Perfectionism is the cure and the cause. I’m a neurotic perfectionist. Everything has to remain exactly how I envisioned it otherwise I’m never satisfied and therefore halts my workflow. I’m working hard to kill this habit, as it has also begun to affect my ability to engage and collaborate with others. Pay attention to details, but set your limits and move on if it’s taking longer than it should.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Salman Jaberi.
Salman Jaberi is a Creative Media Specialist, the founder of Rave Scout Cookies and Harm Reduction activist in partnership with peer-based non-profit organization, DanceSafe National. Born on the small island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, Salman gave up a life of luxury and long summer vacations at the Chateau Marmont for what he loves the most, the rave and the dance floor. Salman is most notable for his key role as a community lead in the North American queer underground electronic music scene, coined by RA Mag as “a de-facto spokesperson for dance music and rave culture”.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I was born and raised in the tiny mystical island of Bahrain in the Gulf region of the Middle East. Whenever I mention I am from the Gulf region, people immediately assume that I am either a prince or a rich kid with resources that is being spoon-fed and handed over to me.
The reality is far from that assumption and the West’s stereotype of that particular region in the Middle East — I grew up in a rather modest home and a relatively large household and I was the youngest of my siblings. My father is a successful entrepreneur and a self-starter. He built himself an empire from scratch, and made sure that my siblings and I all knew the value of a dollar.
Growing up, I spent my summers on holiday for two or three weeks and had to work at my dad’s company from the age of 10 for the rest of my time off school. His work ethic and competence really helped shape my work ethic today, and I don’t think I’ve been appreciative or come to acknowledge it until recently. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for him.
I’m a fervent believer in the metaphysical significance of time and place — I am so fortunate for the soil of the Island that I grew up in, it came to mold who I am today, but I had to force my way out of it as soon as I could. I graduated from high school a lot earlier than most people, and I moved to London for college at the age of 16. Even though my parents weren’t confident with granting me to live by myself at that age, they equally knew deep down at their hearts that I didn’t fit the traditional mold and norm.
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Rave Scout Cookies is a co-creative dance music multimedia platform and rave preservation project devoted to foreground under-represented, undiscovered marginalized talents and bolstering the development of counterculture spaces and communities. It sounds intricate, but it’s just a multitude of goals and objectives, branching from the roots of a unified mission.
My mission with Rave Scout is to promote cultural inclusiveness and increase the visibility of marginalized talent and diversify the underground scene through and by producing digital immersive experiences. The ultimate aim is to motivate the community and the scene to experience and learn how to feel and passively accept their vulnerabilities and one another.
We’re living through a digital era that has desensitized us to all that we encounter on a daily basis. Our roots aim to instaurate the collective effort our ancestral DNA put into building conscious communities and from there stem our main branches such as protecting scrutinized space(s) by developing support systems for marginalized members of our community and co-creating harm reduction guidelines to preserve counterculture spaces under scrutiny.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
The lack of diversity and inclusion in the dance music industry was inevitably the primary force that led to the establishment of Rave Scout Cookies. When I started raving in Europe, there really wasn’t a backlog to the history of how everything came about or a political tone to how the dancefloor operates, people just showed up to escape the concrete world for a few hours or days per se and that was it. It was only when I moved to the US and Boston in particular that I was really introduced and deeply immersed in the rich history of dance music — and how marginalized Black, POC, and LGBT communities came to innovate today’s mainstream genre of electronic dance music as a radical political movement.
Generally speaking, Rave Scout’s identity/aesthetics is weaved out of memory strings I have of people, music, raves, and places I encountered throughout my lifetime.The surface structure of the platform is divinely inspired by the African American Boy Scout Movement that emerged in 1911. Instantly following the establishment of the Boys Scout of America in 1910, the initial organization catered exclusively to white youth, and so the African American Boy Scout Troop was formed in North Carolina and salvaged their code of ethics by turning their opposition on its head. However, the core of the platform is derived from our sister platform, Visceral, based in Cambridge, MA. Visceral is the first event-based platform to cater to a marginalized audience in Boston. Visceral’s mission is to disrupt and diversify the nightlife community by endorsing under-represented POC and LGBTQ+ talent in the dance music industry.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
It wasn’t an instant “Aha Moment” but one that gradually unfolded as the platform expanded and got bigger over time, and that’s because it had been under my nose throughout most of my life. I placed my eggs in every basket, undertook numerous ventures without really taking a minute to step back to analyze my daily patterns and where my passion really lies. Once the fundamental idea of the platform had come about, everything else just came together effortlessly. From the very beginning and to this day, the creativity, production and how Rave Scout expands remains a raw and organic process.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I didn’t have a clue as to how to develop a platform when I initially started, but what I in fact had (and what I believe remains the key to establishing the platform and any kind of business or organization) was the sequence of missions and goals that I aspired the project to operate its engines on. Last year, I was petrified to launch the platform because I didn’t know whether or not it would succeed. And I didn’t want another flopped project to haunt me and trust me, I’ve possessed my share of failed attempts at a range of initiatives that I sincerely believed in but didn’t seem to work at the time. It stings, but as time passes, you start to grasp on the lessons and learn more from the experience than you think.
Rave Scout Cookies simply started off as a multimedia platform with a digital mix series, a serialized marketplace, and a now-and-again digital publication print handbook. These projects were all oriented towards the development of a membership-based social networking mobile app designed to connect marginalized talents, collectives and allies for work and/or social purposes. But as our world changed overnight and the pandemic came about and with all the time in the world to understand the scene, community and dance music industry as a whole, Rave Scout extended its branches to form the rave preservation project aimed to develop, protect and preserve counterculture spaces and communities under scrutiny.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Rave Scout is a community-based and co-creative platform, so it involves me to meet and engage with other creative types and talents from all walks of life, from around the globe with all sorts of stories to tell and narratives on how their world operates. For me personally, that’s the most stirring and interesting takeaway from running the platform and it is one that I am so fortunate to experience.
It’s also multifaceted in a way — for instance, it’s been tremendously heart-wrenching to witness the lives of those who depend on nightlife gigs full-time change overnight after the pandemic hit. One of the striking aspects of the pandemic that has been fascinating to witness and has placed its mark on me is seeing nightlife migrate into the digital realm. And to observe how underground subgroups redefined the cultural meaning of community in the digital world by building a powerful supporting system to serve one another in every way possible, whether financial, physical and or for mental support.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
This wasn’t funny at the time, but I made the mistake of uploading the wrong mix produced by an artist for our weekly digital mix series and publishing it under another artist’s name. It ran for two days straight until they belatedly realized it wasn’t their mix that was published. They were so upset, and there was nothing I could do but to apologize profusely to both parties involved and promptly take full responsibility for my disorganization. A few lessons I’ve learned from this is to constantly prepare in advance and triple-check sensitive material that I share publicly, which not only represents myself and the platform, but also to those who are collaborating and generously putting their stakes on the line as well.
I’ve also been practicing and reminding myself to go at my own pace and to never rush anything for the sake of a schedule that I’ve created and exclusively only know about. By all means, having a schedule and meeting your deadlines is crucial to running a successful platform, but unfortunately, the world doesn’t always work to your advantage. Life happens, things come your way that might delay you from your typical routine/workflow, and that is okay. It’s more favourable to take your time to serve consistent content of quality (rather than flakey and bleek) in the long run.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I didn’t necessarily have mentors. The project is one-of-a-kind and was the only digitally exclusive platform to emerge within the industry at the time. But I certainly had a support system that helped boost the success of Rave Scout Cookies.
Our sister platform, Visceral, has held a substantial role with our growth. The founder, Manu Miran, recently joined me on a full-time basis as a Community Lead to help with A&R operations and general daily deliverables. Gabriel Pelaez, Visceral’s co-partner, also played a crucial role in our success by investing financially in some of our various ventures such as funding the first edition of the Rave Scout Cookies Handbook.
Since the distinct beginning of our launch, DanceSafe National, a non-profit organization and our official partner, remain nothing but an ever-giving source of guidance and factor of motivation. Every artist, both prominent and untapped, that contributed their work or supported the platform, even by simply following our social media pages, has carried out a key role with where we stand today. I am enormously appreciative for the support system that I have been blessed with so far.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I’ve had a number of heart-warming and touching moments with how the platform has affected the artists and community. I’d rather not name-drop, but one of the artists we featured in our mix series (who was altogether undiscovered with their talent produced in the dark) was reached out to by a prominent fine artist to collaborate in on a project after having heard their music through our Soundcloud. That particular moment they approached to share the news with me was life-changing and has been a force that has granted me to push the platform beyond its boundaries so that I could build a larger and higher stage for every talented artist who deserves to be heard and paid attention to.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Yes, absolutely. In order to shape our society as a whole, we need to start implementing changes within our own subgroups and local communities;
- Support your local artists, independent creative talent, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ businesses. Especially in times like this–- support local talent by purchasing their music, art, or whatever services they provide. If you generate some kind of income and have some leftovers, assist those who are less fortunate in your community.
- Support your local harm reduction organizations. Criminalization remains the drug war’s primary weapon. Using the criminal justice system to solve a public health issue has proved ineffective, but also socially destructive. It promotes stigma and discrimination, largely carried by already marginalized and vulnerable communities.
- Support your local BIPOC & LGBTQ+ social injustice organizations to fight for change by attending rallies, volunteering, and providing donations. If you believe that you have more privilege than most, speak out against racial discrimination and cumulative injustice. Various forms of discriminatory treatment persist in our society, undermining equal opportunities.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Patience is not a virtue, it’s a waste of time. I lived by the golden rule of practicing patience as a virtue and wasted so much time waiting for it to pay off. Very often it was subtle persistence and more effort that led me to achieve my goals — don’t wait too for a long time for something to happen, go for it again if you feel like you’re at a halt.
- Align your environment to embody your beliefs. It’s extremely important to have your environment, your friends/loved ones, and who you spend your time with to be in alliance with what your platform stands for. I had to mentally cut out many people from my life that I still dearly love because it was holding me back from progressing and elevating my platform to the next level.
- Ask for help but don’t depend on it. I run the platform all by myself and sometimes it can get overwhelming. I asked for help and assigned others to do tasks for me that would mostly never be completed on time or as requested. If you ever need help with an initiative or project, don’t be afraid to seek guidance to support you in completing the project, but don’t rely on anyone to do your particular job. Nobody cares about your venture as much as you do.
- What doesn’t kill you, makes you weaker. Don’t burn yourself out with more than you can handle. I have to nudge myself of this every other day. The quality of my content and creative flow is poorer and insufficient every time I take on more than one or two projects at a time. Take some time for self-preservation rather than mindlessly struggling to take over the world.
- Perfectionism is the cure and the cause. I’m a neurotic perfectionist. Everything has to remain exactly how I envisioned it otherwise I’m never satisfied and therefore halts my workflow. I’m working hard to kill this habit, as it has also begun to affect my ability to engage and collaborate with others. Pay attention to details, but set your limits and move on if it’s taking longer than it should.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
It does not require one to go on the streets and fight the world to make a positive impact. It simply means being open to learning, experiencing new things, and uplifting others as you go. This kind of mindset will spark a light within you that nothing else can ever do, and that in addition to what you have, will bring you a sense of purpose and nothing will ever feel more gratifying.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
MC 900 Ft. Jesus (Mark Griffin) would be the one. He is most probably one of the most underrated artists and one of the few creatives that I look up to in terms of innovation and brilliance. My very first vinyl purchase was his first album “Hell with the Lid off” and it’s my favorite album of all time. It possesses so much depth in terms of the intent behind the album’s message and the diversity of sounds in just one track, let alone the whole album. He also has the most fascinating life story that I’ve ever come to learn about, keep in mind that there isn’t much information on him on the internet, so I can’t begin to imagine the tales he would share over a private downtime. I would love to feature him on Rave Scout Cookies one way or another. Maybe one day.
How can our readers follow you online?
To learn more about me and for my contact information, readers can visit my website. As for Rave Scout Cookies, I’m currently in the process of revamping our website, so sign up for the newsletter and we’ll keep you in the loop when it’s ready in about two weeks. Rave Scout frequently uses Instagram as its main social media hub, so you can also follow us for general updates and new products from our serialized marketplace.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!