DJ ID: Meet Soya Ito

‘DJing is a tool to find people who share a vision of the future and the world they want to see!’

In Chorareii’s ‘DJ ID’ series, both established and emerging DJs from the Japanese clubbing & raving universe share some information about themselves, for us to know the vision behind the bangers.

chorareii dj id soya ito card
Soya Ito (@sy1re) DJ ID Card. Design: sudden star (@5udden5)

Chorareii: First, introduce yourself! 

Soya Ito: I’m Soya Ito (@sy1re), I’m 19 and I’ll be turning 20 this year. I was born in Tokyo, and I still live in Tokyo.

What kind of music do you play when you DJ? 

In terms of club music, drill, grime, trap, afrobeat, jersey club, dub, electro, EDM, club edits, and pretty much everything else!

Which venues do you often DJ at?

I’m many times at SPREAD these days. It’s so cozy and feels like home. I often hang out at forestlimit.

How did you start DJing?

When I was about 15 or 16, I was part of a community where there were older guys who could DJ. At that time I wanted to do some kind of music, so I had them teach me how to DJ.

chorareii dj id soya ito out
Soya Ito for ENJI magazine.

You are 19 years old. In Japan, you can’t get into most clubs until you’re 20. What is it like for you to be a DJ under these circumstances?

When I was 15 or 16, I couldn’t play at night parties, so I DJ’d only at daytime parties. Last year, I started getting invited to night parties more and more. 

Maybe it’s just in Tokyo, but I think there is a weird system by which some clubs where you can’t go to as a guest because you’re underage let you in if you are a performer.

How do you feel when you are DJing? And what do you want your audience to feel?

It’s natural that I want to have fun and feel good, but I also like the feeling of being connected with everyone, so I try not to be too self-centered.

chorareii dj id soya ito mana vol 1 flyer 1
“Mana” is the name of the party held by Soya Ito. Mana Vol. 1 flyer by Kim Laughton (@kim_laughton).

I want to share with people the temporary rush of emotions that is unique to the club environment. I also want to share with them experiences that will have an unforgettable impact on them even the next day.

I think DJing is a tool for expression, and I’d be happy if DJing could be a catalyst for people to get interested in me and what I do!

Tell me about your party, “Mana.” What does the name mean and how is it different from other parties?

Mana is a project I’m working on. I had a party in April and I will have a group exhibition and after-party in June. I’m leaving to Germany for a year from October. I was wondering how I could stay connected to the Japanese people and scene while I’m away from Japan, so I started Mana.

I initially choose the name because of how the word feels, but in Oceania, it has a religious meaning, it’s a source of strength. A friend of mine told me that in the Bible, food that God sent down from heaven is also called Mana, so I’m sure there are many other meanings to the name that I’m not aware of. I like it because it has a pop feel to it, but it’s also dark at the same time!

It’s hard to explain the difference between Mana and other parties since we’ve only organized two parties, but I’m sure you’ll understand as time goes on. I want to do things that are not music, and I don’t think I will do it only in Japan, it may not be a project only for the real world.

chorareii dj id soya ito mana vol 2 flyer
Mana Vol. 2 flyer by Monica Llag (@monicallag) with logo by @knightty__.

Mana will now be an art exhibition that will last for several days and will include an after-party. Does that mean that Mana has become an art event instead of a party?

The next Mana vol. 2 is inspired by the “Imaginary Line” exhibition held by JACKSON kaki at Contact at the end of January this year and will consist of two parts: a four-day group exhibition and an after-party on the last day.

What we are trying to do as Mana has not changed, even though the way is different. We want to play the role of a showcase to introduce emerging and local artists, and I think this time that has expanded into the field of art. I hope to interpret Imaginary Line in my own way and present it to everyone in my own way.

Whether DJing, partying or exhibiting, I want to try combinations that no one has ever tried before, and I think my aesthetic lies in that game of differentiation, so I want to experiment in that good sense of the word with Mana!

Mana’s statement.

Mana’s statement explains your position against discrimination of any kind; do you think Mana’s selection of artists (both the group show and the after-party) reflects that?

I have organized three events since the end of last year, and I try to keep an even gender ratio among the performers throughout the three events. I think the ideal situation would be to be able to curate and move without such political and social issues, but I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet, considering the current issues of gender, race, and all other inequalities. I know it will be difficult, but until that is achieved, I’d like to keep my stance as a minority ally.

Of course, I understand that there are people who don’t want to relate these issues to their creativity and art. I respect them because they are the ones who probably think about these issues more than others. 

chorareii dj id soya ito mana portrait
Soya Ito DJing at his party, Mana. Photo: @midnightdancingcrew

I want to educate people about inequality through Mana, including myself. I believe that these issues will not change unless everyone becomes aware of them, so I am hoping that my actions will impact someone else. I’m in the majority in Japan —not in terms of the number of people, but in terms of the amount of power I have—, so I hope to be aware of my privilege and use it well while I have it.

How would you describe your personality and how is it reflected in your sessions? 

I’m pretty moody, so I think I cross over from one genre to another when I DJ, and sometimes I’m so focused that I lose sight of my surroundings!

Which musicians, DJs, artists, places … inspire you as a DJ?

I like Chris Cunningham, Jesse Kanda, and the grotesque as a stylistic beauty, like grotesque but beautiful, so I guess I’m inspired by that.

chorareii dj id soya ito mana vol 1 flyer second version
Mana’s visual design by @assaonn

You seem to have a great connection with manga artist and DJ Jun Inagawa. How did this connection come about? How do you both influence each other?

I first saw Jun DJing at Battica and thought he had great vibes, so I booked him for the first Mana and he accepted! We started getting along, and since we live close, I would go out with him at night, and he would give me hand-me-downs of his clothes and all sorts of things.

I haven’t had a lot of contact with people who are active in the underground, so it’s refreshing to talk with Jun, he’s a great inspiration!

What do you like besides music? What do you do when you are not at the club?   

I like to spend time in places where there are not many people, so when it’s sunny, I go to Shinjuku Gyoen or TOHO movie theatre in Yurakucho when I want to watch a movie.

Is there a particular song you would like to play at every session?

I think I play Kid Antoine’s ‘Expected Encounter’ quite often! Banger.

chorareii dj id soya ito selfie

One party that you’ll never forget.

Last year, I would say Ether x Local World party at Club Asia, and Hanes party in the summer. Both parties were so good that I was happy till the end and played till morning!

This year, Minna no Kimochi party at Sagami was the best party I’ve ever been to, with a high level of energy and perfection.

At what parties, venues, festivals, raves, clubs… would you like to play as a DJ?

I haven’t DJ’d outdoors yet, I’d love to play at a rave someday.

What is the role of DJs in our generation?

DJing is a tool to find people who share a vision of the future and the world they want to see!

Listen to Soya Ito’s mixes and follow him on social media


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