Inspired by the primal force of nature, when Ayesha graces the decks, her off-kilter bass-heavy rhythms command the communal space of the dancefloor.
For the eighth mix of our series, the Brooklyn-based DJ and producer shares a rare selection that pivots away from her typical club-oriented sets, towards a more recuperative and intimate compilation drawing on languid electro, psychedelia and trance. This is accompanied by a Q&A which touches on the soothing power of music and campaigning for causes close to her heart.
Become a TRTD member for access to the download and tracklist
with all profits donated to War Child
First off, a huge thank you for donating your time to the TRTD Mix series. Why is The Right To Dance and War Child something you want to lend your support to?
It’s a privilege to support organisations like TRTD and War Child doing both challenging and necessary work through my work as a DJ. Since my early days I’ve enjoyed supporting social causes through DJing. Coming up in Washington DC—a city centred on social justice and organising–many of my first gigs were actually in support of the local community through soundtracking protests and rallies, friends’ art shows, DIY shows and open mic nights. I also used my DJing to support radical political candidates running for office at local institutions like DC’s City Council. The opportunity to support TRTD and War Child feels like a natural return to these roots for me but on perhaps a more global scale. I’m honoured to be in a place 10 years later where through the relatively simple act of DJing I can support children in complex humanitarian crises and armed conflicts like in Afghanistan, Iraq, DRC, Ukraine and beyond.
Throughout history, people have fought for the right to dance for a variety of reasons, from the personal to communal. Why is dancing and, more broadly, dance music such an important part of your life?
Dance music is a huge part of my life—I see it as a modality for healing in many ways.
On one end—as a DJ I find playing and producing music to be hugely healing and grounding for myself. Making dance music in particular was how I coped with living in a pandemic the last 3 years: I really don’t know what I would have done without a regular creative practice during this time. On the other side, I also regularly witness how the music I play soothes and heals people, and this in turn heals me: it’s super grounding to feel like I can contribute to the healing of others through sound and movement.
Could you tell us why you chose to theme your mix around 'Freedom of Self Expression', and how does your mix represent your theme?
The two main themes of this mix are Freedom and Self-Expression: or you could say ‘Freedom of Self Expression.’ The process of making a DJ mix for any outlet can be a labour-intensive process for me, one that can even be a bit anxiety-inducing at moments. Every mix I’ve ever released is the result of at least several attempts, listening sessions while I go on walks, and last minute edits made in Ableton prior to submission. That said, I made this mix the day after my last Nowadays residency where I played till 6:30 in the morning—so my state of mind was less anxious, more open and expansive… You will definitely feel the spaciousness. In this vein, my mix spans genres that I’m less known for like languid electro, trance, and experimental psychedelia. I think in this frame of mind I made creative choices that I perhaps wouldn’t have made if I were simply trying to represent my sound as an artist on a more average day.
I suppose the themes of this mix came together very organically. My goals were: 1) to first soothe my mind and body after a long night, 2) express myself completely by selecting only tunes I wanted to listen to and rinse, and 3) lastly do both these things without feeling limited by what an external audience would think. This mix is in a sense a rare and intimate one—I’m DJing for myself at this moment. I want it to feel like the audience is with me testing out new blends in my living room :)
Are there any particular tracks from the mix you’d like to highlight?
I’d like to highlight a few:
1. ‘Polarities’ by Tom Place and LUXE off Moonquake EP (Dansu Discs). I had the pleasure of playing with the talented LUXE in Manchester this past August. It was exciting to see her join forces with Tom Place to explore the darker side of UK bass.
2. ‘Feels like Jelly’ by Eric Luebs off a great compilation on Paris label Grid Records run by Clad. Released earlier in 2022, this whole compilation was super well curated and embodies an experimental forward thinking side of dance music I really enjoy. But this track was definitely the standout because it literally sounds like Jelly (and a good example of “squishy electro” I mentioned earlier).
3. ‘Peace of Mind’ by Claro Intelecto off Detroit’s Delsin Records—just feels like a timeless electrosoul classic that I’ve been wanting to rinse forever, but a bit shy to amidst the dancefloor pressures to keep the bangers going. But this is a banger in its own right (a soulful one) and grateful I was able to squeeze it in as it blends perfectly with Henzo’s ‘Are You With Me This Time’ (also a moody banger).
4. ‘Diva Loops’ by Cloudsteppers on Berlin label X-Kalay. I just love ending sets with this tune, it’s ethereal but forward moving, and I recently played in Toronto with the incredible Dan Only and only upon arrival did I realise he was also half of Cloudsteppers (a duo with Ciel)—I had a massive fangirl moment.
5. ‘Cloud Sniff’ by LUCKER on Munich label Molten Moods—a new find that I was very excited to test!
Taking a step back, how has 'Freedom of Self Expression' been important to your journey in music?
Freedom of self expression is definitely a value I hold close to my heart, one that grounds me during the most difficult times. In these times it helps me to remember that the ability to freely express oneself is a privilege (although it should be a right) that many people around the world struggle to access—therefore I must remain always grateful for this medium and the resources we may take for granted like physical safety to do it.
When I’m having a rough night or day it helps to return to this sentiment: I DJ and I create because I am able to, and I choose to do it for myself—not for the demands of other people or the music industry. During the more difficult moments in my DJ and producer career, returning to this theme helps me reconnect with my core as an artist and my true nature as a person who creates from a place of playfulness and curiosity.
Are there communities or moments within dance music culture that have felt unifying to you?
I am grateful to have had some incredible nights across the country and world at this point—and often, for me a ‘good DJ night’ is synonymous with this feeling of unity. Most frequently, the Nowadays dance floor often feels this way to me on my residency nights, especially in the afterhours—so much that I made a lot of my music in 2020 and 2021 envisioning this feeling with hopes of contributing to it.
If you could go back to any dance floor in history, what would it be and why?
Living in New York I wish I could have experienced the energy at Paradise Garage with it having been such a staple for the queer community, club kids and other deemed ‘misfits’. It would also be really cool to experience the Daytimers raves in the 80s and 90s in the UK just because of how formative it was for South Asian club culture and the community today. Shoutout to the Daytimers UK crew for drawing from this legacy and pushing the culture forward.
There's more to read on this article
Become a TRTD member or sign in to continue reading
Become a member