Amber

Amber

Girl Gaze Shanghai

As one of the founders of NÜSHÙ女术, an inclusive community to bring cohesion and joy amongst people through music in Shanghai, Amber has been killing the DJ game with her groovy remixes.

Can you tell us something about yourself?
I’m Amber Akilla. I’m a DJ and a creative consultant. I’m Chinese Australian. I have a law degree and I’m based in Shanghai!

Why did you decide to stay in Shanghai over other cities when you first graduated?
I visited Shanghai before in my final year of university and something clicked when I was here and it just became the place I wanted to move to. I enjoy the contrast between traditional and modern, Chinese and Western, suburb and city, and of course, the way music and arts culture is developing here.

YEOJA Mag - Amber- Girl Gaze Shanghai - Interview and photography by Chenshi Pu
Photography: Chenshi Pu

What was it first like living in China? Did you find it easy or hard to adjust to the lifestyle in Shanghai?
I always wanted to move out of Australia when I was younger and because I’d visited Beijing a lot while growing up, there wasn’t much of a culture shock. I’ve also been really lucky to have family here and meet very supportive friends that help me when I’m stuck mid-translation.

How would you describe your style?
I think my style is generally quite laid-back. Day to day it’s practical; t-shirts, pants, sneakers, or Docs. I think I avoided engaging in fashion for a while because I wanted to avoid being judged on superficial things. I also think the speed of trends is exhausting. I’m learning to loosen up and have fun again so every now and then I’ll turn it up for a special event.

YEOJA Mag - Amber- Girl Gaze Shanghai - Interview and photography by Chenshi Pu
Photography: Chenshi Pu

How did you start DJing? What style of music you play?
I started DJing when I was in university. A friend of a friend was a promoter who was looking for new DJs and offered to teach me. I picked it up relatively quickly and started from there. I play all different genres of music. To me, good music is good music and I don’t like restricting myself to just one genre. I prefer to mix familiar and unfamiliar things together, whether its hip-hop, r&b, grime, underground dance music, pop, k-pop, house, and techno.

Where do you get inspiration for curating your sets?
I get inspiration from everywhere when it comes to music. It could be something I hear other DJs play, something I hear out and about in a store or a restaurant, or music that has nostalgia attached to it. I like thinking about ways to surprise a crowd, get them moving and keeping them on the dance floor. How can I mix music that makes people go “OMG!!!” and grab their friends over.

YEOJA Mag - Amber- Girl Gaze Shanghai - Interview and photography by Chenshi Pu
Photography: Chenshi Pu

May you describe your DJ group, NüShù as well as the aim of creating this group?
NÜSHÙ女术 is a project I started with a few friends in Shanghai (Lhaga, Daliah, and Nyusta). It’s a femme, femme-identifying, LGBTQI, and non-binary focused DJ workshop. I was lucky to have a relatively smooth start into DJing and obviously a lot of challenges along the way, so the goal of the project is to create a space and community for people to learn new things, meet new people and feel supported in a big city like Shanghai. We have guest instructors and just had our first party with Bambii from Toronto as our headliner. For me, empowerment starts from the ground up and with the people around you. We’re still in the beginning stages of this project and there are long-term goals for all of us in how we expand and grow.

Is there anything you would like to challenge moving forward?
Everything. So much of what society and industries are built on are out of date and male-centric. The empowerment and representation of women and marginalised groups is so important to me. Hearing, seeing and supporting new voices, stories and personalities is what inspires and motivates me. I want to see things change and progress so that the world can be a more inclusive space for everyone. Challenging and pushing the boundaries is one of the ways those things happen.

YEOJA Mag - Amber- Girl Gaze Shanghai - Interview and photography by Chenshi Pu
Photography: Chenshi Pu

What is your go-to playlist at the moment?
As someone who didn’t have much exposure to Asian artists when I was growing up in Australia, my “Asian glow” playlist on Spotify is where I put all the music I’ve discovered from artists based in and of Asian ethnicity.

Can you share some of your favorite female artists with us?
Too many to name them all but here’s a few: Amy Winehouse, Azealia Banks, Aretha Franklin, Rico Nasty, Yaeji, Uniiq3, Fishdoll, IAMDDB, Kelela….!

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Original photography by Pu for YEOJA Mag. Check out Amber on Instagram. For more Girl Gaze, click here.