Limelight: Jasmine Li

1AMJOY’s Paul David met up with well-known electronic music DJ and co-owner of the newly opened Celia Club, Jasmine Li, to go over her beginnings in music and current activities.

PD: Let’s start with the basics: which part of China are you from?

JL: Guangzhou. I’m Cantonese.

PD: What brought you to Shanghai?

JL: In 2002 I was DJing at California Club in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong. They had Park 97 in Shanghai. In 2006 they wanted to change music director in Shanghai. They contacted me and transferred me to Shanghai’s Park 97 as resident DJ. During that time Park 97 had its own concept. There weren’t many clubs in Shanghai at the time Apart from Park97, there was also Guandii at Fuxing Park.

PD: You were involved in Guangzhou opera for 12 years; can you describe that a bit?

JL: I was in a Guangzhou Opera school for 6 years; they teach you how to play the background music to the performance. After graduating from the opera school, I worked for the opera for another 6 years during which I loved going out and fell in love with electronic music. Lots of big clubs opened in Guangzhou at the time playing underground music, trance, and progressive house.

PD: As a teenager, what kind of music did you listen to?

JL: At the age of 16 I started getting into underground and electronic music. DJ Remis introduced me to a lot of electronic music at the time. He was a big DJ in Hong Kong. He knew I had a background in classical Chinese music, and introduced me to other DJs and since that time, 2001, I started learning how to DJ. DJ Remis also gave me some classes. I bought the DJ mixer and turntable equipment and started with vinyl. I practiced 2-3 hours daily and 3 months after I held my first gig at Guangzhou’s BBoss club. Then I started to tour many cities.

PD: You got to DJ with legends like Paul Oakenfold and Sasha. How did you achieve that back then?

JL:  Allan James Jewell who worked at Lan Kwai Fong at the time, believed in me and supported me a lot. He was like a father to me.

PD: What was the scene like in that time? Was electronic music already “established”?

JL: Yes, since that time, house, trance, progressive trance, tech house, techno, was being played in clubs. Of course, there was a lot of hip-hop as well. My manager at the time would look for clubs where electronic music was being played or would match the club.

PD: You mix classical Chinese music with electronic music. How do you achieve a good “blend” given the differences in sound and music theory?

JL: The instruments are totally different; when you play traditional Chinese music, it can’t be matched with the beat of electronic music. So what I do is create another sound melody to match the two together.

PD: How much time do you spend in a typical week to prepare your DJ sets?

JL: A lot of time! To produce a track could take a couple of weeks or more working with a team. Artists are very rarely satisfied with the end result of their songs; they can keep remixing it again and again because they feel it’s “missing something”. It might be “ok” for other people, but for me as an artist, it’s not.

PD: Is it important to you that you like the song, or that the audience received it well?

JL: The audience’s reaction is the most important. As long as they like it, we can consider remixing it, working on it more, but we also have to move onto other tracks.

PD: Although you have a long history as a DJ in China, your profile is not extremely “public”. People in electronic music know you, but you don’t heavily promote yourself. Is that something you do on purpose?

JL: As an artist, music is my full-time job, more time spent on it than sleeping! (laughs) I don’t really like to be in the promotion game. As an artist, it’s not part of my job.

PD: So what if an agent comes to you and says “Jasmine, I’ll manage the promotion part”, would you be interested in that?

JL: Yes, sure, but I haven’t found any agent I trust enough to be my agent so far as the agent market isn’t very mature yet. I would like to work with a good agency, but I ‘d have to see how they work before I associate my name with them.

PD: Tell us a bit about Celia club.

JL: My partner’s ex-wife, who passed away, was called “Celia”; we wanted to open a club to commemorate her. We considered various names for the club, but in the end, we realized that “Celia” was the best one, everyone liked it. The club’s concept is mainly an “after” underground club, but we open early for our “stock market game”. You can see drink prices fluctuate on the software screen based on Celia customer demand trends; Celia’s stock market operates daily, including weekends, from 11pm to 1am. Our “regular” night starts at 1am and goes until 9am.

PD: What kind of crowd does Celia attract?

JL: Music lovers. Our followers love underground music! They knew what the Celia concept would be about as we’ve gained many followers from previous clubs.

PD: Thank you very much, and all the best with Celia!

JL: Thank you!

By Paul David (1AMJOY)
Photos by Viktor Grabovets