European DJ brings girl power to Beirut’s electro scene

BEIRUT: In the wee hours Sunday morning, just after DJ Francesca Lombardo finished her set at an industrial warehouse turned rave site in Sin al-Fil, her Facebook page was buzzing with comments and likes from local electronica aficionados. “U were AMAZING....still can’t believe ur a female. Respect,” one commenter wrote. It’s a refrain Lombardo has heard many times before. “Since I started, I’ve always been talking to people about this,” she said of gendered commentary. “I think just the fact that people are so concerned about [my gender] shows that it’s so new.”

But as Lombardo assumed her position at the DJ booth somewhere between Saturday night and Sunday morning, it was clear that she could handle her own in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.

Electronic dance music devotees of all stripes packed shoulder to shoulder at Station, a Sin al-Fil music venue, to see her spin. A sizeable contingent of female fans turned out for Lombardo’s set, taking to the strobe-lit dance floor en masse. Unlike some nightspots where tacit dress codes favor the scantily clad and high-heeled, a decidedly casual vibe prevailed at Station, mirroring Lombardo’s own laid back bearing.

“I have a lot of female fans. I’m glad that every time I play, I have females in front of me. I mean you would expect them maybe not to be,” Lombardo told the Daily Star.

Since the inception of electronic dance music in the 1980s, the genre has been led by male figures. Male DJs like Deadmau5, Daft Punk and Avicii have become household names, but few female artists have achieved similar fame.

Lombardo believes this trend is changing, if slowly. “It’s getting bigger and bigger,” she said of female DJs. Achieving gender parity, she said, “is going to be hard. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

She said despite the challenges, she was respected by her male peers in the industry. “They take me more seriously than I take myself,” she said, adjusting her leopard-print sweater.

Larger female representation is part of a general maturing of the genre, Lombardo said. Amphetamine use, long considered a staple of electronic music raves, is less pervasive than before, she also noted.

“The good thing is that when I first started, people were taking a lot of drugs,” Lombardo said. “When I see young people today, [the drug use] is not as much.”

“It’s a more educated audience rather than just being there for the [drugs],” she explained.

Despite the late nights, occasional audience intoxication and boys-club quality common in the electronic music scene, Lombardo says she is happiest behind the DJ booth. “It took 10 years to get here,” she said. “I’m in it for the love. I couldn’t live without doing it.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 18, 2014, on page 2.




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