Witty and emanating more life than a dozen of people, Miran Belhanafi, otherwise known as mad miran, is one of the most exciting new DJs in Amsterdam’s underground. The artist—a wizard at shaking up the dancefloor with unlikely tracks—seems to have mastered the art of captivating a crowd and, moreover, the art of being herself. With the production of her own music in the pipeline, Miran knows what she wants and what she dreams of. Music is her prime obsession, her outlet and source of energy, and mad miran is steadily on her way to become the go-to DJ for those that can sweat the club till sunrise. Catch up on our candid talk about letting go of expectations and unapologetically diving into what you love.
Hi Miran! First things first, can you tell me a little about where the name ‘mad miran’ comes from?
It was really hard to find a ‘name’, actually. One time, I was so mesmerised by DJ Stingray’s set that I ended up Googling for deep sea creatures I could name myself after. DJ Seaweed was almost born, haha! But ‘mad miran’ emerged last year, when I was in The Hague for the Intergalactic FM Festival—an amazing event with an insane number of big names playing. There was one problem, however. I had to leave halfway through the weekend because I was supposed to have breakfast with my mum on Sunday morning. I felt such frustration—those great artists playing literally meters away from me, and I had to take a bus back to Amsterdam. I shared my agitation with a friend of mine, and his response was: ‘Why so mad, Miran…’. I liked it, mad miran. I told people about it, then they’d randomly call me by that name, and on the day of my first Red Light Radio show, they sent me the artwork and it read, ‘Traumgarten with mad miran’. From that moment on, it has been my moniker.
What first prompted your interest in electronic music and your choice to become a DJ?
I found my way in electronic music through partying. I was fascinated with clubs, dancing to loud music, and as my interest grew, I starting going to bigger parties, looking up the artists online, checking their set times, their labels and so on. I never dug deep into just one thing—I was accumulating lots of good music from a variety of places and genres. Furthermore, my mother being an Afghani raised in Russia, and my dad being from Morocco, I grew up in an environment that was always open to new and different music. Having that background, and also the fact that I had collected tons of good music myself, I found a desire to place those tracks next to each other. I’d sit in the library and, instead of studying, I’d be mixing tracks online. That experience, together with the ongoing partying, made me wonder about the ways people would respond on the dancefloor if I were to put out a track. But for years I’d just keep it to myself, mixing tracks at home on a MIDI controller or on my first Xone:92 that my father and I had bought. Perhaps fear held me back, or the questions that people would ask if they knew I was making music. Yet, due to the frustration of never having heard my stuff on a proper sound system, together with the push from the right people around me, I was able to get out there and do what I love to do. Although I am still quite anxious before playing a set, I am nevertheless extremely grateful to be able to do this.
As a young artist in Amsterdam, how do you find the community around you? Does it nurture up and coming artists such as yourself?
Amsterdam’s community is a really dynamic one; the city is so active, and people tend to handle a lot of different things at the same time. Everyone constantly discovers new things and shares them with confidence, so if you put out something, a response quickly follows. If in other places people tend to stick to the same, because it’s safe, in Amsterdam everyone just takes a risk and does whatever it is they want to do. Such attitude of the people around me, who were just going for what they love, gave me confidence. For instance, for a long time I used to hide in the safe zone of my studies, thinking I should finish the three-year bachelor that I never really liked anyway. That’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, right? But the people around me in Amsterdam, their support and freedom of character, made me notice that this may not always have to be the only way to do things. I’m the one who chooses and decides, not others’ expectations.
How does Amsterdam influence you as an artist?
As I said, Amsterdam is really busy. That can give you a lot of space to do what you feel like doing, but you may also get lost in the franticness and all the opportunities the city offers to you. Personally, I get distracted easily, and due to all the changes in my life, it can sometimes become too much. I do love meeting new people in the city, yet doing that every week, diving into a familiar world, sometimes makes me self-aware. So, I tend to avoid big social situations, and I try to focus on what I’m doing right now, without feeling the need to live up to expectations, to be always available and ready. Also, I’m playing more and more often now, both locally and abroad, so my life is already quite hectic. As I’m writing this, I’m in Berlin, where I have just come from Portugal. Next week, I head to Morocco. I do feel blessed, but as much as I love travelling and doing what I do, I need a stable place that I can call home and where I can chill. By detaching myself, I find my strength.
And if you had one piece of advice for a young DJ emerging onto the Dutch scene, what would it be?
Be yourself and just focus on whatever it is that you love doing—don’t feel like you need to do something simply because others may like it. If you’re doing what you enjoy most, people will sense it as well. Also, get out of your comfort zone, follow your gut. Dance and jump your problems and sadness away. Don’t be afraid to do things alone, remember that you’re the only one in control of yourself. ‘Why so Buddha, Miran,’… [Laughs].
To the future! What do you see in store for mad miran?
I started playing public sets in September last year, and since then, I’ve had an intense year of new inspirational subjects and of learning more about myself. Thus, I’ll base my choices on that experience. One thing I’ve thought about is that if certain artists’ music moves me so much, what is it that I can also do to surprise my public just as much? Hence, I’ll be focusing on making my own music. And I’ll be doing that in Rotterdam; after having travelled a lot, I’ve got a clear view of how I’d like to build up my work flow and music in the chill vibe of that city.
In our latest issue, we explored the theme of OBSESSION. How would you define obsession?
That’s a hard question, since I’m really bad at defining things. For me, obsession is craving something that puts you in a state of trance, and spending all your energy on that something. A way out from any ordinary feelings.
Do you think this plays into your experience with music?
Personally, my obsession right now is music, as cliché as that may sound. For me, it’s that one thing I can spend all my energy on. Yet at the same time, it’s also what gives me energy back in crazy amounts and forms. Music makes me dance for hours and travel miles to see that person play. It makes me stay up till sunrise and lets me feel things on a level that goes deeper than any other thing can ever go.