With an already starved presence of women DJs in the industry, coming across one who happens to be of African descent in Beijing is a pleasant surprise.
For JustSyd, a South African DJ, recording artist, producer & published writer her move to China was simply motivated by a desire to live in five different countries over a period of five years. Why China? SYD liked the idea of living here because of the “Developing Country” status it shares with South Africa. “This is interesting to me because it means there is a lot of progression, movement and growth. … I was looking for grit and texture, which Beijing offers” – JustSyd
While SYD was steadily on track moving from her first destination; South Korea to China, her stop in Beijing has put a small dent in her plan. “This city is incredibly inspiring and there’s so much more for me to grapple with. Bearing that in mind, it might be some time before I move to the next place; I need more time here.” She told us.
Her Journey as a DJ
Before moving to Asia to work as a DJ and English, Drama teacher, SYD was the Project Manager and Event Curator at Livity Africa – an organization focused on connecting creatives across South Africa and the UK.
Hanging out in the creative scene JustSyd had exposure to many new opportunities. One of those opportunities included being featured on an *EP: “Nothing Changes” Chumza ft. SYD.
At the same time, SYD played with producing her own music which she said, “naturally led to DJing”. Her first gig was at a bar called ‘Kitcheners’, in Johannesburg where a friend, prompted her to do a set, “it was awesome!” – JustSyd
Her Sound and Beijing’s Scene
JustSyd’s sound is made up of a mixture of genres and influences, mainly house, grime, hip hop, kwaito (a music genre that emerged in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the 1990s) and gqom (evolved from Kwaito, tribal house and skeletal hip-hop influences. Gqom – a word meaning “hit” or “drum” in Zulu).
South African underground music is always well represented in her sets, as that is her niche. Her music has also been influence by her experience as an Event Curator working with numerous underground artists from the UK, USA, Kenya, Switzerland and South Africa.
Speaking on her impressions of the Beijing music scene, she said “I can mostly only speak of the underground music scene. … the Beijing scene is quite small. But I see that as an opportunity.”
For SYD, Dada in Gulou and Rec Room in Sanlitun are two of her favourite spots as they have hosted some of her favourite artists Gaika , ZutZut, Dinamarca and Ligrye. “Usually a lot of international artists will play at Dada or Rec Room if Beijing is included in their Asian tours.” she added.
SYD reckons her achievements as a DJ are yet to come, but the release of the *EP: “Nothing Changes” Chumza ft SYD is her biggest accomplishment yet. Other highlights from her music career include her performances in Seoul, Rec Room, Dada and a Chongqing club named Echo Bay.
Breaking into any industry can be challenging. SYD’s method and advice for those trying to break into the Beijing music scene is “…work towards a collective community; supporting others’ events and engaging with them and their work genuinely.”
Current Hustle and Future Plans
Over the 8 months that SYD has been in Beijing she is happy with the progress she has made in this city thus far. She currently has two gigs in Beijing: A slot at Andy’s Restaurant Bar and a bi-monthly event called 011 Brunch & Day Party.
In the future her sights will be set on Mexico City, Taipei and Jakarta, but for now Beijing is her base. While here, SYD will also be focusing on her label ‘Most Girls Smell Good’ which she explains, is about “…linking female DJs and producers with the objective of connecting them across different countries and working on collaborative projects.” One of SYD’s main interests in regards to her label in Beijing is to foster collaborations between female Chinese artists and those from other countries, through events.
SYD’s last words for those looking to break into the Beijing scene are; “Go with your instincts. Own and fine tune your own voice/sound and remember the first impulse that led you to wanting to become a musician” – SYD
Want to sample some Gqom? Here are SYD’S recommendations:
FAKA – Uyang’khumbula
DJ Lag – Trip to New York EP
DJ Maramza – Apocalypse Just Now
Want to connect with JustSyd?
More – Check out her work:
SABC Digital News: Sid Sidwaba organizer of Creative Hustle (VPN Required)
Global muralist Cecê Nobre on rocking your skin tone – By Sid Sidwaba
Finding Black Girl Magic in South Korea – By Sid Sidwaba
Meet the South African DJ Bringing Global LGTBQ Culture to South Korea – By Sid Sidwaba
*EP: EP stands for Extended Play. This term is among artists who release work but not enough to be an album. Most EPs will consist of 3-4 tracks with a remix typically.