She came to Berlin for the music, without any support from home. This is Nur Jaber's journey from being bullied in school, to her worst pot smoking experience in Berklee College of Music and to finally becoming one of the cities most respected techno DJs.
Born and raised in Beirut, Nur Jaber was the quiet, withdrawn, and shy child. She didn’t have many friends and was bullied both at school for being chubby.
"I was very insecure and always at home with my parents. I was the chubby child, and you know how kids can be. My childhood was more unhappy I would say, but I always had a feeling that there was something better out there, without knowing what it was. So, I started searching for that, already as a child. "
Today she has found spirituality and is a completely different person than she was when she was young. When we meet Nur Jaber at a beer garden at Treptower Park, she gives a confident and calm impression. But the journey getting there has been long.
"I still consider myself a little bit insecure but I'm very social, I love to meet people, make connections and to have people around me. Today I would say that I have a lot of friends."
The journey, and the entrance to the music came through her father who played bass in a rock band. As a child, Nur started playing the piano and since she spent a lot of time by herself, the piano lessons became a much- needed escape from everyday life. Although as a teenager she switched to rock music and even played in a metal band herself.
"Music made me more confident, and I realized that this is where I belong. I was bullied from all sides. So, for me, music became the comfort."
She describes herself as a spiritual child, where music became the engine and the guide to the existence of something else, something bigger.
"I was very spiritual as a kid. When music came into my life, it started to activate the spiritual world for me. It's a thing I feel in my head, it's hard to explain. "
Nur Jaber was 17 years old the first time she left Lebanon herself. She had then been accepted to a music college in Boston, USA, and flew over for three months of college life.
"It was amazing, we were having house parties, smoked pot and I had one of my worst trips. I could not even move, and I got this outer body experience. My roommate had to carry me to the car, and I remember thinking "this is the American college life '" she says and laughs.
Her first contact with Berlin came after she graduated. Nur and some friends went to the city for travels, and she stayed a whole year, to party and discover everything that Berlin could offer. But the travels got interrupted by her dad.
"Then my dad grabbed me and took me back to Lebanon. I worked two years for him, helping with his business, but then I got depressed and decided to go back. My parents said they would not offer me any support, but I didn’t care. I had my savings, and I just left.
As a newcomer in Berlin, Nur played house music and got her first gig at Sage where she was a resident DJ in the smoking department. The friends and contacts she made during her earlier travels in the city helped her with finding a place to stay.
"I did not really have a job and I focused on learning the language. I wanted to be able to speak to the sound engineers and bouncers, to give them a good impression"
As a new DJ in Berlin, Nur Jaber took all the gigs she could get, along with waitressing, she was able to practice her German and started making some money. The family finally chose to give her their support after her mother visited – thanks to Kottbuser Tor.
"I was living with a friend in Kotti and you had to go through a passage where there were a lot of heroinists hanging out. That was when my father understood how much I wanted to invest in music and a life in Berlin and she decided to give a little financial help, which helped me so that I could wholeheartedly invest in my dream."
"I played at all clubs. Renate, Loftus Hall... That was how I started to make some money. Then I just wanted to quit because I had a nightmare gig. But my friend convinced me to continue and booked me to Watergate, where I had my last house set. At the after party, it all changed after I opened some techno folders, and I decided to go techno. I started to say no to all the house bookings and waited. "
The first time she visited Berghain was also an awakening and an introduction to techno.
"The moment I went into that club, I was like 'this will be my life for the next years'. It made me feel like home. Many people feel that. It’s a place that makes you forget about everything else."
Today, a little more than ten years after Nur Jaber set foot in Berlin, she is one of the city's most respected DJs. She often plays at Berghain and completed her first 11-hour gig in November before the pandemic. Rock music from her childhood and the old favorite bands, Megadeath, Black Sabbath, The Doors, Eagles and Kiss, to name a few, are all influences when she creates music today. Her spiritual awakening, which she was constantly looking for, occurred recently, and has left its mark, also on music. Listen to "Bring Back", which she today considers to be one of her best works.
Even her father, who didn’t accept techno music before, had his wake-up call. Today it’s not uncommon for Nur to find him among the comments on YouTube, with positive shouts.
"Now he's understanding and he's getting into what I'm doing. Whenever he’s commenting I'm like 'what woke you up now? Good morning dad!' Up until two years ago he was still calling me his business partner since I used to work with him. "
Her family and friends are the only contact she has with her home country and due to both the political situation and the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to play there for a long time.
"I really hope to play in Beirut one day again. Last time was a year and a half ago."
When we look back at how it all started and how Nur Jaber began her career, she has never compromised on what she wants to create. Her advice to young artists who want to succeed today is to be persistent.
"Take your time in finding your sound. Because it takes many gigs and a lot of experience to realize the sound you are forming. Release your music at a label you feel comfortable with. But also remember to stick to your own message and don't let anyone tell you what to do. "