issue on the island.

When asked about how Moudaber, feminist defined, felt about the meme of her that she retweeted earlier this month that read: “You’re allowed 5 emotional minutes a day-“ Moudaber then chimed in laughing, “Then you have to be Gangsta.” Wasn’t that a jab – connecting women with being emotional? According to the musical maven, the fandom couldn’t be more correct. “You have to adapt and be rooted within yourself,” she said. But she puts on no airs, admitting that she still needs work and is in her second week working with a spiritual therapist – someone who she said she has known for 7 years, who knows her inside out and doesn’t judge her.

Upon initial judgment, with a Cliffside hotel built into the backdrop, a bar that charges six dollars for bottled water and twelve dollars for a modest fruit platter and an agent who tried to capture her photo with the adrenaline of paparazzi, Moudaber came off as a Diva. But as soon as she sat down and spoke freely, in between puffs of cigarette smoke, before we said our goodbyes and bypassing the professional handshake, dove into a hug, there was no mistaking that underneath her all her layers – “Producer / Composer, DJ, Radio Hos, Music Lover, Professional Car Racer, Philanthropist, and Human Rights Activist” – she’s just a human trying to leave her mark on an unforgiving world.

Credits: Images via Nicole Moudaber.

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