Club Reg­u­lars 010: Ciel

Toronto’s scene is struggling, but Ciel is determined to support its community of underground ravers.

Although the good dance music spots are rapid­ly dwin­dling in cities across the globe, this hasn’t stopped Cindy Li – aka Ciel – from proud­ly cham­pi­oning her scene. DJ, pro­mot­er, pro­duc­er and an affil­i­ate of the Dis­c­woman col­lec­tive, Ciel can be found behind the decks of Toronto’s under­ground clubs and at inter­est­ing par­ties world­wide. And in her home city, she hosts the women-focused events and mix series Work In Progress.

Fed up of Toronto’s at times frac­tured scene and repeat­ed club clos­ings, she has also col­lab­o­rat­ed with par­ty col­lec­tive It’s Not U It’s Me and held rau­cous shake­downs in ware­hous­es, strip malls and even an old pow­er plant, build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for her­self as a fig­ure­head for bet­ter­ing the Toron­to scene.

If you’re look­ing for a night­time knees-up, Ciel’s your girl. Read below for her go-to places for elec­tron­ic music.

How did you first devel­op a pas­sion for raving?

When I was 19 in uni, I host­ed a show at the com­mu­ni­ty radio sta­tion and first dis­cov­ered dance music through my friends who also vol­un­teered for the radio sta­tion. And soon I start­ed going to see DJs and throw­ing my own par­ties with my friend who was also a DJ and pro­duc­er at the time. 

What’s spe­cial about your local club scene?

The strongest aspect of the Toron­to music scene is its racial diver­si­ty which is reflect­ed in the taste of the club-goers. They’re real­ly down for eclec­tic sets and have such an open mind for diverse trax with­in a DJ set. It’s had the biggest impact on how I DJ with­out a doubt. 

What chal­lenges, if any, does your scene face?

Oh god. So many. There is a com­plete lack of infra­struc­tur­al sup­port, whether in the form of grants and finan­cial invest­ments from cul­tur­al min­istries and gov­ern­ment non-prof­its, or in the form of lit­tle-to-no venue spaces made for under­ground nightlife, or per­haps it’s the police crim­i­nal­is­ing nightlife or ris­ing costs of liv­ing and gen­tri­fi­ca­tion dri­ving cul­ture out of our city. It makes it incred­i­bly hard to throw par­ties, book cut­ting edge events, and still sur­vive. Dance music is very niche and lives very much on the periph­ery of music cul­ture in Cana­da, so those who are pas­sion­ate about it are super ded­i­cat­ed and we try our best to sup­port and help oth­er peo­ple in our scene. 

What gets you pumped to go on a night out?

My life is most­ly spent in night­clubs these days as it’s my job, so it takes a lot more to get me excit­ed about going out these days. For me, I care more about see­ing all my pals and watch­ing some­one who real­ly knows their stuff and under­stands the audi­ence work a room – I’m less inter­est­ed in see­ing the most hyped or famous artists, to be very honest.

If some­one is vis­it­ing Toron­to, where do you rec­om­mend they go?

Hon­est­ly, most of the venues we have in this city are closed down and those that remain open are either not strict­ly designed for dance music or they live a pre­car­i­ous exis­tence. Bam­bis is prob­a­bly the only con­sis­tent club in Toron­to for for­ward-think­ing dance music book­ings. Many of the DJs from Toron­to who’ve achieved some lev­el of noto­ri­ety start­ed out play­ing there, includ­ing myself. How­ev­er, it’s very inti­mate – only holds about 100 peo­ple. So for big­ger par­ties, it becomes chal­leng­ing, though I’m hope­ful more DIY ware­house spaces will become avail­able in time. One of my favourite record shops in the city, Invis­i­ble City, just shut its doors, which leaves only one oth­er record shop I would rec­om­mend, June Records. Sad­ly that one will be closed by the time this inter­view is pub­lished. Pret­ty depress­ing, eh?

Any oth­er DJs/​promoters/​performers from the scene you’d like to shout out?

On Earth crew, E-Sag­gi­la, Korea Town Acid, Joel Eel, Raf Reza, Ser­gio SP & 618, Rober­to S, Invis­i­ble City, my label mates from Par­al­lel MindsDaniel 58 & Yohei Saka, and the Cos­mic Res­o­nance crew.

Any dream guests at future parties?

Tzus­ing, Kier­nan Laveaux, DJ Bus Replace­ment Ser­vice, Vio­let, Giant Swan, Desert Sound Colony and Saoirse.

Catch Ciel per­form­ing at Dimen­sions, Croa­t­ia, 28 Aug-2 Sept.

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