DJ Justine stays true to her calling
What happens when passion and obligations collide? In this exclusive with 18-year-old Justine Yong, we get a glimpse of the young Kuchingite’s journey to achieve success in an out-of-the-box career choice: being a deejay.By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
WHILE MOST THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD girls would be spending money on clothes, movie tickets or magazines, then 13-year-old Justine Yong was saving every cent she had to buy herself a Pioneer DDJ-T1.
From saving up pocket money, selling her books to her personal collection of hats (which she loved to death), Justine could finally afford to buy her first deejay controller set by the age of 15. Not only that, she began to teach herself how to use it solely from the Internet.
Now, 18 years old, born-and-raised Kuchingite Justine – better known as DJ Justine– made it to the list of Top 10 of Malaysia magazine’s top female DJs in Malaysia, with House and Progressive House music as her genre of choice.
On how she first started at the age of 14, Justine remembered sending in her first few mixes to several music producers, deejays as well as to random strangers she found on the Internet to get her music heard and get some feedback.
“I was online all the time, and Kuching is so small and I could not get anybody or any deejays to hear me out and give me advice or feedback. So, I made mixes and I posted them online and I tried to get anybody to listen to them. They were really bad mixes and even now I still keep them to remind myself of how much I have progressed over the years,” she said, looking back.
With no one to turn to back then, she used social media such as Friendster, YouTube and MySpace to post her mixes online to get somebody from the deejay industry to respond.
But it was the somewhat acidic comments on her music mixes from her current manager, S. Allen that actually began her career in the deejay industry. “He said, ‘Could you please stop posting your crap mix on my page, it’s spam’” she said with a laugh.
“I was expecting bad comments but at the same time I was hoping for good comments of course but that is how I learn, when people give criticism about my music, that is where I know where I did wrong and how I can change it to make it better.”
Justine is being managed under Qhinn Sdn. Bhd, a recording company she owns with S. Allen based in Kuching.
At 16, she made her first official debut as a DJ when she played for 15,000 people at the Hitz.Fm Birthday Invasion 2012 event where she opened for Jakeman and Skeletor for a 15-minute appearance.
“I expected my first show to have like, maybe 20 people, so that if I embarrassed myself, it would not be that bad… instead it was 15,000 people,” she said.
Although nobody knew who she was back then, it was the feeling on stage playing mixes to the crowd and seeing them happy and dancing to the music that motivated her more to become a deejay.
“Music has always been part of my life. It creates a presence in the room,” she explained when I met up with her at Pullman Kuching, where she will be launching her show, ‘The DJ Justine Experience’ on Sept 3.
Optimistic, bubbly and passionate about music, the creative teenage wonder hopes to spread happiness and put smiles on people’s faces through her music.
“I want to be a person to make people smile. And music makes me happy and I have this passion to make people feel happy and perhaps through my set I can make that happen, I can make people feel what I feel when I play music,” she said.
While nothing else makes her happier than seeing the crowd appreciating and enjoying her music today, Justine admitted it was hard when she first started in the field.
When she first discovered her passion and became determined to pursue her dream to become a deejay, her parents did not approve of her choice in profession and her friends had even shunned her.
Despite her obstacles, Justine made a brave decision at 17 to apply for the Zouk Club Singapore Dj Program and the Republic Polytechnic Singapore Electronic Music Production Course during her SPM year in 2013.
Although she has now broken into the industry in Malaysia, it is still going to be an uphill journey for her due to her age. Despite the industry’s night-hours and clubbing scene, she maintains a disciplined lifestyle focusing solely on her music. The only time she can be seen in a club is when she is performing.
“This is what I am trying to put out, I want to bring people back to the music. I don’t want it to be ‘it used to be about the music’, I want it to be it is still about the music. So I am trying to project that out, even though I am a girl and young,” she said.
Although Justine’s music genre is house music, she stays connected to what’s old and what’s new by listening to the latest music and also what was popular back in the day.
Onstage, Justine’s preparation for her set is quite simple; armed with a playlist, she mixes her music on the spot according to her emotions as well as the crowd. Outside of the club, the upbeat young deejay prefers to shut herself in her studio, experimenting and mixing music all day.
“I wake up at 7 and straight away I listen to deep house music in the morning from the previous night in which I mix a deep house set, and then I play progressive house in the afternoon. Of course, I do take a break in between but my ears are always listening to music. When it comes to the night, I take a break and listen to the latest type of music,” she said.
According to Justine, although now female deejays are gaining more popularity among the crowds, most people would think that just because she’s a girl, she would gain attention due to her appearance instead of her music.
“It used to be a male dominated industry, but now those celebrity and models DJs are dominating the industry right now, because sex sells. It used to be about the music, now it is all about sex, alcohol and drugs. That is what I’m trying to do here now, I want to bring back the music,” she lamented, as somebody who is comfortable with her own style and being true to herself.
Citing Steve Angello, a member of Swedish House Mafia as her idol and inspiration, she hopes to one day collaborate with him. While she has been working on her own original album over the last couple of years, she is focusing solely on deejaying for now.
For those who want to see DJ Justine perform, head on to Deja Vu, Pullman Kuching for the ‘DJ Justine Experience’ to hear her extraordinary mixes from Sept 3-16 from 7 to 9 pm.
To know more about DJ Justine and get the latest updates, check out her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/itsdjjustine.