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Yen Sung about change – "The world is catching up"

By: Filip Sandström Beijer

Photos: Fernanda Pereira


Today, she's known as a pioneer in the Portuguese electronic music scene, having been a long-time resident at the iconic club Lux Frágil and inspiring female artists. However, when she started, it wasn't easy being one of the very few women in a completely male-dominated scene.


How has 2023 been treating you?

It's been a really good year. I played some unexpected gigs where things happened that couldn't be prevented, and it was good. I traveled a little bit, and it went by really fast.

Playing in New York was something I was really happy about. You know, I play house music a lot, and New York has a scene and an impact, so that everyone knows about the music. The crowd at this party, ReSolute, was just there to dance, and I loved it


You are often described as Portugal’s first female DJ. How has it been being a pioneer, and what struggles have you met along the way?

As we can all imagine, living in the same world, it was not always easy for me and I'm really happy with the way the scene has been evolving since. It's definitely going in the right direction.


It was a bit lonely in the sense of not having people to share my experience with. My girlfriends were not there. I arrived at the club, got picked up by a man at the airport, went to the hotel where I was picked up by a man for the artist dinner, arrived at the club, and everyone—doorman, promoter, resident DJs—they were all men. This went on for years. It was a man's world, more so back then than now, but it still is. At the time, I never felt totally comfortable. I always felt that I was being judged.


I could arrive at record stores sometimes, telling them I was looking for records, and they had more records than were exposed in the shop. I was always looking for something specific, and they would ask me, 'Are you really a DJ?' and stuff like that. It happened. It was lonely. It was not a bad journey or bad situations at all, but it was lonely. I always felt that I was trying to be part of a boys' club.


So I'm glad to have been part of a change where we see more and more diverse lineups. To be a role model for female DJ's is something I'm proud of. The world is catching up.


Who were your role models?

My role models back then were guys. There were one or two DJs in Lisbon that I liked to hear, and they were the role models, which is strange looking back. But that was the only thing I had at the time. It was a sea of men. Of course, I know now that in the States there were already other DJs like K-hand and DJ Minx and in Lisbon we also had DJ Belita who I knew but I didn't know anyone else when I started.


What made you take the step and decide that “this is what I will do”?

It just happened by chance. I never thought about becoming a DJ. I used to go to this club, Fragile (the name before LUX), and I asked for a job. But the owner, the Founder of Lux Fragile, said he didn't have a job but that he only needed a DJ. I was like, 'Oh, what a shame,' because I wanted to work for the summer. But he said, 'Don't you want to try?' I mean, he was a visionary. I was like, 'What?' I got choked up. But I used to go to this place, and he used to see me there and watched me for sure. So I think he thought that maybe I could do it, and I said yes, and I tried it.


For me to be able to stay in the scene and be able to DJ, it had to do with... Of course, I had some talent, but my father always told me that I should be independent. He raised me to be an independent woman. And that's how I managed to deal with being a female in this patriarchy.


What is your advice to someone who wants to start a full-time career as a DJ today?

One thing that I've been missing a lot these days is real passion for music when it comes to DJs. I really don't know if most of the young DJs are doing it for the music. I think that if you want to become a DJ, you should have some passion for music, for real. And that will take you far. If you start for any other reason, you're not going to stay in the game for a long time, for sure.




How has Lisbon’s club scene been evolving over the years?

Lisbon has always been vibrant when it comes to the electronic music scene, and it still is today. I'm glad I was here. The influences I got were mixed, which was good, and there is also a small Afro stage that has contributed to it being a good scene.


You’re playing Panorama Bar on New Year's, what does that place mean to you?

Panorama and the whole place mean freedom for me. Of course, I feel the same as every DJ; it's a place you want to play, of course, because there's a sense of freedom there that you want to be part of. The first time I played there, I really felt that people are going there to dance and express themselves, and that's what a club should be.


What are you preparing for your slot Monday morning (1 AM)?

Expect a lot of house music. It will be sexy house. That's what I want to play.


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