Celebrating Lunar New Year with Dyan Tai

It’s almost time again to celebrate the Lunar New Year! With the year of the dragon just around the corner, we thought we’d speak with the self-proclaimed Gaysian Empress of Sydney, Dyan Tai and ask them about their connection to the upcoming holiday.

Who is Dyan Tai?

Dyan is an electronic-hyperpop artist, DJ and performer whose sound is infused with Beijing opera and Southeast Asian soundscapes.

Dyan Tai - Permaisuri Live Show (Malay_Indonesian wayang animation by Juune Lee
Dyan Tai – Permaisuri Live Show. Malay Indonesian wayang animation by Juune Lee.

With the blending of layers of cultural and personal identity, it might be best to let Dyan speak for themselves!

Dyan, can you tell us your cultural background?

I am a first-generation Chinese Australian currently living in Sydney. I grew up in Ipoh, Malaysia. My father’s side of the family is of Hakka ethnicity, and my mum’s side is Teochew. Fun fact, Asian icon Michelle Yeoh is also from my hometown in Ipoh!

How do you celebrate the Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year, in my family, is always about reunion, food and celebration. I have fond memories of my late grandma preparing home-cooked meals on Lunar New Year’s Eve… which is traditionally the most important meal for Chinese families.

My uncles, aunts and cousins from interstate would come and gather at my dad’s house, it’s the only time of the year we can get everyone together. To make it extra special, there are always these cakes and lucky foods that are only available during the Lunar New Year, like the sweet glutinous rice (nian gao or Lunar New Year cake), mandarin oranges (pronounced kam, which sounds like gold).

We always joke about the “Tsai Shen” (Chinese prosperity god) ritual, where you invite prosperity into your home, but if you do it at the wrong time, you could invite the god of misfortune. We (Chinese) are very materialistic people!

What is your zodiac year? Do you identify with it?

I was born in the Year of the Rabbit. Rabbits are meant to be very calm and peaceful. Growing up in Malaysia, I was always taught to be non-confrontational, avoid conflicts and have a talk less and do more attitude (no complaints). But it’s also a mindset that, in some situations, I have to consciously overcome, especially in situations where I have to speak up for myself or defend someone. I still find it uncomfortable… maybe that’s the whole rabbit thing, I don’t know.

What does Lunar New Year mean to you?

Lunar New Year makes me very proud to be Chinese. I’m really proud to be part of the global Chinese diaspora. It gives me so much joy to talk about family and culture and to share stories, especially with other communities who celebrate a non-Western New Year in their cultures.

How does being LGBTQ+ influence your Lunar New Year?

LNY always falls in the middle of February during Sydney Mardi Gras, which is the busiest time of the year for me as a musician and DJ. So sadly, I haven’t celebrated the holiday with my family, who are still in Malaysia, since 2019! My parents understand that I have a big responsibility here because I now have the opportunity to bring the Queer Asian community together.

In heteronormative families, marriage always starts a new tradition for Lunar New Year, such as where people gather and which days the family would reunite for meals. In similar ways, I feel like I’m starting my own tradition here with my chosen Queer Asian family and friends. We’re just as loud and annoying like our Asian aunties!

Can you tell us about the Lunar New Year celebration you’re hosting?

Dragon Balls XL: Queer Lunar New Year is a really fun, sexy, and camp but powerful celebration of the Queer Asian Australian identity. It’s an inclusive party for everyone to attend, but the lineup consists of a Queer/Asian cast. It’s part of our mission to celebrate Queer Asian Excellence in the Australian arts and music industry.

This year is also a historic moment for us as we’ve been able to expand our movement and bring Dragon Balls XL to both Sydney and Melbourne.

Tell us about Worship Queer Collective and why you started it

Worship Queer Collective initially started as a series of cabaret events about queer identity and spirituality but has evolved into a powerful movement that champions Queer Asian Excellence in Sydney.

Worship Queer Collective Queer Asian Excellence Launch. Photo by Lexy Potts.
Worship Queer Collective Queer Asian Excellence Launch. Photo by Lexy Potts.

Part of it was a response to the anti-Asian racism and xenophobia as a result of COVID-19 but for the collective members, this is also about reclaiming our narratives as Queer Asians (as a community that is often overlooked, desexualised or sometimes fetishised) and empowering the Queer Asian/QTBIPOC community and allies by providing a safe, inclusive and respectful space that celebrates their queer and cultural identity.

What changes have you seen in the community since starting Worship?

I’ve definitely observed more Queer Asian artists on the event lineups. It gives me and the collective so much joy to see performers who started with Worship now absolutely booked and blessed everywhere.

I’m also amazed by the transformative experiences people have had at our events. People who feel too queer, not queer enough, too Asian, not Asian enough, especially folks who are migrants, speak English as a second language, folks who are biracial… it makes me really proud to have created a space for people to connect with community and reconnect with their own identity.

What are your hopes for Worship in the future?

From day one, we’ve always said that Worship Queer Collective is more than just a dance party. We are a movement. For queer people, the dancefloor is a sacred place for self-expression and genuine connections with the community. It is almost a form of queer spirituality.

However, we also recognise that the club scene might not be for everyone. We hope to continue producing events that might not necessarily revolve around loud music and drinking. Our Sydney World Pride “Don’t Cha Wish You Yum Cha?” is a good example of when we combined vegan yum cha with a cabaret show by a Queer Asian cast.

Do you have any wishes for the new year?

I do! I have a new song coming out on the 7th of February, leading up to the Lunar New Year and Mardi Gras. I would love it if you all could please pre-save it and stream it when it’s released.

Thanks for chatting with us, Dyan!

Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year to all who celebrate – we wish you luck, love and health for the year ahead! 🐉