equality factor: empowered mastering engineer
works: Björk, The Mars Volta, Beach House, Ryuichi Sakamoto, a.o
based in: New York
The mastering process is the last stop of the record-making cycle, a process that has always been something mystical to many. Within an album, mastering provides a needed consistency in volume and color to the songs, ensuring that all have the same sonic effect on the listeners. Regardless of having the best composer, band, or an extremely talented artist - without a mastering engineer, an album will never have the right sound perfection, and without that "finisher," the work would not be the same.
Björk, Princess Nokia, and Austra do not at all belong to the same musical genre. However, they share a similar level of talent and empowered femininity, as well as another powerful female behind their works: the Egyptian mastering engineer "Heba Kadry". She is a lover of analogy and synthesizers who has mastered some of the most compelling underground and experimental albums of the past decade.
"It’s amazing when you’re young – you can make a split decision and completely change the course of your life.”
Heba was born in Cairo, Egypt. She is a classically trained pianist and has a degree in Business Administration, however, this profession was not what satisfied her. While working in an advertising agency as an account executive, she was considered to be the one chosen to create commercial jingles, thanks to the musical expertise she possessed. From that moment on, she discovered sound production as a whole and decided to pursue a career as an audio engineer. She quit her office job and left everything to move to the United States in 2003, where she decided to join a training program at "The Recording Workshop" in Ohio. She then moved to Texas and started working as a recording engineer and assistant studio manager at Sugar Hill Recording Studios in Houston (where Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé did all their early records). In 2007, she moved permanently to New York to focus on mastering, and remade her career through study and internships, eventually realizing that mastering was her niche. During a first period, she mastered friends’ records for free and taught herself. In 2013 Heba, partnered with Adrian Morgan of Timeless Mastering.
Since she entered that world, she has been accumulating quality credits from artists like the Japanese composer, singer, songwriter, and record producer "Ryuichi Sakamoto". She has even contributed to cinematic soundtracks, for instance to the film"Jackie". As a female figure, Heba remains a minority in her field. Being an independent engineer comes with obstacles aplenty, firstly because it is a job that is often selected by the record companies - and these rarely give unfamiliar professionals a chance or get out of their comfort zone - and on the other hand, being "discredited" for being a woman is something that continues to happen to this day. Gender inequality exists in most work environments, but in Heba's case, her being a mastering engineer remains questioned on a regular basis. In an interview in 2018, she said: "Any time you're in a room with a bunch of people who are considering hiring you, there is this immediate assumption, like, 'Who do you manage?' or 'Whose girlfriend are you?' ... They don't think of you as potentially a person who knows what they're doing,".
Hebra spent the past 10 years building a profile as one of New York’s leading mastering engineers, working on albums by numerous known acts, including Deerhunter, Beach House, The Mars Volta, among others. Having left Timeless in September 2019, she is currently working independently from her new studio in Brooklyn. Despite being continuously questioned in her position, Heba's professional journey from Cairo to NYC, and her current repertoire and contacts show: where there's a will, there is a way - regardless of one's gender or cultural background.