A conversation with Hakim Chatar
You might’ve seen him behind the decks at your local club or party. Maybe you saw him in Vandaag (VRT) or Influencers (VIER)? If you’re an artist that had the chance to perform at Tomorrowland, you probably had to pull quite some stunts to miss his wild head of hair in the Artist Village, being a capeless superhero, catering your needs. Knack Focus described him as “The Swiss pocketknife of the Flemish media” – and that’s utterly on point! Hakim Chatar’s resume wouldn’t fit on a standard A4, that’s for sure. Curious about how things are going these days in mediaville and for freelancers with #nosleepmadness, we decided to slide in the man’s DM’s and ask him a couple of questions.
What was your first reaction when you heard that we (despite never officially) went into lockdown?
“SHIT! No more, no less, just: SHIT! I already knew an hour in advance, because I was working for Vandaag at that time (which is part of VRT NWS) and we already heard through a colleague that there was going to be a “lockdown”.”
You are well known as a busy bee, a freelancer pur sang. #nosleepmadness is actually your trademark. When the lockdown started, which sectors/customers did you first notice to withdraw or post orders?
“First things I saw closing in my area were GOMEZ and CLUB 69 (both in Gent) for which I work sometimes – when it was said that cafes had to close. Soon after the first DJ booking, then the second, the third, … and after that the emails came in almost simultaneously. For my TV work it were mainly emails to say that they were going to postpone – same with the festivals.”
What assignment were you looking forward to the most?
“Tomorrowland. I have been working behind the scenes for the festival for almost 11 years. It’s a nice crew, nice atmosphere, the whole world is there, you get to meet a lot of new people, … And to top it off: this year I would’ve DJ’d there for the first time (besides the afterparty)! The first weekend back to back with my brother (Faisal Chatar) and weekend two back to back with my girlfriend (Jolien Roets). That way, in case of an emergency, I could continue working and solve the problem and the other one could finish the set (laughs).”
Will those assignments pop up in your schedule again when everything goes back to normal?
“Some release parties where I was going to be a support act have been canceled because of the restrictions. Very unfortunate for the artists especially. But most of the festivals or major events I was booked at have moved their entire lineups to 2021. So, yes, I think so – but it will be a while. TV assignments are just postponed, but there is no official date when we’ll pick up where we left yet.”
Ramadan… More time to contemplate now? Are there things that make it more difficult? Or just easier?
“Ramadan is not difficult in itself, only the first week takes some searching and getting rid of a couple of habits (coffee in the morning, for example). I do sometimes open the refrigerator, just to have a look … And I might be a bit more cranky or ‘hangry’. I do cook a lot more on weekends now and my girlfriend also cooks more for me during the week to make sure that I eat well and don’t go wild on that fast food life. For example, yesterday I spent 6 hours in the kitchen for a delicious harira and batbot (meal soup and filled sandwiches).
Sugar Feast … how are the plans there?
“We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe we can all get back together by then. That would be great, because I miss my family very much.”
Any way to make up for all of that missing out?
“A bit of bumming out, bit of looking forward to next year… I do think we shouldn’t forget that there are other things besides festivals. For example: I miss my family and friends much more than a random festival. I lost my grandmother during this period. But we can’t travel to Morocco to say goodbye properly. And we’re not the only ones in this kind of situation. Suppose that smaller festivals won’t be allowed by the government, then I will mainly do a lot of BBQs with friends and family, have a couple of drinks on one of the city’s many terraces, some quality time with my girlfriend… And maybe do a live stream here and there (winks).”
What do you hope people learn / remember from the whole Covid saga?
“Corona is a kind of master who tells you to go outside of the classroom for a while because you chat too much. That we all – including myself – should not complain too much about how little time we have and how busy this week was… Take a little more time and enjoy everything you have. In the end everything works out …The one thing that I will really miss are the quiet roads. NO traffic jams … AWE-SOME. (I have an essential profession so I am not just cruising, FYI)”
And the government?
“They asap have to hire someone who can make good power points (laughs). The government is always going to be the boogyman. People are angry because they can’t go outside, people are angry because they can go outside too soon, … I don’t always agree with what they say either, but that doesn’t urge me to spill my opinion on Facebook.
This virus and the situation caused by it is new to everyone, so it’s a struggle for everyone. We should be happy that we’re able to laugh at a bad Powerpoint instead of having a government that says we have to inject disinfectant!”
Hakim wouldn’t be Hakim if your entrepreneurial self wouldn’t be able to sit still. I saw your new Podcast (to give it a name because it is also with images, let’s not go too technical) flash by. Was this something you already had in mind to try out or was it in response to “the crisis”?
“My brain works in a weird way. Sometimes something pops up in my head and then I write that in my notes. Every now and then I take a look at those notes and think “oh, wow, what was I thinking?”, and other times it’s more like “hmm ok, let’s do this”. That podcast idea had been in there for a while before the crisis, and it’s far from where it should be, but it is trial and error. I usually try to do something and I see where we end up. But I thought, “Let’s work on that and scratch it off my to-do list.”
Is there something you learned from isolation? Does not necessarily have to be a skill or language, can of course also be self-development or discovery.
“No, not really. Because even though everything in music / nightlife has come to a standstill, I am still working for TV – a topicality program – which consumes a lot of hours. We even received extra airtime due to other TV programs that were cancelled because of the crisis. Next to that, I handle FAISAL’s affairs. I do all of his paperwork and business related stuff so that he only has to focus on his music. So, to answer your question, I haven’t really had time to think about anything ‘new’. I do feel that my creativity is on the back burner at the moment, which is a pity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I can still work, but I don’t have much time left to be 100% creative. However, I guess a lot of people can relate.”
Normally you are also very active and present at the festivals every year. What will you miss the most?
“The atmosphere, the people you only meet during the festivals. The networking, and of course you just have fun and discover new things! I like to walk around and observe. I always wonder “how the hell dit they do this” or “wow, how much money did they put into this show – and the music is even quite OK too” (laughs)”
Which Instagram filter should be developed ASAP?
“A filter that tells you what to eat or what to cook! Or which event you should go to that day and per weekend there’s an update! BAM! Now make it and send it to me (laughs).”
Virtual parties: do you see the concept growing or will it stick to those sporadic live streams that you see passing by at StuBru and others?
“Before the crisis I had everything ready to set up a live stream, but in this lockdown I was finally able to try it out. I do think the folks behind Boiler Room are probably cursing their asses off like “what the f**ck, we were first, bro!” (Laughs). I see hundreds of streams pass by every weekend, so sometimes it’s hard to choose and it might be a bit too much. Obviously, that moment I’m like “I’m going to set up one myself”. Et voila, another stream! That’s all great and nice for now. And obviously that can continue after the crisis, but hopefully in combination with actual parties and events. Just a pity that Facebook and Youtube ar very fast to hand out copyright claims. They should actually make somekind of license that you can buy as a DJ to be able to play a livestream/liveset without interruption, that way you still pay the necessary rights.”
As a big ginger beer and ginger ale fan, did you try making your own confinement ginger beer in the meantime?
“(Laughs) No, during Ramadan I make more typical Moroccan dishes. Also, I’m not going to start baking like crazy, like every Belgian apparently does at the moment.”
3 tips to stay sane in confinement:
1. Don’t stress. LIMIT your news intake! No sharing links from sites like www.news24.tk with the heading “EVENTS CANCELED UNTIL 2023”. Stick to the facts, it’s not all or nothing.
2. Don’t be too strict with yourself. It’s okay to not feel okay sometimes… Try to find some relief by video chatting with friends or family who can help you feel better. And sometimes it’s fine to just sit on the couch in your underwear and do nothing while eating chips.
3. Try to rediscover yourself. Life is more than just baking bread and cakes. Who knows, you may have skills you never knew you had.
As previously mentioned, you also do some TV work. Do you see lasting measures in that sector? Stuff that will not be easily wiped off the set? Strict hygiene control, keep distance, no wrap parties,….?
“Unfortunately, those wrap parties are postponed. And the program we are currently shooting has very strict rules concerning hygiene. I can provide you with a list of where we should pay attention. We are very involved with that. My hands are extremely dry due to all the washing ..
I do wonder if we are going to keep shaking hands and kissing. Because I don’t think we’ll do that for the first few weeks after the lockdown …”
If you had to dedicate a number to Covid, it was….
Because we’ve all had some time for ourselves. Stayed inside. And we now deserve to have a proper party.”