Being a Brown Woman Behind the Decks

What people feel on the dance floor is often times a resonance from the person behind the decks. DJ Ayes Cold honestly believes she is very sensitive and that makes people dance. Ayesha Chugh who was working for a non-profit in D.C. quit her desk job and started djing. Her style of music incorporates R&B, hip-hop and beat heavy styles.


DJ Ayes Cold pronounced “ice-cold” came to know the difference between genuinely enjoying something and thinking she should enjoy something and hence doing it when music happened to her. She had come to D.C. for a masters program and after graduating, found a job but realised that was not her true calling. Making Djing her full-time commitment meant she played clubs such as Velvet Lounge, Tropicalia and 9.30 club. This also meant she knew what it was to follow a passion and knew this is what she enjoyed the most when people started responding to her beats.

Born in Chicago and raised in India, Chugh has played prominent festivals including Broccoli City and Trillectro among others and is keeping busy with shows that she is doing.


Chugh’s initial gigs were house parties and art openings for friends where she would test out tunes she had spent hours and hours mixing which came to her intuitively. Her passion for Djing was so high that when she saw her passion resonating with people on the dance floor, she knew she had an opportunity.

Her journey down the path of quitting her policy-driven job and moving in a completely different direction was a huge shift and the only thing holding her back was self-doubt. According to Chugh, doubting the self but having a confident exterior is something a lot of artists struggle with. Coupled with that is her own super sensitive self which helps her read the energy in a room and perform well behind the decks but it doesn’t necessarily help with living in the world because it means not having a thick skin. She recognises a lot of herself in the character in the book Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler; the character is the book is a hyder-empath, something she thinks she is too. It may look like a weakness but it’s a source of strength because it’s this sense of empathy that helps her connect with people and take them on a journey.


Chugh grew up to classic rock, Indian classical, folk, qawwali and some bhangra, things her parents were listening to and so her R&B influences are all things she picked up much later. Although she is a brown woman, she doesn’t necessarily want to desi inspired music because she grew up learning how to play the piano and is a self-taught guitarist. She believes it’s an expectation from people that she would make South-Asian inspired music because she is brown.

She often gets compared to M.I.A for no other reason than the fact that she has South Asian roots and Chugh says that’s how people perceive brown women in music. But for her, the roots that she truly adheres to are hard work, focusing on the craft and looking at it from a perspective of pure love.