Interview: Maggie Tra

This Tuesday, we’re delighted to have a visit from Australian-born Vietnamese/Cambodian DJ and producer, Maggie Tra, for her nationally renowned ‘Pho The Girls’ DJ workshop!

Whether spinning hip-hop and soul to R&B and disco, Maggie’s love for music and travel has seen her grace the decks in Berlin, London. Australia and beyond. Establishing herself from humble beginnings as a journalist, blogger and radio host, Maggie then founded music publication ‘Stimulate Your Soul’, which soon cemented her as one of Australia’s trusted tastemakers. 

As well as producing her own music, Maggie is also committed to bringing women to the forefront of the industry by creating ‘SYS Sister Sounds’, a community built to empower and push gender minorities in creative industries through radio shows, workshops and interviews. Established in Hanoi, Vietnam, SYS Sister Sounds has taught over 100 women and non-binary people how to DJ with the ‘Pho The Girls’ DJ workshop. Pho The Girls particularly aims to spotlight Asian women and non-binary people, with support from residencies on Boxout FM and Hanoi Community Radio, as well as features by Mixmag Asia and Mixcloud.

We sat down with Maggie to find out more about where it all began…

Hi Maggie! How did you first get into music? 

I first started as a punter, going to my favourite hip-hop gigs. I love the sound of live music and how it makes me feel. I ended up connecting with a lot of industry people and then started my music blog, Stimulate Your Soul. The blog opened up so many doors for me and also gave me space in the industry to kind of enter on my own terms. From there I started DJing, to now producing my own music and creating SYS Sister Sounds. 

Who are your biggest musical influences?

I’m a sucker for old school hip-hop and soul; the likes of De La Soul, The Pharcyde and Eyrkah Badu are my ultimate favourites. Now my influences stem from more local grounds, and to be honest, to any producer or musician who puts themselves out fierclessy influences me in some sort of way. 

What’s the music scene like in Vietnam? Do your surroundings have much of an impact on the music you create?

Vietnam loves techno! So there wasn’t so much of a space for the music I like and play. However, they are open-minded there and that allowed me to embrace my surroundings and go more traditional with my music taste I guess, and discover really beautiful sounds and instruments that then went on into my music. 

What inspired you to create SYS Sister Sounds and Pho The Girls?

Basically the drive from first-hand experiences that I went through. I suffered discrimintaion as a woman in the industry, especially working predominantly in the hip-hop scene. As I got older, I realised that the industry was so driven for men and there wasn’t any space for women. Or if there was space, it wasn’t a safe space. So, I created SYS Sister Sounds to create that safe space and Pho The Girls to get more women and non-binary people in the music industry to empower and lift each other up. 

How important is community within the music scene to you? What do you think the benefits are of being part of such communities?

Community is so important, online and in person. Honestly, you never know how your actions affect others and having a supportive community can often embrace you and reassure you that “hey, you’re doing great” – which is something simple but we take it for granted. The benefits of a community is that you all have a similar mentality. The big thing I notice also is that there is no space for ego. And with that, it gives you a space to just be yourself and create; be free and know that you are supported. 

Apart from the Pho The Girls Workshop at Melodic Bar, what else do you have coming up?

I actually have a few releases coming out with labels on their compilations this year, one on Juba’s Assurance label and another one with Hong Kong label FuFu Records. I’m also working on releasing an EP next year with an Aussie label. Alongside music, I’ll continue to push Pho The Girls and Hanoi Community Radio, which is an online radio that I established in Hanoi, Vietnam. I also plan to take a few naps in between as well.

Maggie’s Pho The Girls DJ workshop at Melodic Distraction Bar is now sold out, but if you missed out, fear not – you can catch Maggie guesting on this month’s EQUINOX with NIIX this Thursday, 5-6pm. In the meantime, check out Maggie’s latest PTG takeover on Hanoi Community Radio below!