Is she Dubai's youngest DJ?
She's managed to garner quite a bit of attention, both online and in the DJing circle.
"I have so much energy!" says Mishel Rasul, who runs ahead of me to find a spot at Café Nero in Golden Mile Galleria. Her parents, Vagif Rasulov and Saida Rasulova, tell me that she has just had hot chocolate and the sugar rush is to be blamed.
No ordinary seven-year-old, Mishel aka DJ Michelle (as is her stage name), is the youngest DJ in the UAE. With approximately 37,900 followers on Instagram, she's managed to garner quite a bit of attention, both online and in the DJing circle.
Mishel might have started DJing professionally at the age of 5, but she's been surrounded by her father's scratching ever since she was born in Baku, Azerbaijan. DJ Shock is a freelance DJ here in Dubai and has been in the business for 25 years. Playing open format, he starts with disco music of the 90s, before moving on to house music and hip-hop. He's also Mishel's father.
When Mishel was younger, she would watch her father practice at home. At just one-and-a-half years old, she decided to join him. "She'd always push some buttons," recalls DJ Shock.
"She's so close to her father and wants to do everything like him," says Saida, her mother. "She started to show interest quite early, but we didn't know she would want to be a DJ. And we never really pushed her to be one, either. When kids know exactly what they want, it's really precious, but she knows that even if she changes her mind tomorrow, we will support her."
Mishel joins in, "They always ask, 'Do you really want to be a DJ?' and I always say yes, of course, please, please. I love that there's music, because I don't even want to think how I would live without music."
When Mishel was five years old, she joined DJ Shock at Dubai Mall for his "Beats Under the Dome" live performances. At first, she would dance as her father scratched, but one weekend, she decided to take a spin in front of the audience and that's when her career took off. Saida recalls, "When she first performed, I was worried. But when it ended, she said 'Mum, I want to do it again tomorrow.'"
From just 5,000 followers on Instagram, DJ Michelle grew to collaborate with the rich and famous. Recently, she was featured in DJ Slim and Kevin Lyttle's music video, 'Nikki' which will be out by the end of this month.
As Mishel talks about her gigs, she gets distracted by a husky. "We also want to get a dog, I want an Akita Inu, but it's too big, so we're getting a poodle," she says. "I'm saving money so that after I perform a bunch of times, I can get one."
Her parents tell me that though she doesn't get to keep all the money she earns, they often buy her what she wants, like her limited edition sneakers to Lego sets, Funko Pop! and an Apple laptop. Her school fee is also paid for with her money.
Dressed in denim shorts, Yeezy 700 Wave Runner sneakers, a backwards cap and a pink shirt that reads 'Smile like Good Girls', Mishel can't seem to sit still.
We ask her if she had to skip school for this interview. Mishel says that she did not have to as she is doing online schooling. "As Mishel is gifted, it's more convenient since we have to travel and participate in different events," says Saida. "Even though her gigs are usually on the weekends, she wants to dedicate more time to DJing. This way, she can."
"And also, because I don't really have to wake up so early," pitches in Mishel. "Because sometimes when I perform, I come home late."
"Late means 10pm," adds Saida.
DJ Michelle demonstrates her scratching, and in what looks like a pretty complicated process of playing with the crossfader with her right hand and scratching the vinyl record with her left, she scrubs according to the beats DJ Shock plays on his phone. And though everyone cannot be experts on scratching and DJing, even untrained ears will be able to tell the difference from when she first began - a video of her first performance is available on Instagram - to now, just two years later.
Now, all of seven, DJ Michelle uses her turntable and mixer she got from Numark once she became their brand ambassador. In her videos on Instagram, she scratches and often mixes two songs together. Just recently, she mixed her favourite Bad by Michael Jackson with Bad Guy by Billie Eilish. She tells us about the process behind most of her videos. "My mom isn't a DJ, but she is the one who usually comes up with ideas. When we get all of the songs that we need, my dad tries them out and then they show it to me. I then practice to get them right."
Saida, a children's portrait photographer and DJ Michelle's official momager, often runs her ideas by DJ Shock to see if they can be implemented, technically. But when the ideas come from DJ Michelle herself, she immediately starts trying them out on her turntable to see if they are doable.
"I don't use all the buttons, but I use effects, like the echo and the backspin. I also use the crossfader, because it helps make combinations of effects. Without that, it's just baby scratches," says DJ Michelle, who loves hip-hop, rock and disco music. Now, she's begun producing her own beats, on her father's laptop, by putting together cubes of effects and voices on Garage Band.
I can't imagine many parents would be comfortable having their children delve into a career in DJing, but DJ Shock is reassuring when he says, "Mishel usually performs at private parties, at open air events, and DJing is stable in Dubai."
From her friends' birthday parties to Zumba sessions in parks, DJ Michelle carefully curates her playlist with her father. With a wide audience in mind - from kids her age to adults - DJ Michelle often says "Yeah, this is cool, the kids are gonna like it" or simply, "No, just no" as she picks her favourite songs for the day's performance.
"As a DJ, you can't just stand there and press buttons," DJ Michelle tells me animatedly. "You have to be happy and that's what I like to do. You know how some kids are really shy? That's not me."