“Do you know what I love?” Naina asks. “I love to show someone a tune and then watch people’s reactions, like ‘What is this?’”
With infectious energy, Naina scours the underground, looking for new music. It’s what drives the London-based DJ, radio presenter and co-founder of emerging label Hooversound. Whether it’s showcasing her love of R&B, garage house or rave-ready sets, she has cemented herself as a mainstay in the UK club scene, a journey that’s been in the making for decades.
As with most South Asian families, Bollywood movies were played in Naina’s house growing up in Burnham. Where many would be enticed by the kitschy romantic storylines, Naina was hooked by the epic soundtracks.
“I was singing along to them, not knowing what I was singing,” she mentions over a WhatsApp voice note, a few days after having her appendix removed. Recovering at her parents’ house, Naina reminisces how it was the same place where her love for music blossomed. Her sister, seven years older, would burn her CDs, introducing Naina to genres her age group hadn’t caught up to yet. “She’s the reason I was quite ahead of the curve,” Naina explains.
She took her music tastes to university in Southampton, where she learnt how to DJ, uploading mixes to SoundCloud in the process, grabbing the notice of Reprezent Radio, who played one of them on FM radio. Eventually, she joined Reprezent after they advertised an open position. “I was the only person — and I think I still am to this day — who brought their mother to their pilot,” she jokes. Naina’s journey continued to ascend as she auditioned for and received a coveted slot on Apple’s Beats 1 Radio.
Since then, she’s become a recognised name in the underground, known for promoting artists and paving a new pathway forward, especially for female and South Asian artists. No ID, a South Asian-focused club night, formed by Ahadadream and Naina, has gained prominence in the short time it’s been alive, taking over a stage at Lost Village festival.
“No ID makes me feel warm inside,” Naina admits. “It’s nice to belong in a community of other South Asian creatives and to do it with someone who I think of as a second brother, it’s amazing.” Collaboration is essential to Naina. Meeting fellow DJ and radio presenter Sherelle at Reprezent, the duo realised they had similar music tastes. After opening for The Prodigy on a back-to-back set at Brixton Academy two years ago, Sherelle and Naina decided to start Hooversound, officially launching it this year. “The label has an old school dance feel to it. We love niche underground sounds, anything from 140-170,” she says.
Despite having so much on the go, Naina looks forward to DJing and showcasing tunes for audiences around the world. It’s what pushes her every day. “I love getting gassed about music,” she says excitedly. “I have such a connection to music, and to talk about that as your job is such a blessing.”