5 Questions: Zen Lim

by Leah Jing 

We talk to Zen Lim about her upcoming event, 我们 [Wo Men],
featuring Rainbow Chan, May Lyn, Maya Hirasedo, Tracy Chen & Shelly.
8pm, February 9th at The Night Cat.  
Tickets here

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What drew you to create Arouze?

Arouze started off as a collaborative project that my former housemate and I wanted to work on when I was back in Brisbane. We were hoping to create a multidisciplinary platform/ forum where creatives from all walks of life were given an equal opportunity to contribute and share their work with a wider audience base. We wanted to take back power from major corporations, even the playing field for creatives and creators by forming our own community. However, that initial idea didn’t really take off due to our different schedules and Arouze pretty much went to the backburner.

Eventually, Arouze came back into my life when I was going through one of the lowest points in my life. It was towards the end of 2016, I had just graduated from my second degree, completed three years of unpaid work experience but somehow was continuously unsuccessful in my search for employment. To top things off, I was also going through a very rough breakup at the time. Feeling completely helpless and aimless, I was very fortunate in a sense that I was at the right place at the right time and had a chance encounter with May Lyn at an event where I was working the door. It was shortly after she released her first single from her EP, ‘Vessels’ that I knew I wanted to work with her. Rather than waiting for an opportunity to come my way, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands by forming my own artist management/ pr company. I’m really grateful to May and my mum (who is an incredibly successful and passionate entrepreneur in her frield)  for being the main driving forces behind the conception of Arouze.

You’ve noted that ‘At Arouze, [you] hope to use music as a platform for artists to challenge pre-conceived notions regarding culture and constructs.’ What do you do differently from other artist management/PR companies?

This is completely based on my own personal experience, but one thing I’ve noticed in terms of culture and constructs is that people are easily invested in conceptualised and tokenised aspects of these agendas. However, they do not seem to have the same propensity and curiosity to examine and understand the historical meaning and significance behind these cultures and constructs. With that in mind, I wanted to establish a collaborative partnership with everyone of my artists to ensure that they are always projecting their authentic selves to their audience rather than constructing an image which I believe would appeal to a specific target market. I don’t know if I’m doing things differently from other artist management/ PR companies, but I know that I’m doing what feels right for myself and the people I represent.

Your upcoming event, 我们 (Wo Men), brings together a killer line-up (we can’t wait!), and it’s sad that in 2018 an all-female Asian lineup is so rare. What can we expect from the night?

I know! I’ve been living in Australia for about six years now and I’m genuinely surprised that an event like this hasn’t occurred yet especially with the diverse population which exists in Australia. I’ve only seen lineups such as this at cultural events. While those are great in allowing the wider community to have a better understanding of different cultures, it does pigeonhole these artists into tokenised spaces rather than being recognised for the valuable and personal stories they contribute towards the life and learning.

I couldn’t be more excited about the night! For the longest time, I thought this was something I’m doing just for myself but seeing the reception we’ve received since the event was announced, it’s truly heartwarming to know that there are others who seek events such as this. One thing I would like to emphasise is that despite this being an all-female Asian lineup, we should be viewing each of these artists based on their craft and what they’re bringing to the table rather than their ethnicity or gender. I think it’s going to be such a beautiful night filled with lots of love and respect. It’s always such a treat when we as audience members get to experience ingeniously crafted stories shared by artists from diverse backgrounds and experiences. I hope that everyone who attends this event will be able to connect with each of these artists in their own way just as I have.  

What can we do as listeners and consumers of music to support diverse artists?

I think it’s important for us as consumers/ listeners to take the time and effort to discover and explore works that speak to us rather than consuming what’s been provided by mainstream media and publications. Community and independent media has played a crucial role in my exploration of works by diverse artists which speak to me. I discovered Yeo, Rainbow Chan, and Sui Zhen’s work through my time as a volunteer at 4ZZZ in Brisbane. Aside from that, there’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth. If you discover an artist which speaks to you, I encourage you to shamelessly share their work through any platforms that are available to you and attend their shows whenever they’re in town. I’ve pretty much gone to every single Rainbow Chan show whenever she’s performing where I’m at cause that’s how much I value and connect with the stories she shares. Corin has jokingly referred to me as Rainbow’s #1 fan and I’m honestly quite proud about that title, haha.

What’s next for Arouze?

Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. There are so many things I’d like to achieve through Arouze and I definitely feel very empowered to do these things due to the people I’m surrounded by. For now, I’m just trying to focus on things within the music industry and do the best that I can for all the artists within my roster. Eventually, I’d like to return to my initial idea for Arouze which is to create that community space with all the people I’ve been so privileged to connect with and the ones that I might connect with in the future. Most of the projects that I have in mind are mainly motivated by the idea of taking back power from corporations and bringing it back to the grassroots. I’ve been in talks with a friend about starting a podcast via Arouze once I get our website launched. Another thing on the agenda is starting a youth training program through Arouze to educate and support youths who are passionate about the creative industry and provide them with the opportunities they deserve to learn and contribute despite of their age.

I guess that’s pretty much what’s in my books for now, but we’ll see what happens as 2018 unfolds. An important lesson I’ve learned from my mum is to always keep my plans open because we can never predict what opportunities may come our way.

8pm, February 9th at The Night Cat.  
Tickets here