"The hope is, with this roster of tracks I can inspire more queer Asians to participate in the dialogue, produce more music and be a leading voice.”
California-raised Robert Yang is best known as one of the earliest members of the queer San Francisco collective Honey Soundsystem, but also has a growing output as a producer and label head. With over ten EPs and one LP to their name, their work conjures a kind of dystopian euphoria - pop-infused, synth-constructed, Italo-leaning - while their curatorial work can be found across three labels - Bodyzone, m-i-v and Piece of Work.
Recognising his role in uplifting others, Yang has themed their mix around community, selecting mainly Asian artists in the hope they can “inspire more queer Asians to participate in the dialogue, produce more music, be a leading voice.” This can be heard alongside a Q&A discussing the importance of community in a journey of self-discovery.
It’s very important right now to find places where you can talk about your experiences, especially if you’re part of a marginal group of people whose identities don't always translate to the mainstream. With a lot of issues today surrounding the zeitgeist: pandemic, racism, war, climate change and inequality we are in an urgent state that we need to broadcast ideas, stories and concerns in the hopes that someone’s thinking pattern, be it decision makers or organizations, can change or be steered in the right direction. The Right To Dance has the power to do this and through their extensive work, especially through War Child’s fundraising to support the mental health of children affected by war, this is why I am excited to offer viewpoints from my background to the series.
Dancing helps us form connections with other people. Dance music gives us a reason to go out, socialize and find more people on the same wavelengths as we collectively navigate difficult situations where we don't always have the right answers. We discover through others ways to improve conditions that may be difficult to manage when you are all alone especially if trauma is a feature of your experience. If you take out the focus of who is headlining festivals but on how communities are using dance music to organize around issues and questions around visibility, LGBTQIA+ rights and mental health there is value to continue forging this path through these events.
Community is always a good starting point to find yourself, see yourself in others and where your allyship zone resides. Community gives us a chance to make new friends who enrich and become a part of our journey. I’m thinking about what sorts of role models I had growing up and there really wasn’t anyone too visible who was gay and Asian that I could look up to or align. As I’m primarily operating in the music and nightlife space — this model is lacking in visibility for a lot of marginal people and has been for quite some time. I chose a selection of mainly Asian artists and a few friends here and there because with this mix I’d like to paint a more perfect reality where allies are plentiful, ready to support each other. And the hope is, with this roster of tracks I can inspire more queer Asians to participate in the dialogue, produce more music, be a leading voice. We need to put ourselves front and center in the arts, entertainment, be visible, vocal about who we are and keep fighting for equity and recognition.
A lot of the music here comes from a few compilations, especially the Double Happiness comps released throughout the pandemic by FuFu Creative, also the brains behind Shi Fu Miz Festival in Hong Kong. Their mission covers a lot of ground like protecting the environment, lifting up regional producers primarily across Asia but other parts of the world and giving a voice to artists who normally have to wait until the shuffle rolls around to their turn again.
Growing up Asian in the 80s and 90s in predominantly white suburbs of Southern California was very depressing. On the one hand I could see tightly knit cliques of Asian classmates coming from different backgrounds but if you as person were somehow suggestive of marginal sexual identity you were shut out and excluded– completely ghosted from inclusion by the people you seek acceptance. After moving to San Francisco in 2005, I found that people who gravitate towards you were not a single demographic but many different identities and backgrounds regardless if they were straight or gay. The people I met after coming out as gay have enriched me with a kind of consciousness that is more expansive above the bigger picture outlook.
Being a constructive member of the Honey Soundsystem collective answered a lot of questions for me. As a crew we learned from the foundations of US dance music history to build something more modern, open and accessible for people normally shut out from these spaces. And to be Taiwanese-American and gay with a heavy role in Honey’s day to day operations for over 14 years really helped me be more comfortable with addressing questions around the ambiguity the role Asians in the community could possibly have. It was very clear to me you can be someone who looks like me and be accepted in the community with open arms with no questions and no conditions. Certainly, outside of the Honey Soundsystem context I do experience from time to time some forms of invalidation. And if an attendee/dancer didn’t know who I was at one of our functions I do hear their comments about my level of attractiveness or some other negative opinions about me. I know that more work is needed to build an environment that people with similar profiles as me can feel comfortable in.
I had a late start coming out of the closet which led me to finding my community in San Francisco. Knowing who I was earlier I may have found a niche and moved there sooner to experience everything they had to offer. Perhaps, if I had the right guides earlier on in life I may also have moved to New York. I learned how to DJ listening to Larry Levan’s 3 CD live mix recording at the Paradise Garage that I bought used from Amoeba on Sunset Boulevard, far and away from the epicenter of that scene. If I could experience a dance floor moment in history that would be the one.