Recently, Unity for Equality had the honor of interviewing DJ SZNaina, a spectacular DJ who started her career in Seattle and is now based in New York. Over the years, she has performed multiple gigs, combining elements of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and Bollywood music in order to captivate her audience. Offering further insight into her life and career, DJ SZNaina generously touched upon her influences, obstacles, and more in the conversation below.
First, tell me a bit about yourself. How did you get into DJing and why?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me! First, I wanted to say that I love Unity for Equality’s mission to empower underserved communities by boosting educational opportunities and healthcare access.
As for DJing, it all started on my rooftop. I got into it initially because I love music and dancing! I am the type of person who always has a new favorite song to dance to. Because of that energy, I would go to many concerts or festivals. I loved how the DJs brought a vibe and got everyone to dance – it was magnetic. I wanted that energy in my life. One day, I bought myself a mixer and went up to my building’s rooftop to jam. A few folks overheard me playing, vibed to it, and invited me to play at their party the next day. I had such a fantastic time that I wanted to do actual gigs. A fellow DJ and I decided to throw a party to play for our friends on my rooftop. We only invited 100 people, but 400+ people showed up. From there, I built my portfolio and started getting booked. The rest is history.
I have been fortunate to have had amazing opportunities, such as DJing for political events (US Congress rally events and a party for NY Governor Kathy Hochul’s election win), the runway at South Asian New York Fashion Week, TaoGroup and El Grupo venues and clubs, corporate events with Harvard Club, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue, as well as weddings.
Your style incorporates many sounds from EDM, Bollywood, House, and more. How did you develop your style and use these influences to guide your music and performances?
It was accidental! When I went into DJing, I thought I was going to be playing house, electronic, or genres of music similar to the concerts I was going to. But my first club gig was at Stage, one of the largest clubs in Seattle, and they asked me to play Bollywood music. I grew up dancing to Bollywood, which has energetic beats, so it was a very exciting request. I still wanted to play electronic music as well so I stayed up all week to figure out how I could do both. At my gig, I blasted Bollywood and interweaved EDM; the crowd loved it. The energy was epic, and it gave me the confidence to play a unique style of music for folks to enjoy and dance to. Outside of Bollywood, I also play open-format, especially EDM, House, Big Room genres depending on the event and audience.
In terms of music influences, I’ve had a varied set of influences on the music I mix together. I’ve been in modern and classical South Asian dance groups, including a competitive Bollywood dance team in college. Moreover, I enjoy an eclectic set of dance genres, including funk house (e.g. Daft Punk), big room, and progressive house. I’d also like to mention that Avicii is one of my favorite artists. He was absolutely brilliant, and it’s artists like him who influence my own music. I just try to combine what I grew up with and the genres I’ve recently explored. Anything that makes you want to dance is on my radar.
What is one of the most difficult challenges you have had to overcome in your career as a DJ?
One of the challenges I faced was breaking into the industry as a new DJ. It was especially a trek in the beginning and when I moved to another city. I started out in Seattle and over time built a good base there. Then, I moved to New York City and had to start all over. I moved to NYC during the pandemic, so there weren’t as many gigs available. I worked hard, did my research, met with venues, and constantly reached out to people. As time went on, I met some exceptional people who gave me the opportunity to DJ to whom I am very grateful for.
What would you say is the most rewarding part about being a DJ?
There are so many, but I would pin it to two parts: 1) As a DJ, I am reading the crowd to keep them engaged with the music. When I drop the right beats and the crowd just gets wild, it is epic to see everyone having a great time. 2) There is a lot of great talent out there. Being in this industry, not only do you get exposed to awesome music, but you also get to meet the talented artists making them such as Benny Benassi.
What does the future look like for you? Do you have goals for where you want to be in five years?
I would love to DJ at one of the biggest club venues in New York, such as Marquee. But a five year goal would be to DJ at a music festival in front of thousands of people having a great time.
Do you have any advice for those out there who may want to pursue DJing as a career?
Just go for it and put your content out there. Throw your own party and let people hear your beats. You never know where it may take you!
Check out @SZnaina on Instagram, YouTube, and Soundcloud.
1 thought on “Good Vibes Only: The Origin of DJ SZNaina and Her Genre-Bending Music”
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