On the Home Turf

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Ysabelle Cheung talks to some up-and-coming DJs about the local underground scene – and how they intend to change things up

The drive to go back to classic clubbing roots – that is, heading to the latest underground venue to listen to new music on an epic, tricked-out sound system – may have spluttered and struggled the past few decades, but there’s no denying the sound of change in the air.

The current slew of international acts populating our spaces is indicative of the market push towards traditional clubbing as the norm, and not an anomaly – we’re definitely not talking top-40 laptop trash and rows of faux Hervé Léger dresses. But it’s not just about the overseas guests. Hong Kong’s anti-establishment, unlicenced vibe may have all but disappeared, but there’s still a host of local DJs aiming to spice up the party.

One new kid on the block is Tedman Lee of Living Discoheads, a crew that put on their first self-organised gig at Bar City in February. Their no-fuss, no-frills sets have made them popular with younger crowds thirsty for an unpretentious night out. “That’s the vibe that we’re trying to give – more like the attitude of the ’80s club scene in Hong Kong,” Lee, also a member of electro-pop band ni.ne.mo, says. “No iPhones in your face. I want kids to feel that kind of energy and attitude again. Whenever we DJ, I mean, we pretty much play anything: old-school hip-hop, indie rock, trap, bass, ’80s disco, all that type of stuff.” The group are hoping to release their own mixtape and organise another Night of the Living Discoheads party in December.

London born-and-bred DJ Suru has been hitting the decks for over two years in Hong Kong since he arrived. Surprisingly, prior to his move here, he was more focused on Pilates. “I moved here with the aim of setting up my own Pilates studio,” he says. “But when I got here, I realised clubbing was all quite commercial – and the music in LKF just killed me. I had to do something about it; I wanted to go out and listen to music that I liked. I think it’s quite alive and kicking now, but the scene still needs to champion local DJs a bit more.” Suru can be found spinning underground house at Kee Club and the notoriously demented den Midnight & Co (“once we kept going ’til almost 7am!”), and will be launching a night series titled Boombox at the latter. He’s also booked regularly with Small & Tall.

Arthur Yeti brought over Yeti in the Basement, a London-based label, last year when he moved back to Hong Kong. A resident of Fresh off the Boat, he plays a range of genres from nu-disco and UK bass, and is a self-professed music geek who writes about audio sub-cultures for his day job at Hypebeast. “Sessions [a local events group] always curate the best dub-driven nights in the most random venues, but the police are always an issue,” he says. “I think they will always associate a scruffy venue like an abandoned warehouse or bus depot with debauchery, not really understanding that some people just want to get always from all the glitz and glam, and allow the music to speak for itself instead of all the other distractions: bottles, tables, etc. In a lot of instances, there’s a lot more debauchery going on in those venues!”

The more-established Blood Dunza, who along with his crew Heavy Hong Kong promotes several musical genres including drum ’n’ bass and dub reggae, is eager to comment on the evolving local clubbing scene. He started DJing eight years ago in Hong Kong and is about to launch his own regular night at XXX Gallery in mid-November, as well as playing Clockenflap. “When we first started, people would hear drum and bass – and they would immediately say no,” he says with a laugh. “But over the years that’s changed, and places like XXX Gallery have really supported our music. The more people are doing it, the better. It’s a sign of healthy nightlife.”

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