She’s pierced, covered in tattoos and changes her hair colour frequently, but those aren’t the only reasons why Subi, aka Subez Yeti, is one of the most recognisable female disc jockeys in Hong Kong. For those who have yet to see her perform, Subez describes herself as a content creator and a DJ who simply loves to share her choice of music and make people dance. “It’s about feeling, the freedom of expression, building a community and connecting to audiences through my performance,” she says.
Subez grew up surrounded by music. When she was a child, her brother avidly bought CDs, in the process exposing Subez to a medley of different genres ranging from Canto-pop and electronic, to techno and hip-hop. “The soundtrack of my childhood was an eclectic mix of [Hong Kong rap group] LMF and 20 fingers CDs,” she says. While the artist never expected to become a DJ, she nevertheless took a shine to creating music mixes, such as during a stint at a skate shop at age 16, where she would spend her time burning playlists onto CDs and playing them for customers.
Later, she took up a job at a modelling agency where she met fellow model Tom Bray, who would later become one of the three founders of the Yeti Out creative collective alongside twin brother Arthur and friend Erisen Ali. Subez was one of Yeti Out’s earliest joiners, and today considers Ali and the Bray brothers as more than just her colleagues. “We’re family, though not by blood. If I hadn't met them, I probably wouldn’t have the experiences I have now,” she says. “I’ve been part of the Yeti Out family for over 10 years now.”
It wasn’t until a formative period in Europe that Subez began to understand the ins and outs of being a professional DJ. In London, Ali taught her how to DJ at the now-suspended digital radio station, Radar Radio; while in Berlin, Subez lived with a group of fellow DJs who would spend days on end practising and working on their craft. “I woke up and the first thing on our to-do list was to practise, and then we’d practise again, the same song, over and over again,” she says.
Subez’s DJ career has since taken her around the world, from Seoul to Shanghai and Los Angeles. Her most memorable experience, however, was in Chicago in early 2020, at Vans’ Musicians Wanted band competition. “There were over 1,000 people in listening to me, and it was being live-streamed so the whole world was watching. I was playing back to back with Arthur (Bray), and I was nervous as fuck. My mind was saying, ‘Don’t fuck this up!’ But when I was passing my headphones to him, my hair got caught in between a cable – It was the funniest shit ever!” she laughs.
In an industry typically dominated by men, the musician admits that there are societal constraints that make it more difficult for women to break into the scene. But at the end of the day, “male DJs and female DJs are all the same. It’s about who you are and what your personality is like.” The most successful artists are those who treat others with respect and recognise the people who have helped them on their journey, she continues.
The Hong Kong native loves to go see other female DJs perform, finding out what kind of music they’re listening to and hearing the mixes they create. More often than not, after meeting the artists she invites them to perform on her monthly show on Block.fm, a Japanese internet radio platform. In 2017, Subez founded the all-female DJ collective Mean Gurls Club with the hope of building a community and increasing the number of women headlining shows around the city. Fully embracing the ‘on Wednesdays we wear pink’ aesthetic made famous by 2004 film Mean Girls, the group’s Instagram profile is decorated in bright pink memes and posts that promote the performances of its female DJs.
“I simply wanted to make a difference by creating a safe and inclusive space, where we can be inspired and share what we have learned with others,” Subez says of her motivation in founding the collective. While the community in Hong Kong is relatively small, Subez explains that it has its upsides. “Everyone knows each other and supports each other, especially for those starting on their musical journey.” Her ultimate goal for the group is to push and develop the city’s growing underground music and culture scene.
For those looking to pursue a career in the industry, the artist says it’s important to always believe in yourself. “I always remember the reason I wanted to be a creator – it’s how I stay motivated. It can be a rough business, but what’s worse is not pursuing a passion and giving up on a goal because of fear. We all have the ability, if only we keep our minds open.”
Cover credit: Courtesy of Subez Yeti
Writer | Kristy Or
A fan of indie films and alternative music, Kristy is a writer and producer from Sydney. Tea and coffee are a vital part of her diet.