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Neighbouring Decks: Amber H

A conversation with Amber H on her love for vinyls, DJing and her journey from Karachi to Singapore.
Rimka Sandhu

Rimka Sandhu

A psychology graduate with a love for all things music and fashion

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Amber Hasan started her journey in Karachi Pakistan, with a long stopover in the US, finally relocating to Singapore. Amber’s passion for electronic music grew listening to Deep Dish during their residency at Club Nation back in 2002 when she was living in Washington DC. She would travel to NYC during weekends frequenting clubs like Vinyl to catch the dynamic duo Danny Tenaglia and Danny Howells, which was the start of her lasting love affair with vinyl and DJ’ing. Amber has been delivering solid sets with fresh cutting edge electronic music that sets the right tone for the night and gets the crowd hyped since 2002. As much as she spends her time exploring digital mediums such as Ableton Live, external effects and drum machines, incorporating live elements where possible, she also enjoys traditional vinyl. 

If you’re one who enjoys techy sounds with chuggy bass lines and hypnotic grooves, be sure to check her sets out. It will make you want to get up and dance! Her career has been an upward trajectory supporting artists like &Me, Lalou, Viken Armen, Rey & Kjavik, Nakadia, Stimming and Âme. She has played at Afrikaburn in South Africa, Quest in Vietnam, and all around South East Asia. Her mix was recently featured in Mixmag Asia and on Frisky Radio’s show labeled “Frisky Loves Singapore”. Before the Covid lockdowns in 2020, Amber was a regular at Headquarters, Tuff Club, Kilo Lounge, and has been part of the music scene in Singapore for many years.

Your DJ name is Amber H which is short for your name Amber Hasan, if you had to pick a DJ name that wasn’t your own name, what would it be?

I haven’t ever thought of any other DJ name other than my own name.  I’m very proud of my family and where we come from.  At the same time DJ’ing is such an integral part of who I am, that I couldn’t imagine having some other name to call myself by. But if you really press me for a DJ name, I would choose Ambidextricks.

During your formative years in Pakistan, were you already someone who was into music? If yes, what kind of sounds did you listen to growing up and has that inspired you to play the sound you play today?

When I was a child, I would give a list of albums to my father to purchase abroad and bring back when he returned from his business trips.  That list included: NWA, Bobby Brown, Madonna, Prince, Whitney Houston, and Now That’s What I Call Music (the first and original!).  So I wasn’t always a house/ techno DJ.  My taste has evolved and my repertoire has become wider.

You were living in the US in the early 2000’s. How was it playing and partying back then? What are the differences from the scene today?

Partying was fantastic! I used to go to clubs like Twilo and Vinyl in NYC and Nation in Washington D.C. Most of the clubs in NYC carried on till the afternoon hours but sadly those venues got shut down as rents rose and authorities made it very difficult for clubs to remain profitable. A lot of the underground club scene has vanished and electronic music has also entered the mainstream.

Traveling is something you do quite often, what are some of your favourite cities to party in and why?

KL is definitely one of my favorite cities. I love the authentic and genuine crowd, and I’ve made many friends in KL along the way.  So it’s really nice to see familiar faces, and visit my DJ friends playing at different clubs in KL. 

Ibiza is a lot more commercial now but I still like to visit.  There is always a party, but you can also disconnect and escape to a remote part of the island away from the crowds.  I’ve only visited Berlin once, but I’ll be back – the city feels like a canvas for anyone to express themselves the way they want, and be who they are.

Having a solid vinyl collection, name your top 3 favourite vinyls that you could listen to on repeat?

  • Dark and Long by Underworld
  • All Day I Dream – Winter sampler
  • Turntables on the Hudson – 20 years of Good Vibes

It is said there’s an underground scene in Pakistan, have you ever been to a secret party there? What is the scene like?

I haven’t lived in Pakistan in over 20+ years. However, there are exciting parties and small festivals popping up in the mountains around the north of the country.  I’m sure my family wouldn’t mind me taking a weekend off to go spin there.  However, whenever I go back, my first priority is spending time with my family who I haven’t seen in at least a year.

You really know how to party, do you enjoy being behind the decks more or on the dance floor dancing the night away with friends?

I’m dancing behind the decks and on the dance floor with friends!  One rule I always give my friends, more dancing, less talking.

Now that you’ve fully mastered vinyls and DJing, have you thought of dabbling in music production?

I’ve tried it but it takes a lot of time and dedication to complete a track. I’ve started many but have yet to finish one that is worth publishing. I use Ableton Live and Maschine Studio for production.

Name a DJ whose sound you really connect with recently? 

Lee Buridge, All Day I Dream. 

During this pandemic some people’s music choices/sound have changed, being away from clubs so long and all. Have you felt that way and if yes, what changes have you noticed in your sound?

I play a lot of uplifting and funky house these days, as my sets are during the daytime, and often for people live-streaming my sets at home.  My 3 am starts have become 3 pm starts, and my music taste has evolved to accommodate that.

When you moved to Singapore was it hard for you as a female DJ to get your foot in the scene?

As with almost everything, I credit getting my foot in the door with a little luck and being in the right place at the right time.  2 weeks after moving to Singapore, I had a casual conversation with someone who ended up being the manager of the Screening Room, and we were talking about my experience as a DJ in NYC.  He then offered me a slot on the spot.

I can only speak about my own experience, but I have been lucky enough to truly believe that the promoters and outlets in Singapore that I work with do not disrespect me or fetishize the idea of a female behind the decks.  I’d like to thank Kilo for featuring me at many Ladies of the Dark nights – which were a great platform to give voice to women in music.  I’d also like to recognize Headquarters and Tuff Club for giving me the opportunity to play based on the merits of my own music.

Clubs, outdoor festivals, opening and closing sets, you’ve played it all. What is your favourite environment and set time to play in?

What I respect and appreciate about opening sets is that a good opening DJ will always take the time to learn and understand the headliner’s music. It’s a struggle to program an opening set, but when I get it right, it’s like playing the firestarter to the headliner’s pyromania.  I’m making the crowd flammable, so the headliner can set them on fire. And, once the job is done, I dance the rest of the night away.

If you’re not DJ’ing, partying or listening to music, what are you usually doing?

During daylight hours, I’m cycling or practicing yoga.  I’m also trying to get better at roller skating and longboarding

Name a city that you haven’t played in but it’s on the top of your DJ bucket list?

Bali – Island of the Gods. It has very picturesque venues on top of cliffs with fiery sunsets.  I’d love to play at one.

* If you’ve missed catching Amber H’s sets, she now has a weekly show on Essentialclubbers.co.uk every Sunday 8am-10am UK (3pm-5pm HK/SG). Do check it out till you can catch her live again!

More About Amber Ha

Soundcloud | Mixcloud | Facebook | Resident Advisor 

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