"my friends would say I'm the DJ for the night!."
DJs are no surprise to the music industry or British Asians from South Asian communities. However, the rise of British Asian female DJs within this category is a welcomed shift.
Many are familiar with musical giants like DJ Harv and Bobby Friction. though, the talents of these musical personalities are not limited to just males.
British Asians are entirely immersed within the various genres that are representative of their surroundings.
Garage, bhangra and hip hop are all foundations of the British Asian underground.
It is these exact fundamentals that have influenced Desi female DJs to pursue their mixing talents and propel themselves against more mainstream artists.
Not only are these British Asian female DJs fantastically gifted, but their musical vision is sending shockwaves across social media.
From Instagram to TikTok, the following gathered from their fusion of urban and South Asian music is astounding.
Besides that, some of these musicians are representing more than women empowerment. Their barrier-breaking performances are allowing the different identities of British Asians to flourish.
DESIblitz presents five magical British Asian female DJs who are lighting up fans’ ears.
Simran, otherwise known as DJ Simz, is an emerging artist from London.
Having only started practising on the turntables in 2019, the musicality has always resided within DJ Simz. In 2020, she explained to iGlobal News:
“I am the first out of my friends to listen to a new song; there’s never a day when I am not listening to music, even when I was revising.
“Whenever there was a party, I’d be requested to play songs my friends would say I’m the DJ for the night!.”
Although she is fairly new amongst the more established DJs, her viral videos on Instagram and TikTok skyrocketed her career.
Her formidable mixes consisting of rap megastars like Drake, Snoop Dogg and Lil Baby received massive praise from the youth.
However, as DJ Simz’s prowess grew, so did her creations. Fusing Desi artists like Imran Khan with UK rap duo D Block Europe diversified the DJs audience and emphasised her creativity.
Thus, Simz’s playlists started to gather an unprecedented amount of attention.
Despite her triumphs laying in remixing more mainstream music, the DJ never shies away from representing her South Asian heritage.
The way she seamlessly honours tracks like ‘Yeh Kya Hua’, ‘Top Notch Gabru’ and ‘Schedule’ proves the vast amount of flair Simz possesses.
This celebration of both cultures has led to a monumental 226,000+ followers on TikTok, as well as 4.1 million likes on the site.
Although numerous fans are aware of her artistic talents, Simz’s transparency is what has elevated her within the scene. She admits that the pace of her triumphs has brought some negativity, with online bullying being at the forefront.
In March 2021, she released a YouTube video documenting the negative comments she received:
“People are gonna have more opinions of you than somebody else. For example ‘you are not a real DJ’ or ‘you are a fake DJ’.
“Would you say that to a male? No, you wouldn’t. Would you say that to a male DJ? No, you wouldn’t.”
However, it is the unapologetic energy to be yourself that has led Simz to overcome such hate. Evidently, that is the message that the DJ wants to amplify. Therefore, Simz’s success is only continuing.
Having worked with icons like DJ Limelight, received praise from the BBC Asian Network and collaborated with Adidas, this is a female DJ that is showing no signs of slowing down.
DJ Gracie T
Gracie T is a Sheffield-based DJ who has a unique and innovative sound when performing her immersive sets. Inspired by the unfamiliarity with her culture, Gracie’s musical journey was built upon celebrating her heritage.
Combining genres like drum ‘n’ bass, dancehall and footwork with traditional South Asian music is the go-to sound for Gracie.
However, this female DJs plethora of musical flavours is not limited to fusion mixes.
As well as having the talents to get people bouncing, it’s her signature energy that adds to the vibrancy of her craft.
Grinning from ear to ear, donned in a sari with hands in the air as she operates, her bouncy and bass-thumping performances are unparalleled.
This is most notably seen on stage for the iconic music broadcasting platform, Boiler Room.
Her garage and funk-fuelled remixes of legendary tracks like ‘Daroo’ and ‘Thoda Resham Lagta Hai’ get room-shaking reactions.
Though, her ode to South Asian culture is not just via her own music but also through elevating those around her.
Gracie is part of ‘Daytimers’, a collective that celebrates underground South Asians through LIVE streams, gigs and radio.
Having only launched in 2020, the group has become an unstoppable force in the UK.
The mix of sounds the members all possess is remarkable, raw and dynamic. This is why their skills have led to successful stints in clubs like Manchester’s SOUP and London’s Fabric.
This impressive and influential cadence has added to Gracie’s aura as a DJ. Interestingly, her father commented on Gracie’s strides in 2021, stating:
“I feel it’s unusual for an Asian woman to be in the position that she is in.”
“Daytimers come across as a very likeable bunch that are forging role models for people of colour, standing in places where, in the past, you would never have seen them.”
However, Gracie is also breaking barriers with her platform, The Beatriarchy. This provides a safe space for underrepresented artists, with different orientations and identities, to share and discuss their music.
This only illustrates how intuned Gracie is with redefining the narratives that have sometimes limited cultural progression.
Gracie T is stamping her mark on music with her infatuation anthems. But she is also championing the South Asian underground scene once again.
DJ Amrita Kaur Kalsi
As well as being a DJ, Leicester-based Amrita Kaur Kalsi is an extremely skilful multi-instrumentalist and producer.
Taking a great deal of pride in her South Asian heritage, Amrita has already made a name for herself within the industry.
Playing traditional instruments like the dhol, tumbi and dholak, Amrita combines her musical knowledge for an original blend of sounds.
Her inclusion of pop and RnB tracks gives Amrita’s mixes a modernistic quality needed to survive in this competitive space. Although fusing these genres is nothing entirely new, it’s the way Amrita presents them which makes them unique.
The use of mainstream bhangra and Punjabi songs are complemented by urban tracks. Whereas normally it is the other way around.
For example, the percussive bass of Karan Aujla’s ‘Don’t Look’ is broken up by the high notes of Drake’s ‘Crew Love’. This is evident in another vibrant mix.
Amrita magically transforms RDB’s ‘Aja Mahi’, CJ’s ‘Whoopty’ and AJ Tracy’s ‘Ladbroke Grove’ into a sonically diverse masterpiece.
However, the female DJs skill set is much broader and transcends the turntables.
Her gorgeous dhol covers of popular tracks like Justin Bieber’s ‘Peaches’ and CKay’s ‘Love Nwantiti’ are truly hypnotic.
Also, the starlet’s tumbi renditions of songs like ‘Pehle Lalkare Naal’ and ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’ ooze with South Asian flair.
The emerging talents of this DJ are widely recognised by industry elites that include moguls like Garry Sandhu and Panjabi MC.
Amrita has also featured on ITV and BBC Asian Network which has undoubtedly added to her expanding following.
DJ Nabihah Iqbal
Nabihah is a DJ, songwriter and musician from London who has built up a following due to her musical versatility. Nabihah’s exploration of genres and cultures has cultivated her into a diverse and intriguing artist.
Predominantly showcasing her talents with indie, jazz and house music, Nabihah is a catalyst in redefining what it means to be a British Asian DJ.
Interestingly, Nabihah was originally known as ‘Throwing Shade’. However, she ditched this so she could embrace her full name.
This is symbolic of the identity confusion many British Asians have. Ultimately, it is these questions that Nabihah faced and wants to help eradicate.
You can fully represent both cultures without having to choose one side is her philosophy.
These are the kind of hurdles that the talented DJ has overcome through music and her empowering nature. Likewise, this is something she personifies through her sets.
From reggae to techno, Nabihah rejoices in the musical identity of other cultures. This explains why her sets are filled with intricate percussions, soulful vocals and at times, emphatic drops.
However, the female DJs passion for music is rooted beyond the surface. Her educational and sometimes spiritual approach to music is a completely refreshing insight into the industry.
She showcases this through various projects and collaborations such as her 2019 launch of ‘Glory To Sound’.
Featuring guests like Wolfgang Tillmans and Kassem Mosse, this is a series of events that explore the reasons why we love music.
She has also had a massive contribution to established giants like Mixmag who invited Nabihah as a guest editor for their September 2021 issue.
In this spotlight, she dedicated her piece to British Asian talent and beyond. She also held interviews with key cultural figures such as Riz Ahmed and Sadiq Khan.
Showcasing her DJing talents aren’t Nabihah’s only musical vision.
Her composing skills have led to releases like House of Silk (2016) and Weighing of the Heart (2017).
Intimate, lively, daring and powerful, both projects are incredibly uplifting and represent Nabihah’s characteristics as a musician.
With such fantastic recognition from The Guardian, Pitchfork and Huck Magazine, Nabihah is a creatively flawless DJ.
Her journey across other genres whilst still advocating for South Asian musicians is so inspiring and sets the foundation for future artists.
Another terrific emerging female artist is DJ Saachi from London.
Saachi actually began utilising her mixing talents on a year abroad in Tokyo, Japan, when she fell in love with the underground scene.
Witnessing the underrepresentation of female DJs, it was an all too familiar sight for Saachi. Therefore, Saachi decided to challenge this through the skills she possessed.
Having travelled to places like South Asia, the Middle East and East Asia, Saachi is not short of cultural influences. However, her predominant style is drenched in UK underground music.
Listeners are so immersed in the emphatic garage flows, dubstep wobbles and techno vibrations. Her inclusion of genres like grime and house has undoubtedly helped the UK’s underground scene rise expeditiously.
Similarly to Gracie T, Saachi is also part of the ‘Daytimers’ collective. This comes as no surprise given the amazing intricacy Saachi has for fusing different tracks that make them sound like one song.
As part of the group’s Boiler Room set in 2021, which Saachi was a part of, ‘Daytimers’ was voted as one of the best sets throughout the whole year.
This is a monumental triumph given how many other emerging and established musicians perform for the company.
From London’s The Cause to Hor in Berlin, Saachi’s British dominated sets have ignited numerous clubs worldwide.
Her joyous and energetic sets manage to light up all types of audiences. She has a magnetic quality when performing, which engages fans as soon as the turntables start going.
Not only that, but the DJ seamlessly infuses her playlists with classical South Asian tracks that throw listeners off. However, it is this surprise element that makes Saachi a loveable artist in her own right.
Given her experiences in South Asian countries and communities, there is no doubt that the showcase of these cultures will accelerate her progress.
Recognised as one of the most promising female DJs, Saachi is surely going to take off in 2022. These five top British Asian female DJs are quickly innovating the musical landscapes for British Asian musicians.
Not only are they representing the overlooked talents of women but they are actually pushing the boundaries of musical capabilities.
Their unique mixes and fusions don’t just make for amazing playlists but are influencing how British Asians are making music.
Additionally, they are creeping into mainstream avenues like clubs, events and live shows.
Not only will this bring a heap of attention to these female DJs but will shine a line on the incredible vision that British Asians from South Asian communities possess in the mainstream industry.