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Half Queen Is Bringing the Energy Back to Summer Season

After a six-month world tour, Half Queen has returned to Aotearoa, affirming the healing power of the dance floor

Half Queen


After a whirlwind six-month world tour, Half Queen has returned to her Tāmaki Makaurau home, stewing in bittersweetness.

The city’s nightlife scene, now quieter with recent closures like SOAP Dancehall, is a big change for the versatile artist and DJ. From Glastonbury to London’s legendary venue Fabric and across East Asia, Half Queen, adorned with a vibrant persona and a freshly dyed pink and orange ombre rat tail, has left an indelible mark on dancefloors worldwide.

“It can feel like a massive anti-climax coming back; New Zealand’s just so much smaller, and the same things aren’t happening over here,” Half Queen, aka Shaquille Wasasala, shares with Rolling Stone AU/NZ. Pausing for thought, she adds, “My energy is shifting after going through this so many times. It’s cool that I can have such a crazy experience overseas and then use it to sharpen my sets back home.”

Making a debut at Glastonbury is a monumental achievement for any Kiwi artist (Lorde and Crowded House have taken the stage there in the past), and Half Queen lit up audiences across two nights with her genre-bending global club sounds of global club at the iconic festival’s rave zone, Shangri-La. 

“I still have PTSD from Glasto,” she laughs. “My expectations were pretty high but I’ve never experienced something of that scale; just the sheer size of it was just insane.

“I mostly stuck to the dance music side in Shangri-La – It’s kind of like [New Zealand festival] Splore if you can imagine that. The other side was a frickin’ day trip of a hike… But Caroline Polachek was super cool. I made the mistake of walking through the crowd during Little Nas X, but he was AMAZING!” 

Leading such a jet-setting lifestyle, what other inspirations has Shaq brought back from overseas?

“Oh my god, East Asia – the calibre of DJs is truly phenomenal,” she reveals. “It blew any imposter syndrome that I had about myself out of the water to play alongside them. I’ve got a new turbo sound going into my summer sets, for sure.”

“It was also really educational around the traditional things they incorporate into their club scene. They try and put on different sounds, like how we’ve done at FILTH back home.”

Half Queen is a trailblazer in the local nightlife scene, creating a space not just for herself but also for local peers.

Teaming up with Aotearoa rap star JessB, they launched FILTH in 2018 at the underground Whammy Bar on Karangahape Road—a vital and QTPOC prioritised club night in Auckland. Dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive space for dancing, FILTH addresses issues like male-dominated lineups and a lack of diversity in the local scene. The duo ensures visibility for DJs and artists such as DJ Lady Shaka, Zeki, and BBYFACEKILLA, all contributing to the historic FILTH x Boiler Room set in 2021—an iconic showcase for Aotearoa’s diverse talent.

As recently noted by fellow Auckland artists PollyHill and Samara Alofa to Rolling Stone AU/NZ, “She [Half Queen] really did a lot for the culture in terms of opening portals to safe and thrilling spaces to express ourselves in the Tāmaki nightlife scene. A tastemaker and risk taker through and through.” 

Shaq reflects on her impact, saying, “Me and my homies have been playing the same sound since we started DJ’ing, and now I’m seeing it becoming more and more mainstream. People on festival lineups this year are those you would never have expected to see a few years ago.

“Even more queer club sounds are being played on the main stage, which is so crazy to us. I’m interested to see how those festival dynamics trickle down into the club scene here because that’s where we need help.”

She adds, “It’s tough to keep FILTH going strong when Jess and I have our own careers, and we’re out of New Zealand for almost seven months each year.

“Even with so many events happening here, some people are still saying, ‘I don’t want to go’ or ‘I’m not spending money on it.’ FILTH is a long-term project for us, and we’re figuring out how to take it to the next level.”

Music has been a constant in Half Queen’s life, stemming from her stepdad’s reggae influence and an early fascination with production.

Film school didn’t quite resonate, but dancing and friendships in the Tamaki nightlife scene soon paved the way to DJing – a transition from hobby to creative expression. Her DJ journey initiated at CubaDupa in Wellington, a tiny pre-warm-up evolving into a one-hour set at JessB’s EP launch.

Half Queen’s live sets are crowd-thrilling experiences, creating a collective energy exchange. “When you play recognisable tunes, it sets the crowd ablaze, even with just a silly Paramore edit,” she notes. “We’re all sharing this space, exchanging energy – it’s a collective experience.”

Returning to New Zealand’s bustling summer scene, Half Queen is set to perform at Nest Fest, Hidden Valley, Northern Base, and Golden Lights over the coming months.

The after-party for 95bFM’s fundraising concert, Rave The B, has also added her to the schedule, where she’ll feature alongside acts like deepState, Half Hexagon, and Theia.

Shaq sees her role as a DJ as guiding people through various emotional states. Exploring connections between genres and sounds, she revels in making diverse elements blend into a fun experience. Or as she puts it, “Our world is all interconnected, right?”

And in a crucial moment of solidarity (Shaq has been vocal on social media about the calls for a Gaza ceasefire in recent weeks since our chat), she emphasises the important role that dancefloors can play in healing.

“There’s no doubt in my mind about the healing effects of sound waves coursing through [our] body. It’s like when you leave the dancefloor and experience a little high – an unbeatable feeling.” 

Stay up to date on Half Queen here. More information about Nest Fest can be found here.