NON NON NON x Abandon Radio: Intro to DJ-ing Workshop for Women and Non-binary


11 November 2023 — Chiangmai — On the 4th floor of the restaurant Boonpun Zaru & Don, located the underground live broadcasting radio station Abandon Radio where that Saturday, NON NON NON, Bangkok’s queer underground collective formed in 2018 by Mae Happyair, organize a free ‘Intro to DJing workshop for women and non-binary’.

Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Harassment.



NON NON NON aims to support and promote safe space for LGBTQ+ made a visit at the station to collaborate and organize a free ‘Intro to DJing workshop for women and non-binary’ which included a panel discussion on ‘Party and safe space in women and queer community.’ and after party until late with DJs who also took part as the mentor for the workshop and panelists; Cristal No. 5 (Razedbi) and Oktapuss (REACTOR) from Bali, MJMA (Betreuters Raven) and NONGNUII (Reverberation Area) from Bangkok with a special guest from Chiang Mai Sugar K.

The event started in the afternoon for the workshop part, which was limited to 8 people so that everyone got the full experience of DJing. The group was split into 2, each led by Mae Happyair and Cristal No. 5, allowing the attendees to learn and see the demonstration thoroughly. It was also a chance to use real equipment such as different types of controllers, mixing, and transition techniques for 2 hours. 5 pm, the workshop space was changed into the talking session by Mae Happyair, Cristal No. 5, Oktapuss, MJMA, NONGNUII, and Gres Teh, with Iarbuckle as a moderator.


Today’s speakers are DJs, activists, or a part of the LGBTQ+ community each of them shared their personal and indirect experiences of getting unfairly paid, religious restrictions, being discriminated against, or even hate crimes within the scene or the industry which made them couldn’t fully express themselves. It is unacceptable to be mistreated and this shouldn’t happen to anyone, everyone deserves to be treated equally and respectfully as a human. Thus, this sharing session raised the significance of having communities that help amplify, educate, and understand sensitive topics. Moreover, the collective can promote a campaign or demand justice to solve the bigger social issues that have ever happened to the community.

Mae Happyair believes that partygoer behavior after the pandemic has gradually changed. From partying for party sake, a 2-year hiatus of social gatherings made people aware of the significance of human connection; it makes us complete. Nowadays parties have become a place for like-minded people to share ideas, thoughts, and beliefs, that possibly make the world a better place. Sometimes, parties can be seen as symbolic expressions, movements, or even identity politics, just like NON NON NON’s events that have always advocated rights and safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.


Iarbuckle agreed and added that Bangkok's music scene was significantly expanded in the past 2 years, from word of mouth of people who have already been into clubbing started inviting friends from different circles to join these events, as the lockdown makes people crave social gatherings. As a part of the live music and independent artist community, she noticed that not only herself but many people who have similar backgrounds to her become more interested in rave and electronic music as the boundaries that separate each scene have become blurred; everyone is connected through the similar music tastes and wants to spend time together. In the meantime, Chiangmai's electronic scene is very new to her. She used to hear about secret parties up on the hill or in the woods, but recently, the newly opened underground clubs, live venues, and listening bars including Abandon Radio show the possibility of Chiangmai being the upcoming music scene of Thailand.



Gres Teh, a furniture designer of Made by Lert started DJing at the age of 14 and now he’s 27 and has moved to Chiangmai for 2 years. His early days were during the quarantine and all the clubs and bars were closed. However, he noticed that the locals nowadays are not originally from Chiangmai but come from many different cultural backgrounds from all over the world, and they also brought the culture and community to the city. They’re also open-minded and friendly so they’re always welcome and ready to discover new things. After the lockdown was lifted, Abandon Radio, Noise, DEAF SHOP, ReD, and other alternative places were opened, and that’s where diversity and creative community getting more flourish.

This sounds like Chiangmai is a scene full of hope, but the artists or people behind the music industry in the city are still underpaid. Has been decades, and there are plenty of musical talents but never been able to make a living from the gigs. Independent artists have to travel all the way to Bangkok or abroad as the fanbase is not in their hometown. Any paid events are somewhat ineffective and never make profits as the audiences don’t feel like they have to pay for the music, instead, they’re okay with buying drinks or food as they think music is only for the background. Some bars don’t have entrance fees but hire musicians to play each night, however, they’re paid unfairly at 300-400 THB/hr and even have to share among band members, while the bars make a profit from the load amount of purchased drinks. That’s why some musicians have to play many gigs per night to get a reasonable income.

In Bangkok, everyone in the industry understands that artists and DJs are supposed to get paid properly. Mae always tells her students to make sure that the organizers pay them as a reward for their hard work. In almost every gig, DJs have to purchase tracks and equipment and have a lot of practice to get the perfect performance. For the time being, the minimum rate of DJ fees is around 1000-1500 THB per hour.

This is why building the community is a small step that is able to help secure the artists. Right now there’s a group of people behind Chiangmai’s music industry that are forming a committee called ‘Tempo.wav’, to find a solution and demand fair wages for musicians in Chiangmai.


For Bali, even though they didn’t address the problem of being underpaid, their situation is even worse. Oktapuss or Octavian is a photographer from Bandung, Indonesia, and later they’ve become a Bali-based DJ, while Cristal No. 5 or Tristan, an Australian-born Indonesian is a fashion designer and moved to Bali for 15 years and started DJing 3 years ago. They share a similar goal and during covid lockdown, they organized hip-hop parties and focused on the queer community before creating their own collective following directions called REACTOR and Razedbi respectively to support their DJ friends and build their own platform for everyone to get booked for the performance.

It’s well known for Bali as a famous tourist attraction and there are many beach clubs, however, it’s never enough for underground artists to have space to express their music. And here is the catalyst for the change; when Tristan was 20 (now they’re 36), they and their friends went to the superclub called Skyline which is one of the most popular destinations but what shocked them was the club allowed tourists to enter for free, while charging the locals. Tristan said that the nightlife in Bali is toxic and Indonesian society was mostly whitewashed and never saw the value of Indonesian people. Sometimes, Indonesian DJs will never get booked to play in big clubs, but the only time they reached out was when the quarantine was still active so they couldn’t hire foreign DJs. Tristan and Octavian felt they should do something with this norm by fighting back by gathering Indonesian DJs and doing the opposite way and never easily accepting the invitations of the places that used to reject them.


Why do we need a safe space?

Besides racial discrimination, the Bali rave scene seems open to diversity. Still, the LGBTQ+ community has to experience inequality from both legislation and religion and violence from hatred. Same as in Thailand, even though it’s more acceptable and respectful to be gay, trans, or non-binary, Gres said there still misunderstanding about LGBTQ+ that people think they have to be ‘funny/ entertaining people’, because Thai media always portray the group as the protagonist sidekick or the ‘gay’ role is played by straight that gives comedic vibes only. For the marketing campaign, their identity was used as the annual promotion such as the brands changing their logos CI to a rainbow palette during Pride month in June, and the LGBTQ+ DJs will get booked during this certain period. Gres said ironically that for the rest 11 months of the year, they don’t have any shows.

Pride month typically June, is dedicated to the celebration and commemoration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary pride. There will always be parades and activities to promote knowledge about the LGBTQ+ and fight against injustice in the community. However, still, there are some people who treat their identity as a joke. There was a party in Bangkok to support safe spaces for queer and celebrate their identity by letting the community get in for free, but there was a straight man dressed up as a woman, that person could successfully get in for free and proudly boasted about this to the other people in the party. This is an unacceptable and shameful action, so later on, most of the queer parties have to announce the rules and regulations, to treat everyone with respect despite race, gender, or sexuality.


Octavian said in the past in Indonesia, people had to hide their identity unless they would get discriminated against or attacked. Nowadays that violence seems to have disappeared but the idea of homophobia still exists. Tristan heard about his friends’ stories that always experience violence and hate crimes. He grew up in the 90s when the rave scene was at its peak. He was only 12 but had to know about his mother’s friend got attacked and raped, and almost got killed just because they were lesbian. It sounds dark and cruel but they still have hope and this can be changed. The queer community in Indonesia still helps and cares about one another as they want to make this world better. Just like Betreuters Raven, the Bangkok-based collective formed by MJMA and her friends from Germany and Switzerland believes that once people are connected through music, more than business, they start to build the connection and support one another, just about the very small things like; are they still hydrated, intoxicated, got hurt, etc. However, NONGNUII believes that we still need the laws and policies enforced by governments to protect the LGBTQ+ community, and a safe space can actually be possible.


After the panel discussion, everyone attending this event continued partying until late at night at Abandon Radio with performances from Cristal No. 5, Oktapuss, MJMA, NONGNUII, and Sugar K, with the hope that we can make this world a better place, for everyone, together.

Montipa 'Iggy' Virojpan is a writer and a music journalist.

The article was published in Thai by the Cosmos.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Heinrich Böll Stiftung.