It’s no longer a ‘man’s world’: Meet the girls who DJ
They exude coolness
People like to moan about the music industry being “a man’s world”, but it’s pretty obvious that’s no longer the case.
There has been a surge of success in female DJs, with the likes of Nina Kraviz, Monki, Maya Jane Coles and more gracing the headlines of world’s most highly-acclaimed music festivals. We spoke to girls working in the industry about how they got started and whether they think the gender gap is a myth in modern music.
Sarah’s boyfriend taught her how to DJ before she went to uni. The Cambridge student says: “He had been DJing for a while and he started to teach me around three years ago.
“We’re at different unis – Cambridge and LSE – so we’ve started to like different things. At Cambridge they like a lot of disco and garage, whereas my boyfriend prefers to play heavy hip hop”.
Sarah DJs at Fez and is about to launch at Ballare. She said: “I’m not a resident, I have too much work and commitments for that. I just do it every now and then. I also DJ for my boyfriend sometimes at The Box in Soho, he’s the resident there”.
Professional DJ Anna Wall has lived in Newcastle, Ibiza, Berlin and is now back in London for the launch of her record label The Bricks. She said: “I’ve been DJing for about seven years now. It is one of those beautiful hobbies that can take you all over the world.”
She says: “I’ve DJ’d from a basement in Berlin to a rooftop in Miami, there’s never a dull moment.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the slopes in Austria for Snowboming next year too – it’s quite unforgettable playing at the top of a mountain covered in snow”.
Newcastle student Frankie bought her first decks before uni, having been influenced by DMZ and Deep Medi. She doesn’t like house music and only plays garage, deep dubstep and dub-reggae.
She said: “My music taste hasn’t changed really since I was thirteen. Andrea, my nanny, used to drive me to and from school and she used to play garage, and then the dubstep stemmed from there”.
Dubstep is quite a niche genre, and Frankie explains: “When I play at parties, depending on the party, people just walk out and say it’s offensive.
“People don’t understand that there are loads of types of dubstep. They just assume it’s some horrible electronic shit”.
For Frankie, being female in the industry is both a help and a hindrance: “To be honest people discriminate more against my song choices than my gender. Apart from that as long as you know what you’re doing it doesn’t make a difference if you’re a guy or a girl”.
Jaz, a Cardiff student and resident DJ at Bump and Grind, started to DJ through friends. She said: “I’m really lucky because I get to play alongside some really talented people (mostly women) who are always happy to teach me stuff.
“I really admire B.Traits. She can fully hold her own and she completely crosses genres which I love. I remember her dropping Frank Ocean into her set at Boomtown a couple of years ago and I practically fell on my knees with happiness.
“I love grime DJs like Ellijah, Skilliam and Toddla T as well – they always manage to get a crowd going completely nuts”.
Jaz plays around twice a week and her favourite genre is hip hop: “It’s where I started and it’s what I always have the most fun DJing. It feels kind of magic playing hip hop because people love it so much, it’s such an important genre”.
Jaz says there’s some discrimination against female DJs: “I would say the biggest difference for me is kinda being treated like a novelty, a ‘female DJ’ as opposed to just a DJ. It feels quite fetishised, like someday soon ‘Girl DJs’ will be a category on PornHub.
“Sometimes people act like it’s the most mad thing and it’s fairly offensive, saying ‘it’s amazing that you’re a girl’ or ‘I can’t believe you’re a girl that likes hip hop’. But I’d probably still take that over the lack of respect that we sometimes experience.”
“If I’m DJing back to back with a guy people will always ask him for requests as if I have no power. I’ve had a male friend stood next to me while I’m working before and people have complimented him on his set.
“A lot of the time guys will come over and try to move the levels on my mixer or tell me what i should be playing. I used to get really wound up but now I just put it simply: if you think I’m doing it wrong become a DJ and let’s see how far you get.”
Newcastle student Amy started as a Resident at Ill! Behaviour in Newcastle in 2014 and plays at their weekly Tuesday parties, warming up for the likes of Chris Lorenzo, BTraits, Lxury, NYTA and more.
Her passion for music started when she downloaded VirtualDJ at 16. She said: “Music has always been in my blood and a strong passion of mine but I never quite knew where to go with it or what to do”.
Amy learned the basics at night class, and was motivated by the death of a friend who was also a DJ. She says she wants to inspire other girls who are interested in breaking into the industry.
“I want to send a message to other females who are interested in music if you push yourself you can do anything, you may get discriminated by all sorts of people and not just males.
“There will always be judgements in what you do but people are talking because you’re making an impact. I would hate to think anyone ever gave me a set based on looks or being a girl. I think everyone should be treated fairly and given a chance, but I do think the industry is changing and promotes female DJs more.”
Liv graduated from Exeter two years ago and now works in Music PR: “I work in music so absolutely love it, and I work with a lot of DJs, all of whom are men, so I figured if I love music and am really techy why don’t I DJ, why does it have to all be men?”
Liv plays mainly house music under the name Majime and her influences include Nina Kraviz, Jackmaster and Rebekah.
She plays several times a month, in bars mainly around London and her favourite gig was at Ministry of Sound.
Liv admits that in an industry dominated by men it’s easy to feel objectified. “One time I was DJing and had a line of guys behind me leering at my arse which I hadn’t noticed while I was getting into the mix – the promoter told me about it after.”
She says: “You feel more pressure to be good because some people can presume you’re going to be shit and not so technically able.
“You want to prove a point.”
Jess learned how to DJ in three months at London academy SubBass, and is now resident DJ at Sneak XOYO in London.
She says: “I play vocal House music. My influences come from one of my best friends who is a worldwide Female DJ, Sam Divine.”
The two now run a label together called D-Vine Sounds with manager Kamilla.
Jess now plays every weekend, in London, Essex, Stowmarket and Dublin. She says there’s still a big gender gap for DJs.
“It’s a pretty male strong industry but its ready to have some female power brought through. There are already quite a lot of big female DJs in the house industry who are absolutely smashing it – Sam Divine, Hannah Wants, Annie Mac.”
“I’ve never been treated differently just because I’m a girl. Sometimes I get high fives from the crowd just for being a female DJ, so it is definitely well respected. Our label is solely run by females too.”
“If there are any people reading this feature that are up and coming music producers or DJs, D-Vine Sounds is all about providing a platform to get your music heard and out there! So fire anything over to me at: [email protected]”.
Newcastle student Naomi took her influences from her upbringing. She says: “I got into it through my mums ex, who was a DJ and played all over. We had technics in our house for years and that got me really interested.”
She’s currently loving the Bieber resurgence. She said: “I’m more into my Justin Bieber at the moment, he’s throwing out banger after banger, so I’ve been experimenting mixing that with techno and house which works brilliantly. My influences have to come from Joris Voorn, Kolsch, Leon Vynehall, Steve Lawler and Heidi.”
Naomi swears by her Yamaha HS7 speakers and a Maschine Mikro MK2, “I use Logic Pro X to produce on. I currently own no DJing equipment, just production.”
She prefers to wear relaxed clothes when she plays, “I rarely dress up, keep it quite chilled, better to be comfortable and I hate overly dressy up clothes.”
“Being a female in the male dominated industry of DJing is daunting. You get shunned almost straight away when people see you get behind the decks but it’s nice to see a positive reaction and surprise on peoples’ faces when they see you mixing.”
Lisa is resident DJ at Sketchy in Belfast and got her first set of decks when she was just 16.
She said: “For years I was basically a bedroom DJ, until I started playing in places like The Stiff Kitten and The Limelight in Belfast. Like most people I’m using Serato now. It’s crucial to have access to as much music as possible doing the type of gigs that I do, because you never know how the night will end up.
“I play at mostly student nights so genre wise anything goes, but I like to base my sets around playing as much disco and hip hop as I can get away with.”
Lisa says her influences are drawn from the oldskool house DJs she saw when she first started going to Ibiza, from Frankie Knuckles and Danny Rampling to hip hop legends like Jazzy Jeff and even Tim Westwood.
She believes it’s a myth that girls struggle to get DJ gigs: “I’ve found the opposite to be true. Promoters like to book some female DJs as often their roster is almost all male. I’ve never really had much of an issue being a female in a male dominated industry.
“I’ll get some curious responses, usually from guys, who are surprised to see a female DJ, especially if I’m playing pretty full on hip hop – which is often the case. They seem to find it odd that a girl might like ASAP Rocky or Biggie Smalls.”