In Tune with Just Bee, a True Hong Kong Tastemaker for Underground Music
September 12, 2023
In the daytime, Asia embraces a true hustle culture; by night, we let our hair down and erupt in a magnificent energy to good crowds and good music. In Tune With meets the electric DJs and music makers of Hong Kong and Asia to feel their pulse and uncover why they entered the frenetic nightlife industry.
Abby Yuen has been making noise in the local Hong Kong underground music scene since 2015, enthralled by the pumping tunes familiar with the popular British dance music genre of drum and bass.
DJing under the name of Just Bee, the Hong Kong music maker has seen herself propagating a good rhythm of bass music at Clockenflap Festival, Social Room, Quality Goods Club, Mihn and OMA in Hong Kong, as well as featured rave and club appearances in Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Saigon, and Shanghai.
In a space dominated by veteran and expat DJs, Just Bee invigorates parties with a youthful, crazy, and femme energy. We sat down with Abby to discuss her DJ journey in Hong Kong and Asia, and her next phase in passing down her skills to future DJs.
Tell me about your youth in Hong Kong. Where did DJing and music first come into your life?
I grew up and studied in Sha Tin, appreciating a wealth of worldly views in high school, having one foot in the local scene and another foot in the international scene. I appreciated this as a Hong Konger.
After I graduated high school in 2013, I took a gap year waiting tables in Hong Kong, went to a lot of raves and began DJing. I enrolled at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) for accounting and finance but hated it. It was f******* boring. I left HKU at the end of 2014.
I started collecting my own music and went deeper into a drum and bass hole after I quit university. I became obsessed and began DJing. I had all this music collected that I wanted to show people, but no access to DJ at clubs. I had my 20th birthday party at OMA Club in SoHo that following year, so I thought, why not create a set and show to my friends?
How did your first DJ set go? Did you get sick with the DJing bug?
I wanted to surprise my friends that I was DJing a set that night, so I used a fake DJ name, Chubs. Under the mentorship of DJ 108, a Japanese drum and bass DJ and producer living in Hong Kong at the time, he taught me how to put a set together and how to use Serato [DJ and music production software] to mix.
The set was 45 minutes long and full of my favourite drum and bass tunes. It was super fun, and it went off obviously. There were a lot of event promoters at the party, which began the journey of getting invited to DJ at a lot of parties.
When I started to DJ in 2015, there were not that many up-and-coming drum and bass DJs. As a young, female, and passionate DJ, it was great for promoters to invite me to parties to inject some new blood and diversity.
What explains your passion for bass music?
In Hong Kong, anything that’s not pop music is underground: techno, house, drum and bass, you name it.
When I first got into bass music, it felt like I discovered a secret gem. I fell in love [with] how it makes you feel, how it vibrates through your body, and how it rattles through your rib cage.
How does the underground music scene compare now to when you began DJing at parties, clubs, and raves?
Raves felt more soulful when I first began [partying and DJing]. Now, there’s an inclination to rely on hype and what's trendy and popular online. People party differently these days, but that’s not a bad thing.
Now, there are many more passionate people working hard to push the scene forward, grow it, and expand it. Now, there are many new promoters in a younger generation trying to build their own thing, make their own labels, and create their own parties.
Before, we relied on exports for good bass music. Hong Kong has a strong local foundation now, where we can look inwards and create our own legacy.
What is one thing that Hong Kong’s party scene needs improvement on?
We need more public venues, like Mihn and Social Room. Some people also need to learn raving or party etiquette, how to respect personal space, and how to be responsible drinkers.
You finished your second U.K. tour in two years. What is it like to DJ overseas, and how do you want to continue that this year and beyond?
Last summer, I played in Brighton for the first time. This summer, I played in Manchester and South London. Both tours felt like home. The crowds were receptive and enjoyed it. DJing and crowd interaction are universal. It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, people can vibe to your music. I have DJed in Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, and Saigon in recent years.
I recently played in Beijing in mid-August, and in Shenzhen earlier this year. Every time I travel, I try to DJ at clubs and parties.
How are you inspiring the next generation of DJs in Hong Kong to follow in your footsteps?
I have never regarded myself as a teacher, but I have begun to host classes for people to learn the art of DJing. It’s less about learning step A, B, and C, but more helping others unblock their own mental challenges and potential in people to excel [in DJing].
I have been finding that enjoyable, and it is satisfying when things click with my students.
You can find Just Bee’s announcements for parties and information for her DJ classes here.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous In Tune with profiles here.
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