Gaby Endo

Date: October 30, 2016
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One balmy October evening, Gaby Endo is dressed in all black, just like the decks beneath her fingertips, the darkened wood beneath her feet, the oversized umbrella overhead and, well beyond the glow of the towering skyscrapers above, the starless night sky. It’s fitting that I should see her play here – after all, her musical journey began doling out good rooftop vibes. All around, little black dresses flit and flutter to the melodic drums and progressive synth; one track melds into the next in such a way that fools the ear yet warms the heart. When the soft light falls upon Endo, I catch her in a moment of calm, a bright, wide smile splashed across her cheery face. Nothing exists but the music and this moment.

Endo is an energetic, mystic soul. She has deep, cocoa brown hair, a slender nose, and inquisitive, ebony eyes. She bounces lightly in her seat when she talks, as though she can’t speak the words as fast as they come to her. She’s the type of woman who can intimidate strangers and welcome friends with the same thorough gaze. She doesn’t walk through life – she runs, with a level of urgency that’s rare even in Hong Kong. And in her distinctive South American accent (her mother is Brazilian, her father Japanese), she’ll tell you that her hometown São Paulo is, “The city that will eat you alive.” It’s there that her story begins.

Gaby Endo
Gaby Endo

Scouted in São Paulo by a top-tier modeling agency at the age of 16, Endo leapt at the chance to move to Thailand and kick-start a modeling career on the international stage. There, photo shoots brought her all over Asia, giving Endo the chance to experience a lot of cities before deciding to establish roots as a model in Hong Kong. It wasn’t until two years ago, though, a full decade after leaving Brazil, that she truly started experimenting with music.

Frustrated that Hong Kong was lacking a house music scene outside of the clubs and late-night parties, Endo and a friend took matters into their own hands and organized their own daytime rooftop party. It was her first time playing in front of a crowd, admitting, “I was basically learning to DJ while I was up there. Still, I’m Brazilian, so I love ethnic and tribal music. I love drums. I cannot stand still if I hear some drums!” Neither could the 150 attendees there with her that day, when she incorporated those elements into her deep and tech house blend. That dash of spontaneity became the first of many Rewind parties, regular rooftop affairs that Endo puts on across Hong Kong.

Fast forward a couple of months: the Rewind parties are bringing in record attendance numbers, Endo has signed with an agent, and she’s consistently getting booked, including upcoming appearances at It’s The Ship off the coast of Singapore in November and Wonderfruit Festival outside of Bangkok in February. Yet even when things are going well, the nightlife industry can be an unfriendly one, and Endo has faced her share of friction. That’s why, when she was enduring a particularly stressful period, Endo packed a small bag and disappeared to a Buddhist monastery in rural Thailand. For twenty days, she slept on a cement bed with a wooden pillow, not speaking or even making eye contact with anyone else. She takes a deep breath as she recalls such a seminal time: “I realized a lot of things in those twenty days. I came out with a much clearer vision of myself and what I wanted to do. It was a really powerful experience.”

Endo knows she’s not the only one who needs an escape, a fact that she’s extremely attuned to every time that she performs. “There’s so much energy exchanged when you’re playing for a crowd. For those two or three hours, those people are going to be completely disconnected from their outside problems.” In a sense, she’s more of a spiritual guide than a musical one, responsible not just for providing aural inspiration, but also for leveraging an extreme empathy to craft each listener’s mental and emotional journey. Healing the soul is her end game; music is just her medium.

Hong Kong has been waiting for someone like Endo, an outsider who isn’t afraid to defy the status quo and resolutely pursue the world as it should be. Of course, it takes more than one person to meaningfully shift an entire city’s musical tastes, but being the lead domino comes naturally to her. That’s why Endo’s is the classic follow-your-dreams narrative, without the cliché; she proves time and again that a little ambition applied in the right direction is all it takes to get where you want to go. “Music has so much power to bring people together,” she says sincerely. “I just want to make people happy.”

That’s the reward for Endo. It’s the ability to pervade, to impress bliss and positivity upon her audience long beyond when the music stops. It’s the high of the live performance, of having a thousand souls all tuned to the same frequency – the frequency you control. It’s the chance to consistently spread joy at a rate of 120 beats per minute. Together, they create a thrill that’s tough to match, and as far as Endo is concerned, that’s reason enough in itself. “That’s why I do it – for those times when I hear someone say to the person next to them, ‘I love you.’”

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