Over the past few years, the burgeoning electronic scene in Shanghai has attracted likeminded individuals from across the world. DJ Mia, born in Chengdu and raised in Vancouver, began her career as a professional DJ four years ago. Although the DJ scene is a male-dominated industry, Mia hasn’t allowed her gender to put her at a disadvantage; quite the opposite in fact. DJ Mia has played at some of the hottest venues in the city, including Shelter, Shiva, Dada and is Horizon’s resident DJ on Tuesdays. Over the past few years she’s seen the progress of the industry and has established herself as one of the most recognized names on the Shanghai electronic music scene.
Mia’s passion for DJing began as a precocious 16-year-old party girl, when some of her DJ friends showed her a thing or two about the ones and twos. After the rave scene died out in Vancouver, Mia’s inner electronic fanatic desired an outlet for her vampire lifestyle. She headed to Shanghai, where she had previously partied in and amongst vacations in Chengdu. “I found out that the party scene and the underground scene is much better than in Vancouver,” she asserts. Mia’s desire to support the local music scene has spread into advocacy: “China is very happening right now. That’s why I wanted to move here - to help develop the scene.”
Although Mia began her music career as a producer, she soon realized that she couldn’t professionally survive in Shanghai without also DJing. As a DJ she helps build awareness of electronic music amongst the Chinese community: “It is a foreign culture. It’s going to take some time for Chinese people to really understand this music and culture,” she confesses. In an effort to connect with the local music fans, Mia promotes radio shows such as Udance, where she has hosted a talk show as well as DJing. By playing at Chinese underground clubs, such as Sivas, Mia brings her musical passion to Chinese fans in an environment that’s relatively unpopulated by foreigners. As a native of China, with a Western background and varied influences, she serves as the ideal spokesperson for diverse electronic music in Shanghai. She has also created a new party concept known as ‘Panda Injection’, which aims to bring a party animal scene to the city. We’re not talking any old furries here; this party is strictly Panda themed. The crowd will be bouncing around the dance floor donning Panda hats and more. This party is a shout-out to Mia’s hometown of Chengdu and features her on the decks, as well as local DJs Theoman and Charp.
Mia also continues to throw her '20 Hertz' party, which she created with friends Jojo, Janet and local DJ Raz.
The music that Mia plays is as varied as her career. Her inspiration spans from classical music composer, Ryuichi Sakomoto, to tech-house DJ, Trentemoller. On the decks, her music traverses the gamut of musical expression, moving through lounge to acid jazz, techno, minimal, Chicago and disco. “I am a music lover. I play all kinds of music as long as it sounds good to my ears”, says Mia. “I don’t really stick to one style, it’s boring that way for me.”
Along with playing shows around Shanghai and various cities throughout China, she also played at the First International Radio Music Festival in Zurich in 2010. She played with radio DJs from all over the world through UDance and later went on to mix at the prestigious club, La Macarena in Barcelona. In Shanghai some of her recent festival appearances include the Midi and Strawberry Festival. Although she has experience of DJing in both clubs and festivals, she is more attracted to an intimate setting, as this allows her to feel closer to her audience: “When you’re close to the people you can feel what they want,” she declares. “When the stage is too high up you’re very lonely, you don’t feel one with the audience.”
Mia uses her music to connect with people on a level that transcends cultural differences: “With music and especially house music or dance music, it’s like a universal language. When you play music it doesn’t matter which language you speak; when you hear the sound everyone is happy. Everyone is connected to each other. I think that’s the beauty of it.”
In the future Mia hopes to collaborate with her boyfriend to VJ the videos that appear behind her during performances. She also wants to create a conceptual electronica album that plays as a story, instead of a continuum of disconnected tracks. Her music transports her listeners to a world beyond their current location: “Sometimes you can create an environment that you want to take people in, like a journey. Sometimes it’s a really emotional connection with your audience.” You can catch this eclectic DJ at Siva on June 6th, Shiva on June 8th and at TICTs Rooftop Party with Elvis T on June 23rd.
WORDS: Melissa Hellmann