Fafa Khan’s first chance to DJ fell into her lap, but she ran with the opportunity in the years since. Even though becoming a DJ wasn’t in her original plans, the resulting success makes sense. Fafa Khan grew up surrounded by the arts. She studied fine, visual, and graphic arts, as well as art history. Throughout school, she danced and taught hip hop, which allowed her to simultaneously learn about the music industry. She has always worked hard to be well-rounded.
New woman on the scene
When Fafa was eighteen, a friend and restaurant owner asked her to casually DJ for him on Saturday evenings. The only equipment he had was a laptop and an iPod set up behind the bar, but it worked. “I just chose songs,” Fafa said. “It ended up being one of the craziest nights! There was a lineup around the block to get in.”
From this first opportunity, Fafa dove into the industry. When promoters approached her to DJ at clubs, she took the chance to learn. “That’s when I learned how to DJ on real equipment,” she said. “I just kept practicing.” Within a year, fans could find Fafa at clubs and parties across Montreal spinning hip hop, R&B, reggae, and trap.
Despite being unexpectedly given her first opportunity, Fafa worked every day since to build her reputation as a DJ. She remembers when she approached Buonanotte, asking to open for their DJs. Eventually, she earned herself a spot as the Friday night resident DJ. “All the clubs started talking about the new female DJ on the scene,” she said. When she earns residency, she holds onto those spots for years, and keeps her crowds dancing all night. From the numbers alone, it’s easy to see that Montreal loves to dance with DJ Fafa Khan.
DJ Fafa Kahn at Osheaga’s afterparty
DJ Fafa Khan has played sets around the world, but the 2017 Osheaga afterparty is a recent success that she is especially proud of. “I was so nervous about it because all of the VIPs, artists, and important DJs in the scene were there,” she said.
This crowd was harder to please than her usual following—they were artists themselves, or listen to music regularly. Some may have heard of Fafa, but never heard her play. It was another chance to prove herself as an artist, instead of just a club DJ.
“I ended up killing the set. Everyone was jamming all night. They wanted me to play past 3 o clock,” she said. “The reaction you get from the crowd is addictive. I like the challenge of keeping people going.”
Women in the industry
At every gig, Fafa actively works to represent women in a male-dominated industry. She has experienced both men fighting against her, and working with her. “Since I started in the game, there were not a lot of female DJs,” Fafa said. “I’ve always being a strong female in male dominant circles. I stand up for girls in any industry having to fight against men who don’t want to see us surpass them.”
Despite being in the music industry since she was eighteen and jumping into DJing full-time, Fafa has been forced to prove herself time and again. “To this day I still have to prove myself,” she said. “People judge me just on my appearance, and are completely surprised when I start playing.” Every time she plays, she shows others in the industry that she books gigs because she works for them.
Fafa wants to send the message to women in any industry to stand their ground, stay strong, and continue to move forward despite any challenges that stand in the way. Hard work leads to success. “You just have to stay positive and professional,” she said. “They can’t argue with your results.” For Fafa, results are dancing crowds in packed clubs. “I keep everyone here and they loved me.”
Beats by DJ Fafa Khan
The next challenge for Fafa Khan is to produce original music. “As a DJ, to get to the next level as an artist, you have to start producing,” she said. “People have to see what comes out of you authentically in terms of sound.”
As an artist with experience in visual arts, dance, and music, she values well-roundedness. “As an artist, you want to do several things at one time. I love tapping into everything.” Musically, the goal is to create authentic music that represents her real sounds. She hopes to be able to tour with musicians, and producing original beats for them.
Fafa takes advantage her slower fall and winter months to focus on her own production. Through the summer she plays five or six nights a week, but only three or four in the winter.
“I have been naturally producing hip hop and trap beats from scratch,” Fafa said. Fafa plans to release new music this fall season. “I think the vibe of the music I’m making is darker and aligns with the changing season. I think it’s an appropriate time for people to hear it,” she said. “People have to be in the zone, in the mood, in the season. I wait for the right moment to share my work.”
Although Fafa didn’t plan on becoming a DJ, she’s thankful for every opportunity she receives or creates for herself. “By keeping a positive attitude and loving music, it fell into my lap,” she said. “That was the best gift I could ever get.”
Find DJ Fafa Khan in Montreal
Find Fafa Khan in the DJ booth at Sumwhr on Thursdays and Buonanotte on Fridays. She takes a new stage every Saturday: follow @fafakhan on Instagram to see her updated schedule.