Middlesex University Dubai student Karim Barkouki, also known as DJ Stylez, is not your average student. The 25-year-old final year student attends lectures by day in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in international tourism management and marketing, and rocks Dubai clubs, Platinum and Quantum, by night as a DJ.
Born and raised in Dubai, Barkouki developed a passion for music early on in life. Initially his interest in music began with Hip-Hop and RnB, but as he grew up, so did his musical tastes. "I've always had an ear for music," he said, recalling amateur school dance routines he would choreograph.
When he was 14, Barkouki saved up from the pocket money his mother gave him to buy a new tape weekly. Once he had accumulated a substantial tape collection, he began DJing at house parties for friends where he carried his music around "in a little lunch box filled with tapes".
Upon meeting a friend with CDs, Barkouki soon discovered a new method of collecting music and taught himself how to mix songs using computer software.
Studies vs. ambition
With an ambition to gain global recognition as a DJ, Barkouki aspires to open his own event management company and has applied for a sports scholarship to complete his final year of study.
However, he openly admits academics are not for him. "I don't blame music or anything else for my lack of interest in school. Honestly, I'm not made for studying."
Barkouki said when he first started university his "head was somewhere else". He was preoccupied with music and the latest hits. The self-taught mixer and beat juggler grew up in a household with an absent father. This forced him to be "the man of the house," adding to his struggles at school.
The road to success
While still in high school Barkouki landed his first paid gig at a millennium New Year's Eve party for which he was paid Dh200. Recognition for his talents, although minimal, gave Barkouki the confidence to begin charging for his services at school proms and corporate and private functions such as weddings.
At 20, Barkouki won his own set of DJ equipment in a competition at the American University of Sharjah. A year later he went on to be placed fourth in a nationwide DJ competition called Jock Idol. It resulted in his being contacted by a local DJ to "play warm up sets" at a popular Dubai night spot just under two years ago.
Although struggling with late nights and early morning classes, Barkouki stuck to his "warm up" gig before venturing out on his own. He was then contacted by another local DJ who offered him his current position DJing two nights a week at Hotel Metropolitan Dubai's Platinum and the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza's Quantum.