Mustafa Ismaeel is a DJ and Producer from Toronto who is constantly redefining his musical boundaries while creating vibrant, profound and unique journeys. His multicultural background and nomadic lifestyle is a major influence of his art; Born in Iraq, growing up in India and maturing in Canada has added to the versatility and universe of his music.
Sharing his music and energy around the world along with having multiple releases on well established record labels; Mustafa has nothing but huge prospects to offer.
Hi Mustafa, Happy New Year! How are you and how did you spend the New Year celebrations?
Hi guys, Happy New Year to you too!
To be honest it wasn’t the most interesting NYE because Toronto went into partial shut down a week before new years so my new year gig got cancelled so did all the events in the city, but I had some quality time with my close friends regardless and enjoyed the intimate vibe.
For our readers who aren’t familiar, please tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a DJ/producer based in Toronto-Canada. My heritage is middle eastern, both my parents are Iraqi and I was born in Baghdad. I moved to India with my parents when I was 10 years old, which was quite an interesting experience. I grew up in the expat and diplomatic communities in New Delhi. Me and my friends started promoting events there at a very young age, after that most of my friends either became Rappers, Reggae Djs or MC’s but I personally was mostly just enjoying music as a listener.. When I was 20 years old I moved to Canada and went to university there doing Environmental Civil Engineering but my passion for music remained strong and I felt like mixing music at home for fun, so I bought a small DJ controller and soon I started djing at house parties just for friends, the rest is history. In 2012 I started producing music and then in 2015 I quit my engineering job and went on a 1 year musical inspirational journey around the world. First destination was Berlin, where I stayed for 2 months doing a mixing and mastering course and exploring the amazing club scene of Berlin, which was very inspiring and exciting for me. One of my favourite labels from Berlin at the time was Steyoyoke with which I eventually ended up signing a single. Then I visited and played some gigs around the world utilizing the expat friends network I grew up with and just hustled my way through basically. After that trip, my life and perspective was not the same anymore. I knew that this was the life I wanted and this was the journey I wanted to take on as a career. When I came back to Toronto I was a part of a record label, an events company and a music promotion company. I basically did it all while still working on my music production and playing gigs in the city and around the region. Burning Man has also been a huge inspiration to me and my art. But that’s a story that deserves a talk on its own .
-Your new release ‘Right Here’ is released on Rebellion in January. Can you tell us about the release and how it was made?
So it is a 4 track EP that in my opinion captures the essence of the music that I play and produce. I produced most of these tracks during the first half of 2021 when I was basically in the studio in full force. After a trip I had to Colombia I came back and I was very inspired to create dance music that is still somewhat deep and melodic yet dancy and playable on peak hours. It is produced in my studio in Toronto. I used many virtual synths like Diva, Massive, Dune, Arturia and also vocal samples from sample packs and Splice. It’s an EP that naturally came to life without really meaning to make the tracks as an EP. When I make music, I like to maintain my artistic freedom and make something based on my mood. I usually come up with a general direction in the first hour and the rest follows. I’ve learned during my years of music production to keep the ideas flowing and not get hung up on details and personal judgements from the beginning. everything can be changed, improved or altered later on.
-When it comes to DJing and producing, which do you prefer?
Good question, well I see myself first as a DJ. I am an avid music lover, I am pretty much a people’s person, and I love events and curating the vibe so djing comes very naturally to me. As for production, I really love and enjoy it because it brings out the nerdy and engineering side of me, it’s sometimes challenging and very time consuming but it makes me focus more and forces me to have a more stable and structured life which i think most of us need and it’s not an easy thing to achieve. At this point I think having and doing both side by side is a great balance.
-Can you tell us a bit about the music scene in Toronto?
The music scene in Toronto has been really growing in a fascinating way. And although we suffer from lack of venues and high prices of real estates, there has always been many good parties and underground clubs. The crowd was usually not as specific or “deep” about the music they listen to except for a few crews, but I am observing that this is all changing and the amount of listeners and party goers has also increased by many folds. The only real problem we are facing now is the government’s regulations and restrictions due to Covid.
Who are your biggest musical influences and why?
This is a hard question to answer for me because I am really inspired by many musicians and DJs from a wide range of genres. But as a more general answer I would say outside the electronic music world I think for me The Doors, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson were huge inspirations alongside too many that if I start mentioning the list might never end. Inside the electronic music world, I was always inspired by Hernan Cattaneo, Jamie Jones and Damian Lazarus. As producers I think Guy Gerber, Chaim, Matthew Dekay, and now Dennis Cruz.
What are the top three tracks you are playing at the moment?
– Angelo Ferreri, Moon Rocket – Love Vibes (Original Mix)
– High Soundsystem & Tapesh – Bodyworkin
– Kryptogram – How Long Have You Been Away
-Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
I like traveling a lot and since I lived in many countries in my life it almost comes naturally. I am lucky that now I can travel with purpose. Sports and fitness is another hobby of mine, I grew up playing soccer (football) all my life.
-Do you have any upcoming gigs or releases this year that you would like to tell us about?
Yes, I have 2 more releases coming out fairly soon. Both are collaborations but 2 different styles and vibe and at the moment I’ve started working on another EP but it’s in the early stages and I’m not rushing myself with it to be honest.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today!