'Rejected for being a woman': How Sabrina Terence became one of Dubai's most-sought-after DJs

The music influencer talks about carving a niche in a domain dominated by men

By Manju Ramanan

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Published: Wed 7 Feb 2024, 5:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Feb 2024, 8:59 AM

At three years of age, Sabrina Terence, born and raised in East Germany (before the demolition of the Berlin Wall) told her friends and family that she was going to travel the world and live in a warm country next to the sea. They laughed and made fun of her but all of it came true. However, what the well-known DJ and model hadn’t dreamt was that she would jump onstage and play music for 15,000 people.

Sabrina has a degree in interior design but she pursued modelling back home in Germany and even owned a modelling agency. After her marriage, she came to Dubai 17 years ago and continued to model here. In one of her visits to Club 360 near Burj Al Arab, she noticed that most DJs there were men. Her love for music instantly made her want to be a DJ and she drove to the only shop in Dubai selling DJ equipments back then. “Om Records from Karama was amused to see a blonde woman shop for DJ equipment,” says Sabrina.

Her first "targets" were guests at her barbecue parties. “We used to live in a villa at Al Barsha and at one of our parties, one guest once even asked me to stop playing so much music. I was trying out and obviously wasn’t that good at that time."

Later, Sabrina got an offer from the New Asia Club at Wafi Mall that was owned by three Lebanese brothers. “The boys gave me a chance to play there. A lot of places had already rejected me because they would prefer a man for the job, not a woman. At that time, I was live on German radio, mixing for them but I didn’t have to face a crowd. Here I had to and I developed cold feet. I got anxious and told them I might not want to come and they told me that 800 people were waiting to see me. I faced my fears and showed up.”

That successful gig opened doors to other events in Dubai and soon she was the most sought after DJ in town. “In 2008, I started my fan page on FB and every time I took a trip abroad for a gig, 10,000 followers would increase. I soon had 10 million followers and I toured several places including Pune, Hyderabad, Goa, Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram. In fact, I have travelled in India more than many Indians. And the rest of the world too caught up and I was invited everywhere, even Costa Rica, Mexico etc. My dream of travelling the world was coming true at a great speed.

Along with accolades comes negative feedback from jealous people and Sabrina got her share of it too. “But you have to keep going and never give up,” she says. Life was one big frantic party and her marriage fell apart in 2011 and she suffered a burn out in 2015. In one of her trips to Thailand at a meditation session, she hit upon painting as a career. “I didn't want to keep deejaying till I was 50 years of age and was seeking another mode of expression. So when I came back to Dubai, I started painting. All my fans supported me and bought my work and I decided to have an exhibition.”

Sabrina’s first exhibition in Germany as an artist was in space. “The painting went up to a height of 220,000 feet with a Helium balloon. At the stratosphere, the balloon burst and the paintings, attached to parachutes, would sail down. Usually the parachutes land in the sea or get lost, but my painting landed 500km from my home, in a forest, perched on a tree. The organisers asked me if I needed it and I said yes and a man climbed the tree to retrieve my painting. I feel it is a special one. When I have my exhibitions, I make sure to bring it out. I have encased it in a flexbox with video streaming on how it was retrieved. Many of my clients offered to buy the piece but I declined,” she says.

Today Sabrina works on niche events and is an artist. Her next exhibition is in New York and is called ‘The Circle of Life’ and her next event is at the helipad of the Burj Al Arab thematised in gold around the gold cube sculpture by German contemporary artist Niclas Castello.

When Sabrina came to Dubai nearly two decades ago, the music scene was largely dominated by men. A lot has changed since then with more women turning the tables. Life, indeed, has come full circle for the girl of three with golden dreams galore in the city of gold!

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