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2022 has been the first full year of events since 2019 and damn it felt good to be back. While there’s no escaping that the music industry is still facing the challenges of macro-economic pressures and navigating a post-lockdown landscape, the ability to come together on the dancefloor and experience collective joy has been restorative, with countless reminders of why the scene is worth protecting. It’s made us especially grateful for those moments on the dancefloor, and the DJs who serve them up. Read on as we tip our hat to 22 DJs who helped defined 2022 (in alphabetical order).
Swept around Europe and beyond this year, Anetha has been an unmissable DJ who is guaranteed to raise every hair on your body. From drawing in the crowd at the Peacock Society to becoming a resident at Awakenings and Le Sucre, she’s rightly risen up to earn the reputation as one the most thrilling techno DJs in the game. Not only is she the champion of the dancefloor but she is also the boss of her widely successful label Mama Told Ya and its sister agency Mama Loves Ya. Anetha is constantly supporting the next generation of producers and DJs and encouraging collaboration, such as the Mama Told Ya takeover at Berghain which platformed numerous young artists. And while busy touring the world, she still found the time time to collaborate on three albums and release the heart-pumping track ‘How Would They Know’, all via her very-own label.
Starting the year strong with a much-celebrated addition to Ilian Tape’s mix series, Sahara-born, France-based DJ and producer Azu Tiwaline has been on a non-stop run ever since. With a regular show on Rinse France, a recent Boiler Room showcase, and appearances at festivals including Croatia’s Dimensions and Japan’s Agaitida, Azu has impressed almost every corner of the globe with her sets that merge her North African heritage with the experimental side of contemporary techno. “I could never imagine that I would travel so far this year with my music,” Azu said on Instagram earlier this month after the relentless year-long tour. She has also made space for her own productions, including a collaborative EP with Al Wootton.
Having been Oakland’s best kept secret for years, it was during lockdown that Bored Lord captured imaginations across the pond with her off-the-wall pop edits and luscious breaks, an endeavour that rightfully placed her in our Breakthrough Artists of 2021. So in 2022, with our nightlife spaces well and truly open for business — it was time for Bored Lord to show the world how it’s done behind the decks, and blimey, did she. Setting tongues a-flutter with her heady mix of gritty UK bass, kitsch archive bangers and face-scrunching synth slammers, she’s graced the stages of some of the most cherished underground spaces both Stateside and in Europe, including White Hotel, Berghain, Nowadays, Unsound, De School, Good Room and more. In the digital sphere she’s been spreading her wings too, with streams on HÖR and Keep Hush inspiring FOMO in even the tetchiest of hearts — while a solid offering of mixes on FACT and Honcho have had us all digging through listings to find out when she’s playing near us. Despite a stratospheric rise in the last 12 months, Daria has remained true to herself; with sets infused wholly with that special Bored Lord combo — part blink-and-you’ll-miss it referentialism, part queer euphoria and part buoyant hedonism. All combined, have made her one of the most exciting DJs to watch this year.
As a co-founder of Sāo Paulo’s iconic, queer-focused Mamba Negra collective (alongside Laura Diaz), Carol Schutzer AKA Cashu has been at the forefront of the city’s underground scene for the best part of a decade. Responsible for some of the city’s most legendary free parties, the collective has also in recent times evolved into a record label, agency and radio platform. The past year however has seen Cashu explode worldwide, getting full recognition for her DJing talents, as she took her eclectic, hefty yet bursting-with-groove take on techno (with a splash of drum ‘n’ bass) to some of the world’s weightiest and most genre-definitive dancefloors – including Tbilisi’s Bassiani, New York’s BASEMENT and of course, Berghain.
Into her 25th year as one of drum ‘n’ bass and jungle’s strongest pillars – which she is currently celebrating with a tour – DJ Flight has long been educating dancefloors through her music. This year, she’s been doing it with her words as well, having produced and presented Turn it up – A Short History of Drum ‘n’ Bass for BBC Sounds. Since co-founding EQ50 in 2018, a collective fighting for fairer representation within drum ‘n’ bass, Flight had the most prolific year to date with the group: curating a line-up for RAM Records’ 30-year celebration and hosting at Outlook Festival’s UK debut. All the while sending crowds skywards with her signature mix of heady, pressure-laden 170 BPM selections.
Say his name three times and a donk edit will start playing from every nearby Alexa. It’s been a hell of a year for Interplanetary Criminal, the Manchester-born-and-bred DJ with a penchant for UKG. Becoming a bass staple after whirlwind weekends gigging across the breadth and width of the UK – and a few Mixmag appearances along the way – IPC was only getting started when he dropped ‘B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of The All)’ alongside Eliza Rose in June. After the track hit the top spot in the charts through the summer, Interplanetary Criminal picked up a slew of shows around the world, continued to put in a shift with his label, ATW, and brought a new generation of garage fans through the club doors each weekend.
At points last decade it sounded like Joy Orbison was on the verge of packing in being a DJ. After his reputation for being the poster boy for underground UK bangers spiralled, he found himself sucked inside the wormhole of terraces, big rooms and agent arguments about font sizes that makes up the top-tier of the house and techno club scene, and felt his interest in DJing plummet as his booking fee and average crowd size soared. But he consciously pulled away from that circuit and got back on track, and in 2022 appeared to be the most energised he’s been in years behind the decks. “I’ve been really enjoying DJing again,” he declared in the intro quote to his flawless Cover Mix in March. His next-level sets at festivals such as Glastonbury, club nights such as Somatic Rituals in Basel and across a US West Coast your were a testament to that, traversing a heady blend of vocal hooks, shuffling percussion, soundsystem-shaking bassweight, inventive toplines and signature rap blends that pushed dancefloors into screwface mania. At the same time, he’s been focused on putting the next gen, launching his free of charge Just For You club night and advocating for more experimental line-ups on big club bills in his cover feature interview.
No one quite fits the description of “soldier of the scene” quite like Medellín electro stalwart Julianna. Having grinded within the city’s electronic music circuit since 2007, Julianna counts a multitude of feathers to her proverbial hat — activist, hometown hero, illustrator, creative visionary and serial party-starter to name a few. With a multi-disciplinary approach to underground music, she’s worked tirelessly to shine a spotlight on the wealth of talent held by Colombia’s femme and non-binary selectors with her mind-blowing Contacto parties at Bogotá’s Video Club, alongside her work with platforms ECO and Latitudes. Working with DJs across the Latin world, she established her NÓTT collective run alongside fellow Medellín-ers Marea and Andrea Arias — a group that have become leading figures in the city’s distinctive underground sound. Further afield she’s brought her distinctive, rolling percussion to Berghain, Gare Porto, Le Sucre, Garage du Norde and NYC’s Softee Castle this year. Vamos a la Medellin!
Jyoty has grown into a fully-fledged force of nature across 2022. She’s an aspirational figure who’s grown steadily to her newfound fame, coming to represent a leading light for industry hopefuls to look up to and young ravers to be inspired by, spinning energetic sets and maintaining that energy outside the club, with a no-nonsense attitude that rails against gatekeepers and places value on sharing wisdom with the next gen. The Rinse FM presenter and YouTube vlogger kicked off this year with her new club night HOMEGROWN. Inspired by her first experiences with the London club scene after moving here from Amsterdam 10 years ago, these nights encourage everyone and anyone to come along and explore different musical genres and have spread all the way to Razzmatazz, Barcelona. One particular night this spring sold-out in just three minutes. A viral clip DJing alongside Simon Porte Jacquemus has been the cherry on the top.
[Photo: Filipa Aurélio]
There’s a moment in every LCY set, where you attempt to recall when the last transition was — and you can never quite manage, despite the fact you’ve heard the raucous deconstruction of around five genres in as many minutes. That’s what continues to make them one of the most intriguing dance acts the UK, and underground music as a whole, has to offer. Approaching a cacophony of percussion as elegantly as most DJs treat melding synths, their unique sound manages to toe the line between punch-you-in-the-face slam and delicate peaks and bows — skilfully meandering between genres, tempos and forms. Unforgettable sets at the likes of fabric, Unsound, Bangface, Printworks and OHM have created a troop of word-of-mouthers, willing to sing their praises to just about everyone and anyone who’ll listen. A consistent array of bolshy heaters on their Radio 1 Residency have had us tuning in on the airwaves, while their upcoming EP ‘/Y’ looks to have us flocking to their Bandcamp early next year, if sultry, bass-heavy teaser singles ‘CHERUBIM’ and ‘0NLY 0NE’ are anything to go by. We wish life was one big LCY set.
It’s hard to comprehend the year Nastia has had. She’s been working harder than ever to perform astounding sets yet also concentrating her platform to support her home country of Ukraine, which she was forced to flee alongside millions more refugees upon Russia’s invasion. As the label boss of NECHTO Records, Nastia manages it as a place to showcase artists rather than as a business and has had three more works added to its rolling album series. And this year, NECHTO became more than a label, running its first international event in New York City to raise funds for Ukraine. Another notable moment this year was her keynote speech at the International Music Summit in Ibiza. In the most challenging and traumatic of circumstances, Nastia has stood strong and encouraged the wider world to help support her beloved country.
Unlocking some sort of sorcery once her USB is plugged in, Nia Archives has been one of the most talked about artists of 2022. Continuing the legacy of jungle she’s become an award-winning artist this year with BBC Introducing Artist of the Year, the MOBO’s Best Electronic/Dance Act and even a Mixmag cover under her belt. Her Lab LDN will go down in history as we heard a sneak preview of her now-released EP, ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ which is packed with anthems that truly made ’22 the summer of jungle. Since then, people have come from far and wide to get crammed in to watch Nia from her phenomenal Boomtown set to her Glastonbury debut. This in-demand star has also recently curated her own party series, Up Ya Archives.
Having originally made a name for himself with his cultural-fusion productions, 2022 saw Ecuador-raised Nicola Cruz spread his DJing wings, as well as his musical spectrum, wider than ever before. On any one day you could catch him playing low tempo, low slung deep house, subaquatic electro and even dark broken beat techno – all mixed with a mastery of all things subtle and smooth. Such variety is also reflected in his DJing exploits – a fabric mix CD, multiple trips to Panorama Bar and a headline appearance at Club Space Miami.
With more aliases than Jason Bourne, it’s difficult to settle on a favourite project from New York UKG aficionado Daniel Fisher. However, if we’re really looking at artists’ who made a splash this year, 2022 undoubtedly belongs to dance music’s premier meme king — Physical Therapy. Having earned cult status for his themed-NTS shows (Big Sad UK Megamix anyone?), a string of high-NRG-high-emotion releases on his imprint Allergy Season, accompanied with much-a-buzz appearances at Berghain, Night Tales, Nowadays and Le Chinois have all stirred us up into a frenzy at his unpredictable selections; will it be down-and-dirty techno? Scandalous pop edits? Sweaty two-step? Sultry noughties house? Who knows! But with his apparent insatiable appetite for all-things great dance music, and a talent for finding the deepest of deep cuts — we think we’re about due for a Physical.
Austria-born, Manchester-based DJ and producer salute spent the best part of 2022 championing new, unearthed sounds and turning the biggest club dancefloors – from Manchester’s Warehouse Project to Birstol’s Propyard – upside down in the process. In May, salute landed a resident slot on Rinse FM where he now curates monthly mix shows, often traversing the depths of high-tempo, high-energy house and beyond. He’s also toured across Europe, the US and most recently Australia, including topping the year off with a Boiler Room appearance in Melbourne. On top of that, he’s put out a slew of releases, which included a brand new four-track EP, ‘Ultra Pool’, in August and remixes for the likes of Kaytranada and DJ Seinfeld.
Scorpion Kings, AKA the collaborative pairing between DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small, were already on a roll before hitting the stage in 2022. That momentum continued apace this year, with the pair taking charge of a number of huge shows both in and out of South Africa, including an extended six-hour set at Barcelona’s Sónar, a Piano People UK debut, and a link-up at this year’s South African Music Awards. On top of that, the pair released two live albums from their enormous shows at Sun Arena in Pretoria, standing out as amapiano’s finest tastemakers in 2022 both individually and as a pair.
There’s a whole lot of innovation and momentum within London’s Afro house and amapiano scene at the moment, with various UK and African influences intertwining to form new strands of the sounds. Supa D is at the forefront of the movement. As well as being a peerless selector in his own right, his tireless work behind the scenes leads by example. Through his involvement in the houSupa label, Afrotized club night and The Originals festival, he’s powering developments in the scene by creating places for the community to come together and platforms for which their artistry can be showcased and evolve.
TAYHANA’s sets make dancefloors go ballistic, hitting hard with propulsive Latin rhythms submerged in seismic bassweight. Hailing from Argentina, where she formed the radical HiedraH Club de Baile collective in 2013, and later relocating in Mexico City and integrating into NAAFI, she’s an integral figure in the region standing up for marginalised communities. This year she’s played all over the Americas and in Europe, from major festival stages like Primavera Sound in São Paulo and Barcelona to secret squat parties tucked inside the CDMX’s grand architectural facades. Her style never fails to rearrange your brain and challenge your preconceptions of what music styles can make sense together, as she cuts between gabber and reggaeton at breakneck pace, making blow minds look effortless as she peers at the decks from behind dark glasses. All that, and she produced the cut ‘CUUUUuuuuuute’ on Rosalía’s four-time Latin GRAMMY Award-winning ‘Motomami’ album too.
TYGAPAW is an outstanding DJ who proves techno can be simultaneously hard as nails and sensuous. They power through sets that fulfill your need for hard-hitting beats to lock into on the dancefloor and caress that side of your taste that yearns for catchy melodies and fun vocals. This refreshing approach to playing techno has earned the Jamaican-born artist bookings at top-tier parties across the world this year, from sets at the best parties from New York City to LA, to an Australian tour and dates all across Europe, including DC10, Berghain and Primavera Sound.
[Photo: Maryan Sayd]
South Africa’s amapiano movement has given rise to many new stars on the global dance music stage these past few years, and this year Vigro Deep is undoubtedly one of the most crucial. He’s travelled from ‘Petori to Ibiza’, touring all over Africa and Europe, including becoming the first ever South African amapiano artist to play fabric in London for the legendary nightspot’s 23rd birthday celebrations and a monumental set in The Lab Johannesburg. As well as transfixing club crowds, he’s played on BBC 1Xtra and became a resident on Rinse FM, on top of releasing his 17-track mixtape ‘My House My Rules’ via the station’s label arm. Aged just 21, the Baby Boy has become a scene figurehead and shows no signs of slowing.
As a producer and live artist known for her shows with Her Band, the Chinese-born, Vancouver-based Yu Su has long earned her musical stripes. But 2022 has been her year for DJing, with tours across the USA and Europe – where she hit a long list of dates on the summer festival season circuit. Her set at Amsterdam’s Dekmantel showed off her unique peak-time style – flicking through energetic disco cuts, off-kilter 80s-inspired synth workouts to vibey, melodic breakbeat house. She even hosted a dinner session, a five-course affair at Vancouver’s Ubuntu Canteen soundtracked by her favourite evening selections.
[Photo: Kyle Murdoch]
Japan’s “DJ’s DJ”, ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U has earned a steady reputation throughout Asia for his wizardry behind the decks. 2022 saw the Osaka-born, Tokyo-based oracle of the blend only furthered his mystique with a bewildering HÖR set, appearances at London’s ICA, Berlin’s RSO and Paris’ La Station – Gare des Mines and captivating RA podcast and Mixmag Impact mixes. ¥UK1MAT$U’s penchant for stripping tracks down to their core and building them back up again in the image of his own sonic direction, makes for a thrilling watch – only furthered by his futuristic selections and furious, shirtless mixing style. Alongside shattering noise and spine-tingling techno, are SOPHIE favourites, rousing disco, big UK rave bangers à la The Prodigy and the soft piano melodies of Ryuichi Sakamoto — somehow wrapped up with a percussion-only play of the ‘Thong Song’ that makes Sisqo’s raunchy 1999 hit sound like the best club track you’ve ever heard in your life.
Written by: Tim Hopkins