‘The thrill of screwing up’: How a DJ with ADHD finds his groove and grows in Hong Kong’s drum and bass scene

“People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have difficulty concentrating and need stimulation and good rewards; DJing can be risky because you could screw up a beat game and have the whole club stay up silence.

Behind the scenes at Just Bee’s Christmas party at Soho House in Hong Kong in December 2023.

“People come here to have fun, and you have extra pressure to perform. The thrill of maybe screwing up, that’s what I really like.

One of her earliest memories is listening to 2 Unlimited’s 1993 high-speed techno track “No Limit” when she was three or four years old.

“I used to spend a lot of time with my uncle, and he had this crazy collection of vinyl dance music that he would play on his turntable,” she said. “Subconsciously, I felt like this was where it all started.”

When she was around 16, a friend took her to her first dance music event, where she experienced a live DJ set for the first time and immediately fell in love with drum and bass.

“What kind of fast-paced music is this? How am I supposed to dance to it?” she remembers thinking. It was unlike anything she had ever heard before. “The drum and bass has so many layers – it’s very thoughtful, energetic and sonically interesting.”

I have ADHD so I have a hard time sticking to things I want to do and when I don’t want to do something – forget about it.

Just Bee talks about why she gave up studying accounting

She quickly joined the Hong Kong dance music scene.

In the mid-2010s, already deeply involved in the local drum and bass scene, she organized a birthday party and invited some of her favorite Hong Kong DJs. Before the party, a DJ taught her the basics and encouraged her to play a set of music herself and surprise everyone at the event.

It was at this time that she decided to drop out of accounting after studying accounting for a year and a half.

“I somehow deceived myself into saying I needed to meet these social demands,” she said. “I have ADHD, so it’s hard for me to keep doing things I want to do and when I don’t want to do something, just forget about it.”

She then worked a series of odd jobs, during which she DJed at small gigs and underground parties. Music didn’t pay well, but she kept at it because it was the one thing she truly loved.

Abby Yuen enjoys the pleasure brought by DJ. Photo: Just Bee

“The artistry of DJing lies in the curation of music and connecting with the audience,” she said. “I can DJ for five hours straight, no problem. There’s a lot going on.

“You have to look after the audience, communicate with the venue staff, think about what songs to play next and what songs to play within the set time […] It’s really exciting to be able to control everything.

In 2019, in her twenties, she returned to college to study new media, which expanded her musical horizons. She took sound arts classes and explored the subject in new and different ways outside of DJing.

Rather than putting together existing pieces, she began composing her own. For her senior thesis, she wrote about how sound affects the listener’s perception of time, based on research into the history and philosophy of sound art and corresponding acoustics, physics, and physiology.

This made her more picky about her DJ gigs.

I’m trying new things and being brave!

Just Bee will feature vocals on her upcoming EP

“I used to say ‘yes’ to everything – which is why I’ve been doing it non-stop for almost a decade – but I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection during COVID-19, when there were no shows to say ‘yes’ to. ‘,”she says.

“Now I’m thinking, ‘What am I trying to say?’ I’ve stopped playing pure drum and bass music for at least two or three years.

“I’m not just one type of music or one way of DJing.”

Since graduating last year, she has been teaching DJing at her studio.

“I enjoy socializing and getting to know people, which helps because I’m able to figure out what people need in order to provide guidance and coaching,” she said. “All of my classes are personalized to the individual student.”

Her students range in age from eight to around fifty.

She is also working on an EP, which will be released later this year.

“I’m exploring how to use my voice, and this will be in it,” she said. “I’m trying new things and being brave!”

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