EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is one of the most popular genres of music among today’s youth. This type of music is often found in nightclubs and major dance festivals, although it is increasingly popular – at lower volumes – in restaurants and cocktail lounges.
DJs of the genre need a deep understanding of it and a wide knowledge of the different artists and producers that are releasing music, as audiences demand seamless mixing of one tune into another. The vast majority of these DJs – most just in Cambodia, but globally – are men, with very few women encouraged to pursue this career.
Khun Vathanit, aka DJ Maily, is one of the minority – a female super star DJ. She has shaken up the EDM music industry and set an example for other women.
Driven by her passion for music, Maily has been rehearsing and practicing on her own since 2013. She started out observing foreign DJs and learning about different genres of electronic music.
She got a chance to practice what she had learned online, when she debuted at a local club, whilst still spending all of her available free time learning more and more about music and DJ techniques.
Her hard work paid off when she was crowned champion at the 2014 Pioneer Digital DJ Battle, defeating many more experienced – but less dedicated – rivals.
Her reputation has grown year on year since then, and she attracts many fans to her shows, sometimes merely on the strength of her reputation. People who are lucky enough to witness her mixing a set are rarely disappointed and it soon becomes obvious why she earned the nickname “The Queen of Clubbing.”
She is not afraid to get the crowd moving, dancing and throwing up lively gestures as she mixes. The fans below her cheer and dance as she introduces a seamless blend of the latest tracks.
However, behind the scenes, she warns that the club music industry can be a tough place for women.
“The work is pretty hard sometimes. We perform at night, so safety is one of the main things I have to be careful about,” said Maily.
Fortunately, she has a family that understands and supports her in her career, although there are cultural challenges about the music to overcome as well.
“The EDM sector in Cambodia is very small! What is more difficult is that many people did not accept the songs and genres that I combine. Most of the artists I play are western, so some local people were somewhat prejudiced against it,” she said.
“During the Covid-19 epidemic, many young people discovered local electronic music and more and more people began to accept what I do,” she added.
By continuously pushing herself to improve, she has gained recognition both for herself and for the EDM scene in the Kingdom.
She is an independent DJ with a strong presence on social media, and thousands of followers.
Maily is often invited by well-known foreign promoters or clubs to perform at concerts and festivals, a rare opportunity for a Khmer DJ. She has also been widely praised by local and foreign EDM music fans.
It is her success and persistence that led to her selection as one of the “exceptional people” of 2022 on a local TV programme, put together by a local beverage company.
She said that the nomination was largely based on her willingness to set goals and pursue them, no matter how far away. She hoped other women would follow her example and chase their dreams.