Category Archives: Profiles

Michael Badal paves way for young Assyrian DJs, musical artists

The Assyrian Journal | January 2018 | Photos contributed | By Joe Snell

Los Angeles, CA – Michael Badal pulled up to DJ Club Silk Nightclub in Sacramento with his essential spinning equipment – USB sticks, headphones, and ear plugs. At only seventeen years old, the Assyrian Los Angeles native had just driven nearly six hours to spin at the venue.

This was a routine weekend for Badal. While selling cell phones at Best Buy and attending film classes at CSUN in the daytime, he was hustling at night and on the weekends to produce music, successfully tour with world-renowned DJ’s such as Tiesto, and even start his own music label.

“I saved up everything and started DJing when I was eleven years old,” Badal said, who became interested in DJing in 1998 when he saw his cousin spinning at a party.

After nine years of saving money for equipment and finding events to play, he signed with Baroque Records in early 2007.

“The first record did well and stirred my name in the pot,” he said. “Then my cousin Zya said that we should start our own label and asked why we are giving it out to other people. I thought it was a great idea, but having never ran a label, I had no idea what marketing was or sending out promos.”

And even as one of the most successful Assyrian dance music artists in the world, Badal’s parents had no idea just how popular their son was becoming.

It wasn’t until 2010, when at 23 years old and about to be nominated for his first Grammy, his mother googled him and found out her son was a popular DJ in the EDM (electronic dance music) community.

Michael Badal chains_edited


Badal and his cousin Zya opened Jigsaw Recordings in August 2007. Only a month later, his record “Colours” was playing on Tiesto’s Club Life radio station.

“We never actually sent the music out to Tiesto,” Badal said. “I got a call from his people and they said, ‘We want to sign you, we want you to make music with us, we want you to play with Tiesto.”

That call changed Badal’s career almost immediately.

“We weren’t just messing around anymore,” he said.

Soon after, the rising DJ began touring the nation with Tiesto and developing his own label. From 2007 to 2009, he built Jigsaw Recordings to be a major competitor, signing deadmau5, Myon, Shane 54, Matt Cerf, and Maarten Hercules among other big artists. Major music publications were praising the label as “developing rapidly and gaining a reputation not to be underestimated.”

But with so much attention placed on signing new artists, Badal and Zya weren’t finding time to produce their own music.

“I was focusing so much of my attention on other people’s careers and promoting my artists that I didn’t focus on myself,” he said.

The pair decided to put the label on hiatus at the end of 2009.

“It was a blessing in disguise because after the label went on hiatus, I stopped worrying about other people,” Badal said. “I started diving into my own career. It benefitted me.”

Not long after putting the label on hiatus, Badal was invited to join the Recording Academy as a voting member in 2010. That same year, he ended up on the ballet for two of his tracks and was very much starstruck at his first Grammy event, recalling, “I ran into Lady Gaga, I almost knocked her out. And I flat tired Kathy Griffin and she almost fell. I was a klutz.”

After his first nervous display on the red carpet, Badal has since been on the Grammy ballot ten times and has been invited back five of the last seven years.

In 2011, Badal and DJ Zya relaunched their label exclusively to distribute their own music. It was then that he ran into popular Persian singer Andy at a cousin’s wedding.

Badal had always been a big fan of Andy’s music, so it was natural that at his cousin’s wedding, he began talking to Andy about a remix he had done that same year. The artists started following each other on social media and eventually began talking about collaborating.

Their single, “Donya,” is set to release early this year.

Michael Badal - 2015 2_editedIn August 2016, Badal realized he was not making the music he wanted to make. Up until that point, he was working almost exclusively on EDM music. A documentary called Daft Punk Unchained encouraged him to pursue music he wanted to make, so he pivoted to pop music, classical film scores and soundtrack music.

His process of creating music also changed, switching from an underground beat programmed around the drums to becoming a songwriter’s composer. Now his most important tool for creating new songs – voice memos he records on his phone.

“I’ve got a million voice memos in my phone of me humming atrociously,” he joked. “Then when I get to my studio, I play it and try to figure out what I was singing in my head. They all have weird titles too, like ‘film score idea’ or ‘deep soundtrack.'”


Badal was initially hesitant to promote his artistic skills within the Assyrian community.

“I didn’t see artistic excellence pushed in our culture here in America,” Badal said. “Our Assyrian culture has such a rich history of art. Some of our artifacts are beautifully carved reliefs, and then we just discarded art as this thing that would never feed you.”

It wasn’t until he started seeing artwork from young Assyrians including KSRA, Dan David, Dennis Joseph, Shamina Khangaldy, and Sargon Saadi that he started connecting his work with the Assyrian community.

“We need to get Assyrian artists out there,” Badal said. “We need more people in the arts. We’ve got to get rid of this stigma that the arts are worthless.”

Within the last five years, Badal has played EDC Las Vegas twice, has songs playing on major radio stations including Sirius XM, had a composition in the running for a Golden Globe ad, and has been on the Grammy ballot 12 times.

After years of hustling on nights and weekends to make a living, Badal now feels content being able to support himself doing what he loves to do.

Seasons Album Cover 2“One of the major milestones I’ve hit, which has been a blessing, is being able to create music 100% for a living,” he said. “I wake up for work and drive to my studio and make music all day.”

His second full-length album and first classical album “Seasons” will be released on January 26. The album features 12 thematic songs written over the past two years. Look out for a limited edition vinyl pressing of the album, available for pre-order. All proceeds from the pre-order will be donated to the 501c3 organizations F*ck Cancer as well as the Etuti Institute.

Check out more of Michael’s music at




Chicago attorney on promoting law education among Assyrian students

The Assyrian Journal | January 2018 | Photos from Assyrian American Bar Association | By Ramsen Shamon

Name: Phillip Rehani
Hometown: Skokie, Ill.
Occupation: Attorney at O’Hagan Meyer, LLC

Phillip Rehani, the 30-year-old secretary of the Assyrian American Bar Association, always knew he wanted to find creative ways to help people solve their problems, especially Assyrians. He transferred that passion into becoming the only Assyrian to graduate from his Chicago-Kent College of Law class in 2012. But Rehani, further compelled to help his community, co-founded the Assyrian American Bar Association in 2017. “I immediately knew this was a special chance to make a difference,” he said. “I have been searching for a way to become more involved within our community and the Assyrian American Bar Association has been the perfect fit.”

What law school did you attend? What year did you graduate?

Chicago-Kent College of Law; 2012.

How was your law school experience? Did you have any Assyrian classmates?

My experience in law school was positive. The education I received taught me to look at a problem and identify multiple issues in a single fact scenario. This taught me the importance of utilizing a dynamic method to problem solve. Unfortunately, I did not have any Assyrian classmates. One of the main reasons for creating the Assyrian American Bar Association (AABA) was to promote the legal profession as a viable and attainable option for the Assyrian youth. We want to provide our youth with the tools to be successful – whether it be in the classroom, or in their professional endeavors.

What kind of law do you practice? Why did you decide to practice this specific kind of law?

I am an attorney at O’Hagan Meyer, LLC. My practice focuses on a variety of civil matters including labor and employment law and tort litigation. After graduation, I was unsure which area of law held my interest. I just knew that I wanted to be in a court room. I was lucky to have that opportunity and develop interests in many areas of law along the way.

Why did you choose to study law? Was it something you knew you wanted to do since you were young?

I did not know that I wanted to go to law school until I was a Sophomore in college. I knew that I wanted to find creative ways to help people resolve their problems. I had many conversations with family and friends before deciding on this career-path.

AABA LogoWhy did you decide to help start the Assyrian-American Bar Association?

When I learned about the opportunity to join a professional organization for lawyers with a focus to help the Assyrian community, I immediately knew this was a special chance to make a difference. I have been searching for a way to become more involved within our community and the Assyrian American Bar Association has been the perfect fit.

What are some of the association’s goals?

We wanted to create a strong network of Assyrian attorneys with a range of expertise to serve as leaders in our community.

Why was the association established?

The main objective is to promote high standards of professionalism and integrity while inspiring our youth to join the legal profession.

How many members currently exist?

We have approximately 50 members. The majority of the ABA membership reside in Illinois. We hope to expand to include members nationwide and we are on the way to achieving this goal. We now have members in Arizona and California.

Will workshops be held?

We have not held any workshops, but we have presented seminars in the areas of immigration law, corporate law and labor/employment law.

What advice do you have for young Assyrians who are thinking to go to law school or are currently in law school?

We want all students that have an interest in pursuing a legal education to know that we are here for your support. My advice for college students thinking about law school is to take advantage of opportunities to make an informed decision on whether law school is right for you. Applying for and attending law school is great financial undertaking so you must do your research. Reach out to your professors and school advisors for guidance. The more first-hand knowledge you can get the better. You can begin your law school search by narrowing where you want to practice law and get information on the schools in the area.

My advice for law students is that building relationships through networking (along with getting good grades) is the key to finding a job after school. You have to be proactive. The job market is competitive and separating yourself from other candidates for positions could be as simple as maintaining a friendship. Also, use the opportunities provided by your career service offices, such as resume building and cover letter workshops. If you have an opportunity to run through a practice interview, do it. More experience with the interview process will build your confidence.

What does justice mean to you?

Justice is an outcome we strive for in society. As a society, [we] have laws that govern behavior to protect rights and punish wrongs. It is the reason why we have police, politicians, lawyers and judges.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Please search for the Assyrian American Bar Association on Facebook. You can follow us to see what events we have coming up in the near future.

Assyrian American Bar Association

To learn more about the Assyrian American Bar Association, visit Assyrian American Bar Association

The Assyrian American Bar Association is a nonprofit organization founded to promote high standards of competence, professionalism and integrity with and among Assyrian attorneys and the Assyrian communities within the State of Illinois. It seeks to cultivate a strong network of Assyrian attorneys with a comprehensive range of legal expertise to serve the Assyrian community and mentor our youth who aspire to join the legal profession.

Read more about the organization at AINA News: New Bar Association to Serve Assyrian-Americans Elects Officers

Etuti Institute inspires youth with new leadership program

Dooreh, Iraq – After hiking the jagged mountains of Hakkari in northern Iraq, once an area serving as the north Assyrian frontier, and visiting an ancient Saint George church that dates back to the early years A.D., participants of the inaugural Etuti Institute’s Leadership Program were greeted by one of the village elders in Dooreh with a photo exhibition. The display, which included a collection of old and new photographs, showcased Assyrians fighters on the famous mountain range, religious leaders of the past, and Assyrians living through the genocide.

The exhibit was one of many activities at this year’s leadership program, held March 9 through 12 in Dooreh, which provided workshops and volunteer activities for Etuti’s many organization partners.

“We wanted to make an annual event where all of our volunteers can gather, all of our sponsors, all organizations and supporters who work with us,” said Savina Dawood, co-founder of the Etuti Institute. “Then we decided to do it each year in a village of ours that holds a meaning to us and that has a story for us.”

The program was kicked off on Thursday with an introduction by the Etuti Institute as well as a presentation on the importance of volunteering. After the presentation, the group divided into two teams, with one team traveling to a church in the village and the second to renovate the church hall. The hall is used by the village across events from weddings and funerals to larger social gatherings, but had issues with lighting, air conditioning, and having enough seating for guests.

“They can use it for anything now,” Dawood said. “The whole village uses it for everything. During the winter it was not very useful and during the summer it wasn’t very useful because it was very hot, but not anymore with the air conditioning we put. They can use it all the time.” The renovations also included adding lights as well as more chairs and tables.

Despite their electricity being cut off every evening, the program’s participants continued activities by using the light on their cell phones. A highlight of the second day’s activities included a seminar on leadership by Dr. Heja Sindi of Irbil, who stressed the importance of communication skills before a larger conversation about youth empowerment.

Planning for the event began in the beginning of February when Etuti sent invitations to some of their partners around the world including organizations in Germany, France, Syria, Lebanon, and the United States. The cost of the entire event was $7,075 and included food and supplies for each participant as well as supplies for the renovation projects.

Although no location has been selected for next year, during the last night of the program the volunteers were asked where they would want the event hosted and three locations were chosen. Later this year, one of those three choices will be announced as the 2018 host village.

“The key is to choose a village where there are people,” Dawood said. “We cannot go to a village with only three families, it’s not going to work, it has to be a village where the youth are existing.”

Included in the roughly 50 participants that came and went throughout the weekend were thirty volunteers and around ten to twenty individuals each day from the village. Most participants were between the ages of 18 and 25.

The event was free for participants thanks to a sponsorship from L’Œuvre d’Orient , a French organization that focuses on education, care, and action across the world but primarily in the Middle East.

Currently the conference is only open to Etuti volunteers, sponsors, and individuals that work with the organization, a decision that Dawood says is important to rewarding those members that are leaders in their communities.

“The reason why we are limiting it to people involved with us is because we are putting too much effort and so much value into this and we want the serious people to receive it, people who really care,” she said.

The group decided on hosting the conference near the end of March to align with the Kurdish new year because the government allows time off work.

The Etuti Institute was formed in 2013 to aid displaced individuals by providing necessities as well as creating educational programs to develop the Assyrian youth. Dawood emphasized the organization’s unique challenge of teaching leadership in a place like Iraq.

“Leadership is controlling and dictating, that’s the understanding of leadership in Iraq because the only leader they had for more than 30 years was Saddam Hussein,” she said.
Etuti’s current mission is to bring the youth together to build generations of new leaders in the Homeland.

“The whole concept of Etuti [Leadership Exchange Program] is generations of leaders,” Dawood said. “We want to generate leaders and we want to push the existing ones or to help and support them. Through this program, we can connect between cities and villages, connect our ideas and connect our thoughts together and understand leadership in general.”