Marin-based Yuka Yu is a DJ with a worldwide palette, and with good reason: Music and culture run through her veins.
Born in Taiwan in 1986 into a family of Hakka, a Han Chinese subgroup with rich musical traditions, she grew up in Taipei. Her relatives on her mother’s side were singers and played traditional Chinese instruments. Coming of age in the late ’90s allowed her to experience first-hand the birth of the electronic music scene in Taiwan and other parts of Asia. When Japanese culture became popular in Taiwan during the 2000s, she learned Japanese from her grandparents.
“Because I grew up in this mixture of Taiwanese, Chinese and Japanese culture, I think that it’s always seemed natural for me to incorporate influences from everywhere in the world into my own palette and try to create something new,” she says.
After studying drama and film in college and graduate school in Taiwan, she found a job working in the marketing department of a biotech company—a career that didn’t jibe with her. So she left Taiwan in 2017 and traveled around China and Europe before attending the London Sound Academy in 2018.
“I had grown up in a society with traditional female roles,” she says. “Living in London changed my life. I found creative women, and I was exposed to even more diverse cultural influences. The underground and electronic music scenes in London ignited my passion for making music, and I began DJing in Camden Town.”
Yuka met her husband and manager, Albert Yu—a full-time business professor and hospitality management program manager at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus—while traveling in the summer of 2016 in Chengdu, China. They stayed in touch, and she later visited him in California, and ultimately decided to attend UC Berkeley. They married in 2019. The two share a common cultural heritage; though born in Urbana, Illinois, Al Yu’s parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan, and he went to graduate school there.
“I’ve been Yuka’s manager since she moved to California and started DJing here,” he says. His own interest in music stems back to booking live bands for his frat house in college, and he began listening to DJs in earnest after attending Burning Man in 2002.
Yuka Yu does periodic gigs in the North Bay—on June 16 she DJed for the grand opening of Mandarin Kitchen in Santa Rosa, and last year she DJed for Jam Cellars in Napa, Vintage Space at the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, Bloodroot Wines in Healdsburg and other venues. She also plays farther afield at clubs, festivals, venues and events in San Francisco, Oakland and elsewhere in California, as well as in Honolulu, Las Vegas, Portland, New Orleans, Brooklyn, London, Berlin, China and Taiwan.
In 2019, Yuka Yu founded Nu Tekno, “a San Francisco, Taipei, London artists’ exchange, Asia tour management and underground event promoter showcasing woman, BIPOC and underrepresented artists,” which has, since 2020, hosted regular events and residencies at the Fern Bar, Asiento, The Endup, Lion’s Den and Mars Bar in San Francisco.
“I started organizing music events in the Bay Area to create safe places for women in music,” she says. “I hope especially to inspire other Asian women to pursue their dreams. If we can form more links between artists and ordinary people and the activists who are trying to support human rights and the environment, then we’re doing what we can.”