The concept of connection comes up a lot when talking to Ayesha. It’s at the heart of the Brooklyn-based artist’s “body over mind” music, which has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic over the past 18 months. Her percussive club productions and high-velocity DJ sets seek to create a sense of closeness; their tactile sound design, syncopated techno beats and visceral breaks speak to something primal, as tied to the natural world as they are to the dancefloor. “To tap into that, to create that... There’s no better pleasure,” she says.
Since March 2020, Ayesha has dropped four EPs, including a split with Ma Sha Ru, and contributed to compilations from Daytimers, Fever AM and Kindergarten Records. As clubs and festivals have returned over the past few months, her tracks have been played to packed dancefloors by the likes of India Jordan, Yung Singh, CCL and Bklava. Videos she’s been sent show tracks like ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Ecstatic Descent’ from her recent Scuffed Recordings EP erupting through flashes of strobe light and rapturous crowd noise. Without fail, they go off.
“The moments I was hoping to see are happening,” she says, describing how her music making process through lockdown was directly tied to her attempts to generate feelings of physical proximity, and to channel the energy of her favourite dancefloor, Brooklyn’s Nowadays. “I feel like the music that was made, and the music that's being made, is so intrinsically connected to the limitations that were imposed on life,'' she says. “I wanted to feel an embrace, I wanted to feel contact, and I think the sounds came from that desire.
“Wanting to tap into that feeling while not being able to access it through Covid definitely set an intention,” she adds. “Visualise the room you want to hear the music in, visualise the moment you want the music to soundtrack and the feelings that you want to see embodied in the room.”
Ayesha had been DJing full-time for three years when she moved from Washington, DC to Brooklyn in 2018. Having lived in various places throughout her life — she moved to and from India with her parents and twin sister several times during childhood, and has lived in Chicago, London and San Mateo, California — she was drawn to New York by its electronic music scene. She had already started learning production on a bootlegged copy of Logic, but the move inspired her to focus fully on cultivating her own sound, something she intentionally took her “sweet, sweet time” doing.
That patience paid off, and when Ayesha’s self-released debut EP, ‘Let’s Get Visceral’, landed in March 2020, right as the world was plunged into lockdown, it struck as a bold and fully realised introduction. Produced partially during a trip to India, the EP takes subtle cues from polyrhythmic traditions, as well as the “playful, mystical, eclectic energy” of the Goa trance clubs she snuck into as a teenager. Mostly though, it was influenced by nature. Written largely by the water, Ayesha tried to channel the lushness of her surrounding environment by modifying LFO filters to create the EP’s aquatic pulse and intimate physicality.
Her second EP, ‘Natural Phenomena’, was written in the depths of lockdown, and is described as “an undulating love letter to nature and the dancefloor”. Craving the outdoors, Ayesha transmitted that desire into four buoyant bangers, once again hinged on organic percussion and the manipulation of natural sounds and samples.
‘Natural Phenomena’ was released via Brooklyn’s Kindergarten Records after founder Ma Sha reached out asking to hear more of Ayesha’s music. Label regular Despina had already been dropping cuts from ‘Let’s Get Visceral’ in live streams and DJ mixes. Through these online connections, Ayesha found friendship and musical community in the Kindergarten crew, with whom she has since played numerous b2bs in New York clubs.
“I've learned that the most fruitful collaborations are those with people you genuinely fuck with,” she says. “Collabing with your friends can lead to the most amazing stuff. That's what I liked about Kindergarten – just a sort of spirit of play that I think is really across the releases on that label. There is a sense of curiosity and play that leads to the community feeling and a well rounded roster.”
The ethos of closeness in Ayesha’s music is mirrored in her thunderous DJ sets, in part thanks to her background as a “crowd-pleaser” DJ — “Those chops will always hold me in good stead for any room” — but also on a deeper level. It’s tied to the communal, near-ritualistic, feeling that can be shared between bodies dancing in a room as one. “It has conditioned how I select as a DJ,” she says. “I'm now in this mode where I'm leaning into that — selecting for moments of connection.”
‘Potential Energy’ on Scuffed Recordings presents Ayesha’s most thrilling music to date. Written as clubs in Brooklyn began reopening this summer, but while Ayesha was recovering from a broken foot, its brutal rhythms are embellished with glittering arpeggios and a giddy excitability. It’s pure dancefloor catharsis. “I want these tunes to make people feel the way I wanted to feel the whole summer,” she says.
This month, she’ll step behind the decks at her beloved Nowadays for the first time alongside Aurora Halal and Bristol DJ, Danielle. As clubs continue to open up, and with a growing catalogue of earth-shaking club tunes in her arsenal, Ayesha seems ready to break through, and eager to forge more connections through speaker stacks around the world.
Listen to Ayesha’s Fresh Kicks mix below.