Meet the duo pioneering Edinburgh's club scene
Updated: May 6, 2020
“We try to make it very clear; Do not come to this space if you’re going to judge anybody – whether that be how they look, how they dress or how they act.”
Mahasin, left and Lewis, right
Mahasin Elsheik, 23 and Lewis Abbot, 22 have first-hand knowledge of the importance that inclusivity holds. Growing up in Edinburgh, the childhood friends have ridden the wave of the city’s nightlife. They’ve danced to the teenybopper tracks that encapsulate Why Not Nightclub and even the instrumental bass tracks in Cabaret Voltaire when seeking a more underground vibe.
While the local clubs cater to various music genres and themes, one common thing stands out to Mahasin and Lewis: the lack of inclusivity. The pair recognise that even the Edinburgh queer scene is male dominated. To make sure no one feels how they felt, Mojxmma was created. Their event has an open invitation to those who feel excluded within the city’s club scene and their allies. Specifically, queer people of colour.
Minoricity connected with the pair to find out the importance of diversity in nightlife, and what makes empowering spaces like Mojxmma so special.
photo by Lewis Abbot
YOU BOTH CONSIDER YOURSELVES QUEER, HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR EXPERIENCE HAS CONTRIBUTED TO PUTTING ON AN INCLUSIVE NIGHT LIKE THIS?
LEWIS: I think it just made me aware of how the scene was lacking. When we put the first post up, I had a lot of people who didn't understand what the night was or who it was for. A lot of people asked, "am I allowed to go?" And I was like, "Yeah, anyone can come." I think it was because the concept is so new to some people.
MAHASIN: I've been to so many clubs in Edinburgh and I've felt out of place and awkward. Then I went clubbing in London, and it felt amazing there. When I stayed in Berlin, I went to all these different clubs that are so open and people really don't give a f**k. It's not like I've experienced racism in Edinburgh clubs or anything, but it just didn't really feel like a good fit for me. I couldn't feel very included. And I didn't feel like people actually respected my presence. After experiencing London and Berlin, I knew would be good to have something like this here because I know other people agree. Other women of colour and other queer women who were like, "Yeah, there's literally nothing in Edinburgh, I don't even like going out anymore."
ARE PLACES TRYING TO MAKE MORE OF AN EFFORT TO MAKE IT INCLUSIVE IN EDINBURGH?
LEWIS: I think some places such as Sneaky Petes have good targeted nights. They have Hot Mess, and that's mainly for gay men. But then they also have like Miss World, which I think goes travels between clubs. That has all female DJs and quite a lot of them which many are of colour. I feel like the rest of Edinburgh doesn't actively try to make the effort to make other groups of people feel comfortable in their spaces. However, when you're in Cowgate, for example, there are a lot of places will have an inclusive sign on the bathroom door or something along those lines. I think just seeing that can make a lot of people just feel really welcome.
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE CURRENT CLUB SCENE IN EDINBURGH?
MAHASIN: I think most nights revolve around live sets. The main sell is a specific person playing. It's definitely more about the actual music rather than the atmosphere and vibe. Other places I've been to outside Edinburgh, have themed parties or a very specific dress code or general vibe that you need to adhere to to get in. You can look around and you see everybody else doing it but here I think it's just mainly focused on the DJs. Most people would go to a night on the Cowgate to see somebody in particular, they wouldn't go because it's like, "This is a place where I feel safe and they've got this theme on that I really want to like dress up for."
HOW DOES MOJXMMA STAND OUT FROM OTHER CLUB NIGHTS?
MAHASIN: We do the themed parties. We just want to create something different and, for me myself, I love dressing up and doing fun makeup and different things like that. In other clubs, I felt like couldn't really do that because sometimes I'd want to wear something risky but then I'd be like, “Right. there's going to be a lot of guys there later and I don't want to attract unwanted attention.” For Mojxmma, we wanted to create something where it was, come as you want and no one is going to judge you. You can come in your craziest outfit, do what you want. This space for you to be free and just have a good night.
photo by Lewis Abbot
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC CAN WE EXPECT DURING YOUR NIGHT?
LEWIS: We try to play queer artists of colour. A bit of either to be honest, but it's mostly artists of colour, who are either queer or have sort of a "queer" fan base. The sort of the music has to fit in with the theme and if it doesn’t work, it's just songs that scream, "I'm the best!"
MAHASIN: Yeah, it's just about empowerment. For our first event, we had female DJs of colour, like Tana Gambura.
YOU SEEM VERY OPEN TO COLLABORATIONS, ARE THERE ANY OTHER CREATORS YOU WOULD SEEK OUT?
LEWIS: We're always looking for different DJs and performers. Our next task is to start our Mojxmma blog. I want to feature people who are keen on topics and we can feature it on Mojxmma. I quite like the idea of a page that has voice of all these different people on it with different experiences.
MAHASIN: I'd love to do workshops in the future. Group meetings such as art therapy events where everybody gets together and just has a night of drawing or even a potluck. Just things for the community. I want it to be a space for connecting with new people and make our own little community. I think that's what's lacking in Edinburgh, especially if you didn't go to like Edinburgh University because stuff for communities stems from their societies. I'm a part of the Black and Ethnic Minority Facebook group from Edinburgh University and I've never attended. I wouldn't have been included in loads of events for people like me if I wasn't told about the page. There's a big gap for people who are not students.
I PERSONALLY KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THAT, AND WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF MOJXMMA’S CLUB NIGHT?
LEWIS: Mojxmma goes worldwide! MAHASIN: Yeah, the dream would be to do a tour of cool clubs around the UK and Europe.
Mojxmma will hold their next big night at The Wee Red Bar. Check for updates on their Instagram and other socials to know when.