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24 JUN 2024
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Riding waves of resilience with Cora. The world Cora inhabits may shift beneath her feet, but there's an unwavering strength to her artistic vision. Her music pulses with the energy of rebirth and transformation, daring audiences to face adversity and emerge renewed.

NOTE
“... What the fuck is this place? It’s so dark, so small, and no tables? And what’s this music? No melody? No lyrics?’ The guy said, ‘this is techno.’ I said, ‘I love it.’”
NOTE
Cora's outlook carries the sentiment of the mountains she feels eternally connected to. “I feel so lucky and grateful—I feel reborn,” she reflects, echoing the Daoist philosophy of wu wei—the ancient wisdom of going with the flow; the act of trusting in the universe's rhythm, and allowing things to unfold naturally.
NOTE
Drawing from the mystical energy of the mountains, she created a sound that is both ethereal and esoteric: a reflection of her own multifaceted journey.
NOTE
Cora on her time at The Observatory, Saigon, “Those years really taught me how to read the dancefloor,” she explains, “because I would come check the lights, the smoke machine, artist care—sometimes I would even work at the door.”
NOTE
"Everyone has their own story to tell, and this is mine. Life is an adventure, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me"
@corakoala
@hgshepherd
@julientell

There is a temple on Qingcheng Mountain, near her hometown of Chengdu, that Cora always returns to. “It’s super beautiful, and super spiritual,” she says, recalling the ancient trees and fresh mountain air that surround the hills of the Dao Buddhist place of worship. “It’s like this out-of-earth kind of feeling.” Even as we sit 5000 miles away in her favourite Berlin café, Cora holds this place close, gesturing to the image of female deity, Doumu, who graces her iPhone lock screen. “I don’t know why, but I feel so connected to her.”

It was in this temple that Cora found both solace and serenity when China’s stringent COVID regulations forced the nation into severe lockdown. Overlooking the mountains, she prepared the tracks for the Honey Soundsystem podcast she recorded in 2021. “It was so natural,” she remembers, “like the universe made this mix, not me.” Stuck in China, with no obvious end to the restrictions in sight, she appealed to Doumu. “I just wished that the world would hear this mix,” she laughs. Her call was answered. Two weeks after its release, HNYPOT 384—an energetic odyssey "pulling rattling techno, trance and gabber into a howling maelstrom of contorted club sounds"— was featured as Resident Advisor’s ‘Mix of the Day’, and subsequently charted among CRACKs best mixes of the year. “I was shocked,” she admits, “because they really heard it.”

Three years later, those same mountains inspire Cora’s debut track, ‘Mountain High’, released on SAL’s Lunar New Year compilation, via Lawrence Lee’s A7A imprint in February. During a trip to Bali, with the track almost finished and less than a week until the deadline, Cora was moved by the spirituality and nature of the Indonesian island, and summoned the energy of Qingcheng. “Suddenly, I felt like I wanted to sing something,” she explains—so she took out her phone and recorded her own voice, attempting to emanate the traditional form of singing indigenous to those mountains. The result is a haunting homage to her homeland; propulsive progressive trance, driven by squelching acid bass, adorned with glittering synths, and guided by her own echoing vocals. “I wanted to present something from where I come from,” she explains. “And I didn’t want to just take the same samples everyone else is using.” Drawing from the mystical energy of the mountains, she created a sound that is both ethereal and esoteric: a reflection of her own multifaceted journey. 

A strong believer in energy and guidance, Cora’s path to becoming a DJ was not carefully planned-out, but rather a series of exercises in following her intuition. In 2014, she was pursuing a career in acting and modelling in Hong Kong, and spending her weekends at dragon-I, a commercial club in the city’s SOHO area. “I was going out in high heels, drinking champagne, listening to Calvin Harris and Avicii,” she laughs. But fate had a different beat in store. After wrapping a shoot at her favourite gin speakeasy, Ping Pong, the team took her to underground club, OMA. “I was like, ‘what the fuck is this place? It’s so dark, so small, and no tables? And what’s this music? No melody? No lyrics?’ The guy said, ‘this is techno.’ I said, ‘I love it.’” 

It might sound hyperbolic, but for Cora, that night at OMA changed the course of her life. “It felt like a memory from a past life, or like my consciousness—my guide—wanted to lead me there,” she says. “I started to go every weekend. I was always the last girl to leave the club.” She began hanging out with the manager, and resident DJ Taku Hirayama, and the rest, as they say, was history. “I started to party, and I stopped going to castings…” she laughs.

From Taku, Cora learned about the scene in Saigon, and The Observatory—according to him “the coolest club in Asia” at the time.  Already enamoured with the image of Vietnam she’d conjured in her childhood imagination through the novels of Anni Baobei and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film The Lover, Cora was excited to visit—a fateful trip that introduced her to her former partner (head of The Observatory), and ultimately led her to uproot her life to Saigon. At the time, she was training in Kung Fu—(“my agent wanted me to be this Hollywood movie kind of actor that could fight, and speak English,”)—but gave up that life for love. “I left, just like that, after seven years.” This kind of decision is characteristically Cora. “I don't think about [those kind of things] too much. When I want to do something, I just do it.”

For the next three years—struggling to find English-speaking acting jobs in Saigon, and disenfranchised with the modelling industry—Cora began helping out with day-to-day runnings of The Observatory, developing a discerning ear and a holistic understanding of the club environment. “Those years really taught me how to read the dancefloor,” she explains, “because I would come check the lights, the smoke machine, artist care—sometimes I would even work at the door.”


It was only a matter of time before she began DJing herself. Back then, Cora found herself drawn to “deep techno trippy stuff,” like Donato Dozzy and Marco Shuttle, and didn’t care so much about mistakes. “It was more about sharing the selection.” But after playing regularly on quieter weekday nights at The Observatory, and at one party in her hometown of Chengdu (that went so badly it left her “traumatised”) Cora decided to throw in the towel. “I was like maybe this is not for me,” she laughs. “Also seeing guest DJs come every weekend, the way they travel, made me realise that DJing is a super difficult job, and I wasn’t sure I can handle this lifestyle. So I decided maybe it’s just better that I be a raver.”

In 2018, following a breakup, Cora found herself back in Chengdu after a decade away. It was there that she discovered .TAG, an intimate techno haven perched on the 21st floor of The Poly Centre. “I couldn’t believe this place existed in the city where I grew up,” Cora admits. “I was really shocked—there were so many queer people on the dance floor and the vibe was so good.” Attending every weekend, Cora naturally connected with Ellen Zhang, the club’s manager and co-founder. “We got along immediately because we’re both super straightforward,” she says. Soon, Cora was introducing Ellen to DJs she felt aligned with .TAG’s atmosphere, the first being UK legend Steve Bicknell. “At that time, most of the music in China was this deep techno and tech house,” she explains. Before long, Ellen had entrusted her with the club’s bookings.

Ironically, though, it was the club’s closure that kickstarted Cora’s DJ career again. Living with .TAG resident Aymen, she had already begun playing on his set-up, but COVID lockdowns intensified her exploration. Sharing the costs of sourcing records from Europe, Aymen encouraged her to practise. “I was super lazy actually,” she laughs. “But he was pushing me.” Her music taste had by then evolved in the direction of progressive house and trance: Sleep D, Roza Terenzi, D.Tiffany. “I was always into trends at the beginning,” she admits. “I hadn’t discovered so much music yet, and I was still looking for what I really liked.” This period of self-discovery led her to explore house and breakbeat, echoes of which are evident in her Club Quarantäne mix, radio appearances, .TAG performances (when COVID restrictions allowed), and the club concept she launched with Aymen in 2020: 6G+. a “supercharged” monthly party, exploring “the sonic spectrum between bass, breaks, rave, house, techno and trance.” 

Scarcely two years into her DJ journey, Cora achieved a career milestone she hadn't dared to dream of: a booking at Berghain's Klubnacht—reportedly the first Chinese DJ to receive this accolade. “I was overwhelmed,” she admits. “It was like finally, some light, in the darkest tunnel.” But leaving China during lockdown proved a logistical nightmare, and was impossible on a tourist visa. 

With the help of a friend in New York, Cora secured an Italian business visa, and spent three months in Berlin, playing Berghain two more times before closing out her European stint at De School in Amsterdam. Returning to Hanoi, due to China's ongoing lockdown, only fortified her resolve. Having experienced a taste of the possibilities that awaited her in Europe, and with a network of friends already established there, Cora set her sights on Berlin as her new home base. 


The process of getting there, however, would be a lengthy, costly and bureaucratic ordeal marked by setbacks, mishandled visa applications, cancelled gigs, and frustration. While in Vietnam, changes in visa requirements prevented her from performing in Korea and Japan, and after spending months chasing the status of her German artist visa application, Cora discovered it had never been submitted. "I didn't work for more than half a year,” she laments. “It was a period of depression.” Eventually, after almost a year of uncertainty (and an unexpected detour to Morocco), Cora finally received her three-year visa.

Since returning to Berlin, Cora has worked hard to regain her momentum, navigating the dog-eat-DJ world of club and festival circuits with renewed determination. “It’s like if they didn’t see your name for a year, they don’t reach out any more,” she explains. Having not played for almost 9 months, and returning to a city surrounded by DJs she idolised, Cora was shaken. “I kind of lost my confidence,” she admits. “It took me a while. I was having doubts about myself. I only recently feel like I got that back. It’s been a really hard journey.”

Yet through perseverance and a renewed focus on her music, Cora has regained her footing, touring across Europe to Nantes, Lisbon, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen, and finding fulfilling kinship in Berlin’s Asian diaspora—hosting an ambient incarnation of her 6G+ party at KWIA, playing on behalf of Chengdu’s Seafood party at WHOLE Festival, and representing SAL, a project conceived to "celebrate the richness of East- and South East- Asian cultures". 

But such a strong sense of community has not blinded Cora to the city’s darker undercurrents outside of that bubble, which became a painful reality for the DJ in April this year. “I was finally finding my life going smooth, my career in motion, and celebrating my new love,” she explains, referring to her girlfriend of one year, Kim Ann Foxman. But on the day of their anniversary, the couple were attacked in Neukölln, in a suspected hate crime that left them shaken and outraged. The pair shared their experience on Instagram, hoping to raise awareness and spark a dialogue about the ongoing struggle for QTBIPOC acceptance and safety, even in seemingly progressive cities like Berlin."We feel like being Asian and queer, we wanted to be more vocal, and tell people to be more aware of it," she explains. "None of our friends in Asia can believe this is happening in 2024 in Berlin." 

The traumatic experience is one that Cora is still coming to terms with, but the past few years have given her the capacity to reframe adversity and channel it into something transformative. "What happened to me made me who I am," she explains."After everything I've been through, I can't listen to dark or sad music anymore. I’m not on that frequency anymore.” Her resilience is evidenced in an evolving output, which has shifted towards a spacey, sexy sound that weaves emotional depth and dramatic tension into a rhythmic journey, attuned to her optimistic energy. And thanks to encouragement and support from Foxman, Cora has also managed to conquer her long-standing fear of Ableton, with two more tracks set for release this month.

No matter how far she travels, Cora's outlook carries the sentiment of the mountains she feels eternally connected to. “I feel so lucky and grateful—I feel reborn,” she reflects, echoing the Daoist philosophy of wu wei—the ancient wisdom of going with the flow; the act of trusting in the universe's rhythm, and allowing things to unfold naturally. “Everyone has their own story to tell, and this is mine. Life is an adventure, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.”

@corakoala
@hgshepherd
@julientell
TRACKLIST

1. Cosmic Four - Duncan Forbes

2. 606 ZILLA - PLANET OF DRUMS

3. A Century Of Beatz (Hard Driving Beat Mix) - Joy Kitikonti

4. Dance Don't Stop - Kim Ann Foxman

5.Don't Touch Me (While I'm Dancing) - Lubelski

6. A star is porn - Clubfoot

7. Bump-O-Matic Dub - Saeed & Palash, Saeed Younan

8. Mescalito (Pablo Gargano Beatbox Remix) - Sourmash

9. I Like The Way Shes Moving - Coffintexts

10. Bass'd In Berlin - Sleep D

11. Memories of the Secret - Roza Terenzi & jd

12. Opening - TaDan

13. Nightshade - Fred

14. Gangsta - SPE:C

15. Erdbeer Kiwi (XV Kilist Mix) - Bitmonx & Fabio

16. Technon - Jupiter 8000

17. Game & Watch - Son Kite

18. Pay The Price - Seigg

19. IN BEWEGUNG - Warnung

20. Total Drums -Zentral

21. Jupiter 8000 - Jupiter 8000

22. Spiral Being - .Psychonaut

23. Dirty Rockin Bass - Darc Marc

24. Total Planetary Takeover - HyperionORBIT

25. Free Ur Mind - Jks

26. Eye Shake - Seigg

27. Who That Is - Mohajer & Lawrence Lee

28. He Said It - Random Order

29. Infectious - X-Cabs

30. Gunung Padang - ENNIO

31. TO THA HOEZ REWORK - DJ DEEON

32. Change - georg-i

33. NIGHT (1OO1O speed dembow mix) - 1OO1O

34. velds1- Vel & LDS

35. Biologic - Absolom

36. The Heart Sutra - Cora (Unreleased)

∿∿∿ WAV•WORLD · ∿∿∿ WAV•WORLD • CORA.wav