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‘I wanna see more old bitches in the club!’: how Jyoty went from door girl to your favourite DJ

From working club cloakrooms to running club nights across Europe, the rise of Jyoty Singh has been a joy to behold. The broadcaster talks to us about her journey, avoiding pigeonholing and her new night, Homegrown.

25 Mar 2022

Ten years of grafting has seen Amsterdam-born, London-based Jyoty Singh go from working in the cloakroom and being a door girl at East London nightclub the Nest, to stellar Boiler Room host, Rinse radio presenter and a hugely in-demand DJ – making connections with the industry’s biggest names along the way. 

Her radio show has been going strong for six years with guests including Robert Glasper, Princess Nokia, Greentea Peng and many more. Listening to the show or following her on Instagram, feels like she’s a good friend. Her infectious energy, passion and humour shine through and have clearly played an important role in her rapidly rising career.

I first came across Jyoty after her 2019 Boiler Room went viral, racking up over 1.5 million views on YouTube. Her energetic set was a pre-Carnival warm-up, blending hip-hop, garage and baile funk with songs such as Nelly’s ‘Hot in Herre’ getting the crowd hyped. High energy and eclectic, Jyoty’s mixes are varied and will have you dancing to a mixture of R&B, dancehall, UK garage, and the best Punjabi club bangers.

Since going into music full-time, Jyoty has been very busy. Her string of new club nights, Homegrown, are underway, kicking off with sell-out events in London and Barcelona. Her home city of Amsterdam is next on the list on 22 April, where the first tier tickets sold out in just three minutes. 

I caught up with Jyoty over Zoom, from her new home in South London to speak about her radio show, Homegrown and the complexities of the new South Asian underground. 

gal-dem: Talk us through your journey from a door girl to where you are now?

Jyoty: A thread in my life is people not turning up, having to fill in and getting the job. When the door girl at the Nest didn’t turn up, I filled in and stayed. I made all these connections over the years that resulted in co-hosting a friend’s radio show on Rinse. On the third show I did with her, she slept in so I had to do it myself – and the show eventually became mine. I went on to host Boiler Rooms and then became a creative producer for Mixcloud. While I was doing this, I learnt how to DJ. It was actually all down to Jamz Supernova – she’s the only reason I DJ. She was throwing a party for a Peckham Rye festival and she wanted me to open up. When I told her I couldn’t DJ, she said; “I don’t care, you play amazing music. You’ve got two weeks to learn.”

“Personally I don’t see myself as a ‘South Asian DJ’ – I see myself as a DJ”

You grew up in Amsterdam but have spent the past 10 years in London. How would you compare nightlife between the two cities? 

They’re the best cities to go clubbing in because they have so much to offer when it comes to small venues. You can go raving in an arena or be in a basement with 100 people. Also, the two cities are always on people’s touring schedules so, no matter how big the artist or DJ, they will hit both Amsterdam and London. However, London has more subcultures to offer. In Amsterdam, you can have a big night out but I don’t know how likely it is to go to a reggae night or a punk rock concert – it’s not on offer anytime you feel like it. If you’re in London and only want to hear drum’n’bass or dancehall, you can find that. I also think that London tends to be way more mixed. I would visit London for a techno night and be amazed at how mixed it is. It’s guys, girls, Black people, South Asian people… it was always way more diversified. 

What are some highlights from your Rinse radio show? 

I have a very special relationship with my radio following, they’re the most important people to me. Most people don’t realise that I see myself as a broadcaster before anything else. That’s also why I always drop new info like secret lineups or new nights on my radio show before it’s on a website, Instagram or Tiktok. An overall highlight has definitely been the guests and seeing how their career has progressed since being on the show. I spoke to Ari Lennox back when she was doing warm-ups, I was Greentea Peng’s first radio interview, I spoke to Brent Faiyaz before the Grammys, and Princess Nokia right as she passed over from Wavy Spice. Also, I’ve interviewed so many niche people from underground pockets of sound that you wouldn’t know of unless you’re in that world, but are equally so important. 

After sold-out nights in London and Barcelona, your new club night Homegrown is coming to Amsterdam. How does it feel coming back to your home town? 

The first phase of tickets for Amsterdam sold out in three minutes. I was in Madrid, I was so hungover and I couldn’t comprehend it. I had faith I would sell out in London – not because I see myself as that girl but because I set myself a target: if I didn’t sell out in seven days, I was doing something wrong. But I didn’t expect that to happen in any other city. I also don’t expect it to happen for the second Homegrown in London. If you do something for the second or third time and the numbers drop, it’s important to not beat yourself up about it, it’s normal. People move onto the next thing and that’s okay.

“I wanna see people at my nights who need to take a break from dancing after an hour because their lower back starts to hurt so I’m not the only one”

Why did you want to curate this night? 

It’s catered to people who are fading out of the club life. This is a space where they can come back every now and again. I’m 31 and I wanna see more old bitches in the club! I wanna see people who need to take a break from dancing after an hour because their lower back starts to hurt so I’m not the only one. I also want Homegrown to be a meeting place of like-minded people. And it’s an ode to the people who have inspired me, who have told me what it means to put on a good party.

You’ve spoken a lot about a lack of diversity on radio and club nights. How do you feel about the new South Asian underground movement we’re seeing?  

I think there’s a huge lack of South Asian broadcasters on major radio stations. That’s always been my huge problem with the BBC and why you’ll never see me on there because there’s only space for South Asian people on the Asian Network. I love the network and all the presenters there, but it’s not for me. 

When it comes to DJing, there are a shit load of brown DJs. But personally, I don’t see myself as a ‘South Asian DJ’, I see myself as a DJ. I’ll talk about my experience as a South Asian woman but I won’t talk about my experience as a South Asian DJ. Elijah said this very well: “You have to take charge of your narrative. If you don’t, your narrative will be written for you.” I’m not busting my ass every week for you to get me on a panel to talk about being brown. That’s not on my CV! We need to be careful. When people are bored of the South Asian movement in a year’s time… What’s next? 

Jyoty plays the AMP Lost & Found Festival in Malta, June 1 – 4, 2022.