Penn State DJ Mar1 Steps Closer To Dream With Spot On Firefly Music Festival Lineup
Few musicians perform in the first music festival they attend.
But for Marwan Ibrahim, a newcomer to the music festival scene and a rising senior at Penn State, Firefly Music Festival will mark a few important firsts. He will be performing at Firefly later this month on the festival’s new North Hub Beach Club stage, which will serve as a waterpark, beach party, and concert venue.
Ibrahim, who performs under the stage name Mar1, has been editing and producing music for three years. The Alexandria, Egypt native discovered his musical talent by finding ways to make his favorite songs better. Now, he still creates remixes, but has also moved on to his own original music.
Ibrahim’s music isn’t encapsulated by a single genre. He experiments with different sounds, producing music that reflects how he feels. His most popular song, “Thunderclouds,” was created during a storm and a time when he was struggling with his studies and eventual career path.
“My music changes with the seasons,” Ibrahim said. “When summer comes, when the weather starts becoming better, I start making it more like dance and feel good songs.”
Ibrahim’s passion was sparked at a young age by the “aftermovies” of different music festivals. While Ibrahim says that some people look down on DJs for only “pressing buttons and turning knobs,” he was inspired by artists like Martin Garrix who brought something different to the table.
“I see DJs who try to get out of that stereotype and bring something extra to their music,” Ibrahim said. “That’s how I hope to be one day. Just get out of my comfort zone and do something that’s really different that people are not used to seeing.”
Ibrahim’s parents eventually bought him a mixer and he began DJing in his garage, much to his neighbors’ dismay. The modest garage venue sessions led to a New Year’s Eve Party hosted by his close friend from high school, Duncan Hillyer.
Ibrahim was then known as Marwan the DJ after showcasing a hobby that turned out to be a natural talent. Hillyer was sure that Ibrahim would find even more success at Penn State, which is why his initial struggles in college came as a surprise.
“I could tell he wasn’t happy,” Hillyer said. “He expressed to me that he wanted to study sound engineering, and that music was one of the few things at Penn State that made him happy, but he was worried about switching majors and what effect it’d have on him graduating on time.”
“The one piece of advice I gave him was this: do what feels right for you,” he added. “Never compromise your own happiness, otherwise you’ll live a life you hate.”
Ibrahim began performing at his friends’ apartments before eventually moving up to fraternities, The Basement Nightspot, and Champs Downtown.
Paul Rivera, a friend at Penn State, helped Ibrahim land his first gig in State College and now helps manage his music endeavors, telling the budding artist; “You handle the music, I’ll handle the logistics.”
When Ibrahim had the chance to open for DJ EDX at NOTO Night Club in Philadelphia, Rivera handled the transportation and lodging.
Another high school friend of Ibrahim’s, Zain Elwakil, founded ZULUECHO Lifestyle Initiative in 2017 with a goal of helping people like Ibrahim pursue a lifestyle led by their passion.
When Ibrahim received the invitation to perform at Firefly, he asked Elwakil to come as his official videographer.
“It was an unreal moment for both of us,” Elwakil said. “It represented not only his achievement as an artist, but also confirmed every belief he had in himself even back in high school when he was just producing music for fun — it was a moment where the hard work and passion-filled determination had really paid off.”
Ibrahim will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 21 and 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 22 at North Hub Beach Club stage. At first, he was afraid there wouldn’t be a large audience for his Saturday morning set, but a group of Penn State students are traveling to Dover to give him support from the crowd.
Now, Ibrahim is studying energy engineering with a minor in music technology, and while his focus remains on earning his degree, he plans on pursuing music after college. The performance at Firefly is another affirmation that this dream has already become a reality.
“It makes me way happier when I’m doing music, it’s like therapy for me,” Ibrahim said. “These opportunities just keep coming up for me, and I don’t know, in a perfect world it’s me going to LA or New York and pursuing music.”
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