How Franky Wah is Using SHÈN to Elevate the Culture
Apr 4, 2023
Ana Monroy Yglesias
4 min read
We all contain multitudes, and when Franky Wah launched SHÈN last year, he offered a portal into the depths of his creativity—and soul. Many electronic producers run labels as a creative outlet, a place to release their music—and often that of other artists—without heeding someone else's ideas of what makes a hot tune. And that's an essential part of keeping dance music fun and innovative. But for SHÈN, the DJ/producer from Doncaster, England, sought to go beyond that. To create a truly expansive and intentional brand to encompass his sound, creative and spiritual vision, and to bring others with him in this musical ascension.
"Shen is actually a Chinese word that stands for ascending into a higher consciousness, which is sort of what I'd like to say happens at our events," Wah recently told Gray Area. "My [DJ] name Franky Wah, actually comes from my granddad, who's Chinese, Harry Wah."
In indigenous Chinese religion, shen means spirit or divinity and "are associated with the yang (bright, active) aspect of the cosmos and with the higher, spiritual component of the human soul."
Wah added the accent over the E in SHÈN—stylized as a feather in the logo—is an additional nod to transcendence. Many of the SHÈN releases so far feature terracotta warriors on the album art, another nod to Chinese culture. He brings attention and care to all aspects of the brand, from the expansive, euphoric music catalog, the immersive events in stellar venues, and his attention to detail.
"I think the most important thing when you've got a brand is that there is a strong brand identity, and it's cohesive," he added.
Although he's wanted to launch a brand for a few years now, he explains it was important to wait until he'd built a name for himself, a solid foundation to expand and grow his platform and bring more people in to share the spotlight with.
"I sort of stood on my own two feet, moved away from doing lineups and events, and I was actually moving to hard tickets and selling out my own shows," he said, a sign that it was ready to start bringing his vision to life. "I thought, 'Yeah, you know what? There's an audience here. I've got a lot of traction.'"
Trusting himself has played a vital role in his success, where so much of his career has seemed to fall into place relatively smoothly. "I've done everything based on my gut and intuition. And I think that's all you can do, especially in life, but in your career," he asserted.
While SHÈN boldly represents Wah's sound and specific vision for dance music, he sees it vital to share his platform and spotlight with other aligned artists, especially rising ones.
"I've always had the dream of a brand, it's never just been about me," Wah told us. "I think [the brand's] how you truly secure your legacy. I think it's how you pay your dues to the industry, by bringing on the next wave of talent. I think that's very important."
For his label, he's linked up once again with the legendary Sasha—one of his heroes and early supporters—on "Track," as well as Vintage Culture and Cristoph. But he's also given a home to lesser-known acts, like Welsh brother duo Trutopia and Miami-based Ukrainian woman OUT OF MIND.
The label showcase parties—launched in Tulum this past New Year's Eve—allow fans to experience SHÈN's "melodic/progressive tribal sound" on the dance floor and (hopefully) in their souls. It's also a chance for Wah to share the stage with the rising acts he admires and wants his audience to hear.
They'll soon be touching down in New York for the U.S. SHÈN debut on April 28 at the legendary Knockdown Center in Queens. After that, Wah and friends will channel the magic of Ibiza with a 16-week(!) SHÈN residency at Club Chinois.