Meet Jyoty: The Punjabi-Dutch DJ transforming the dancefloor

From sneaking into raves as a teen to selling out her own Homegrown club nights, the Punjabi-Dutch DJ Jyoty Singh has been transforming the dancefloor.
  • WriterZoya Raza-Shiekh
  • PhotographerLuke Nugent

Jyoty Singh is all about the hustle. It’s late December and the 33-year-old is wrapped up in a check Burberry scarf and working away over the festive break. Since her early teens, the Amsterdam- born DJ has been grafting to make it into clubs and get close to the thrumming heart of new, unheard mashes of R&B, hip-hop and dance tunes, which developed her love for packed-out parties and fusion music. “Everything was like a domino effect and it all came from being a normal kid who enjoys music and now I’m still out here hustling,” she tells me over Zoom from her home in the Netherlands’ capital.

In 2012 Singh moved to London to study for a master’s in world history and cultures at King’s College London. It was then that she took on the city’s nightlife, and quickly realised that her means of paying the bills was going to be found in the basement club scene. A brief stint as a cloakroom attendant and, later, as a door girl at the now-closed east London club The Nest soon placed her behind the mic as a radio host for the London-based community station Rinse FM, working the door at Boiler Room – where she would soon become the first woman on the mic – to co-launching the club and underground culture magazine The Move.

CENTRE: Jyoty wears jacket and boots by DIESEL, top and briefs by MIU MIU, skirt by WINDOWSEN and earrings by ALEXIS BITTAR. LEFT AND RIGHT: Jyoty wears jumper by ANDERSSON BELL, bodysuit by WINDOWSEN, skirt by DIESEL and earrings by MISHO.

The DJ credits her die-hard work ethic to two things: her upbringing and a need to make ends meet. “Everyone around me was doing the same thing – all the door girls and barmaids in Dalston at the time, whether it was Alicia Robinson who owns [the knitwear label] AGR, Greentea Peng, or Rhiannon from [the luxury-fashion archive] Ninety Fly. We were all just trying to pay our rent,” Singh says. “I’ve worked multiple jobs since I was 15 and I still work seven days a week. For me, that work ethic is normal because I’m brown!”

Taking lessons from her door days and early club raves, Singh has developed a knack for attracting an audience. From her tailored playlists on Rinse FM to dropping up-tempo Punjabi funk mixes in New York City to proudly blasting pro-Palestine tunes in Morocco, the DJ has a slick eclectic style that transforms low-lit club nights into a frenzied experience of desi culture, swagger and shit-hot sounds.

With nearly ten years of hard work to her name, Singh has earned her status as the stylish underground DJ who also gives back to the music community. She has played mega festivals (NYC’s Good Room and Lisbon’s Musicbox), hosted DJ workshops in Calcutta and given crash courses to South Asian women looking to break into the music industry, always looking for a way to pay her gratitude forward. You might think with a hefty set of achievements on the decks she would be ready to slow down but, as she playfully warns, this is only the beginning – “I still have to hustle to get to where I want to be. I’m just getting started!”

Jyoty wears hoodie, skirt and hat by WINDOWSEN, earrings and rings by SHAUN LEANE and boots by MOON BOOT.

Still, as the new year settles, Singh is making new plans; she’s getting her career goals in order. “Not everyone’s made for going into the mainstream and I’m definitely not. I needed to create something to remind myself why DJing and clubbing are fun,” she says. So, after reflecting on the success of Homegrown, the club night she launched in London in 2022, her buzz returned and Singh decided to get back to her music roots – club culture.

“Homegrown isn’t about genres. It isn’t about being seen, facing the DJ and expecting something, dressing a certain way or about headliners – none of that mattered. It was about being educated on new music and hearing music you’d never heard before,” Singh says. Rounds of viral videos champion her unique blend of South Asian sounds and Western tunes. You don’t have to look far to find footage of sweaty crowds raving to infectious bhangra beats mixed with tracks by the Brazilian artist Anitta, or overflowing rooms vibing out to a Punjabi and Jamaican remake of the mash-up of “Nachna Onda Nei”. But as her electric sets at Camden’s Koko and Barcelona’s Razzmatazz blew up, the events moved away from what she wanted them to be. “I got lost in the sauce and then Homegrown went fucking big and I saw people in my crowd that I didn’t want at Homegrown, who didn’t understand what it was about.” Singh grew up sneaking into raves in the late Noughties in Amsterdam but, here, she felt the community connection of dance becoming unfamiliar. So she decided to strip it all back to basics: no social media, no phones and a night of roof-raising bangers. “I’m trying to get away from individualism in the fucking club, it’s killing me,” she says. “If you don’t like it, that’s OK! There are so many other parties you can go to.”

Moving forward, Singh is ready to take on bigger music wins. The highs of screaming crowds and dreams of fashion parties aren’t going anywhere, but the DJ has set her sights on a new music-orientated outlet. “This year I’ve been producing and finalising bodies of work and working in A&R with someone else’s record for the first time and learning how to write. Those have been my highlights,” she says proudly. As for next steps, well, Singh wants to continue making music while learning to tap into the “insane talent” of music production. “I want to be able to write a B-side for Usher that only real R&B lovers will speak of but then also make the number one song that’s going to catapult [an artist] to a Justin Bieber level of superstardom.”

Jyoty wears jacket and shorts by VERSACE and earrings and ring by SWAROVSKI.

It’s no surprise the broadcaster is ready to pick up new skills. Beyond spinning decks, there’s no stopping her growth. She talks of loose plans that involve travelling to London, Amsterdam and Brazil. “When I’m not touring I’m going to be in the studio and practising writing songs,” she says. “I’m essentially a vessel for other people’s music, other people’s philosophies and the wider communities that they represent. I’m navigating my journey through this industry and trying different things.”

So it’s fitting when Singh brings up the notion of returning home – something she admits she’s been spending a lot of time thinking about. Homecoming throughout your life means different things, she says, reflecting on her recent past. With age, she’s got kinder, more patient and is excited to “branch out” with her shows and aspects of herself. Now in her thirties, the artist has started setting new priorities. Happiness, comfort and returning to her centre in music have been key. “I got a taste of all the glitz and the glamour and the big numbers and I thought I fucking hated it,” she says. “I’m learning now that I don’t hate it as long as it’s balanced with the underground, the non-famous people and your real friends around you.” In recent weeks, realigning her career and herself has given Singh scope to see what’s coming on her radar, and it all sounds exciting. For her next move, she’s here to prove South Asian names can be front and centre, playing to A-listers at the Paris catwalk shows and shutting down a Jacquemus party with Kaytranada. “I’m going to show everybody you can do both. You can be front row of fashion week and then still be accepted and respected in the dirty basements with a lesbian collective in Finland, like I’ve done. It can exist,” she says with a laugh.

Jyoty wears jacket and cycling shorts by CASABLANCA, bra by POSTER GIRL, sunglasses by GUCCI, earrings by MISHO, rings by CAPSULE ELEVEN and boots by WINDOWSEN.

We all know about the big-name DJs, but few are firing up clubs and underground music communities like Singh. While her name can sell out venues, what she brings to these dingy rooms – and the internet – is much bigger than a music stat or a streaming impression. An unpinnable act, you never know if she’s going to drop a cracking joke or a sharp tell-all explainer about Palestinian freedom to her 245,000 followers on TikTok. As for now, even in the middle of our interview, she segues into a detailed tangent about thriving South Asian faces in fashion and film. And in much the same way she took up the different roles of DJ, broadcaster, influencer and more, Singh is clear that her next venture is not a question of what, but a matter of when. “I can continue doing the big things and working with big names as long as I spend more time on curating the things that make me happy. At the end of the day, I dictate my career.”

OPPOSITE: Jyoty wears shirt by DSQUARED2, skirt by MUGLER, sunglasses by BALENCIAGA and earrings by ALEXIS BITTAR.
  • WriterZoya Raza-Shiekh
  • PhotographerLuke Nugent
  • ProducerNessa Humayun
  • StylistSachin Gogna
  • Art DirectorKat Beckwith
  • Make-up ArtistRosie McGinn using REFY
  • Hair StylistSolomon Paramour using SCHWARZKOPF PROFESSIONAL Session Label