Just Bee and Synthetik: From front row to behind the decks

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Speaking to Just Bee and Synthetik, Anderson Muth discusses their increasing roles in the drum and bass scene

Beyond the bedazzled clubs of Lan Kwai Fong, the lavish lounges of SoHo, and the latest trendy popup, far grittier music lurks. Luring in the curious and the passionate, the vibrant sounds of drum and bass are rattling ribcages as well as inspiring devotion. Synthetik and Just Bee are names increasingly affiliated with such events, both having made the transition from enthusiast to being directly involved in events.

Synthetik, aka Synthia Liu, first discovered drum and bass during the heady 90s, the genre’s arguable heyday. Living in New Zealand at the time, an underground rave during a summer holiday back in Hong Kong introduced her to the sounds of Roni Size and she was hooked. Fast forward a few years, and by 2009 she was living in Hong Kong, attending shows by long-standing promoters like Heavy Hongkong and Magnetic Soul.

Liu explains that she has always been happy to be “helping friends – it’s a small scene in Hong Kong – I want to contribute… I want it to keep growing,” yet her initial involvements have rapidly grown into much more. Well-known as a regular at bass parties, she “took over the Soul Healing organization in 2015,” a dedicated local drum and bass night, which is where her and Just Bee’s paths first crossed.

First “led by a friend down some dark staircases” to a Soul Healing night in late 2014, Just Bee aka Abby Yuen, instantly found the music “different and exciting – it was very captivating.” Weary of the pretentious mainstream music scene in the city, she laments the sociocultural realities facing today’s youth, admitting that “the generation I’m in – it’s all about context in Hong Kong, people are always safe and sheltered, but drum and bass is rebelling and heart-racing.”

Yuen also cites a few other crucial factors for her attraction to the genre, from the dancing – “you can do whatever you want – you don’t have to twerk” – to the realities of being a young club-going female – it’s much nicer “with no one hitting on me” – to the overall experience - “it’s meant to be fun and carefree – it’s experimental and no one will judge you.” All that combined to quickly make her a regular fan, and about a year ago she privately took up DJing with “an idea for my birthday party [and] as a surprise do a DJ set.”

Now quite comfortable in the booth, Yuen explains that the realities of DJing are far beyond just playing good songs. “You have to do a lot of work before getting on – really know your tunes – you have to believe in your tunes and like your music.” But it’s not just passion alone, since in a sense “it doesn’t matter your music knowledge, you have to connect to the crowd” to keep them inspired and dancing.

The return of UK veteran A-Sides to Hong Kong has united the pair, with Liu on promotion (alongside long-standing brand Magnetic Soul) and design while Yuen will make her first appearance supporting an international touring artist. A graphic designer by trade, Liu started designing “posters and flyers for bass shows maybe three years ago.” Her creative process aims to combine the styles of artist and promoter together. For example, “Soul Healing is liquid [drum and bass, so] chill and dreamy, Lost In Bass started with a bee because it’s Just Bee [while] Magnetic Soul is cool and cold.”

As for the style of the night, “for A Sides, he’s quite famous for the Amen sound [while the] new trend is more bassy” explains Liu. This classic 90s style relies heavily on a single sampled drum solo, or break, taken from a 1960s soul song called “Amen, Brother.” But given that it’s now 20+ years later, expect many styles of uptempo music all clocking in at no less than 160 beat per minute!

Magnetic Soul x Synthetik - A Sides, Fri March 25, Social Room, Central, 11pm. $100 (including one drink). Facebook event page.

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