In the world of electronic music, women have always been underrepresented. Did you ever notice, while having a look at the drum & bass charts, there are hardly any or few women? The DNB awards even had to create a special category for them, due to the complete lack of representation. In a society where the fight for gender equality is a hot debate, why does this issue still persists and how could it be solved?

Half of women felt their gender has affected their employment in the music industry. Indeed, in a world where we daily try to make genders equal, the differences remain strongly present. The underrepresentation is also due to the fact that women in the drum and bass scene are less seen DJing and producing than men.  Moreover, breaking through in a male-dominant scene is not an easy road for them. This inequality creates pressure and prejudice. It hinders good development and makes them vulnerable. Even worse, the emotional dynamics of prejudices can undermine the quality of their performance, the development of their creative process, and their establishment as artists. Not to mention, feeling out of place can easily lead to self-doubt. 

Luckily, women now have the possibility to follow initiatives and projects created for them. After all, being a woman shouldn’t be a handicap to success.

The situation is slowly improving: today, 86% of artists booked are men, when it was up to 90% in 2017. We have to keep in mind that gender quotas do not exist in the music industry. Promoters would like to book more female DJs but they are so few, or worse, they are not even known. To fight this situation, more light has to shine on talented women that already compose our drum & bass scene. Music is about celebrating all cultures and all kinds of differences, so why is the underground music culture, far from the business-oriented mainstream industry, lacking diversity too?

It is definitely sexist and disrespectful to say men are more interested in the technical aspects, like producing and djing. The ability to deal with technology is not at all a men thing. Taking a more global look, we can see that women are more represented as vocalists, and a lot of them are already killing it. It is vital and necessary for our industry to promote them as much as possible. Let’s not also forget women behind the scene who are PR, managers, or any job related to the music industry, that usually don’t get enough credit as well, although they are the backbone of our scene. Shout out to Shelley, running the DNB side of Data Transmission, Maja who puts in the hours for Dnb Arena, or Hannah, PR at Ram Records and Elevated Sound PR, and Amy, label manager at Elevate Records and Shogun Audio.

Despite the fact women are a minority in this scene, the drum & bass movement was also built by women. Did you know the co-founders of the legendary and iconic British label Metalheadz were women?

In the early ’90s, KEMISTRY (Valerie Olusanya), introduced electronic music to Jayne Conneely, known as DJ STORM. She bombarded her with records and brought her to her first rave. During that extraordinary night, in October 1991, they started paying attention to djing techniques leading them to buying their first decks ever. The two women found inspiration in the emerging breakbeat sound of Fabio & Grooverider at the legendary club night ‘Rage’. It’s also around that time that Kemi met Goldie, she introduced him to drum & bass. They even began a regular show on London Pirate Touchdown FM, with Goldie hosting on the mic for Kemistry and Storm. In 1994, Goldie, Kemistry, and Storm founded Metalheadz.



The ingredients of success
Both embracing different styles and being a black and white duo definitely intrigued people said DJ Storm. It wasn’t easy at all as women but the fact they were a duo was a chance. They always supported each other and worked very hard with passion, without looking for social rewards. They were complementary and this duality made them stronger. Goldie once said. “Kemi was the Fabio, Storm was more the Grooverider”. They had their own distinct style. Their back-to-back was also about business: as one played a record, the other answered questions from people behind the decks, curious to identify dubplates. They chose the name “KEMISTRY AND STORM” because it sounded unisex, they didn’t want to put forward the fact that they were women.



In 1999, Kemistry tragically died in a motorway accident. Storm continued the passion they had shared. She presented herself as a model for aspiring young female artists to break into this male-dominated scene. In 2004, Storm helped to set-up the monthly ‘Feline Club Night’ at the London nightclub ‘Herbal’, bringing together the finest female talents in drum & bass.



You have to know you want it, it’s not an easy road, you have to be quite selfish, women are often more hesitant in this male dominant scene”, while men are pushy, have that self-confidence.” (DJ STORM, Red Bull Music Academy interview)



Following up with those nights, this is how DJ Rap broke through. The combination of a strong-pushy personality and passion. She was 26 years old in 1994 and was one of the rare female DJ of the jungle scene in London :

“I am tough in business, there are only 20 top Djs, there is a couple of girl Dj’s but really I am the only one working with Fabio, grooverider or Frost, those, the top boys, and I think it’s because I am very pushy and it’s not necessarily because I’m better than them. I like the fact it’s a male dominant thing. I find it very challenging. I’m not happy playing with girls. If promoters offer me to play at girl raves, I refuse. I wanna play with the boys or not at all. I wanna be at the top.” (“Jungle and Drum&Bass in London”, french documentary, october 1994).



Speaking of legends, you might have heard of DJ Flight, known for her show The Next Chapter on BBC Radio 1xtra. At first, she wasn’t interested in djing… until she discovered Kemistry and Storm at the age of 17. Two women actually led to the creation of Dj Flight’s first mixtapes. One night, at Fabio’s DNB night at the Velvet Room, Kemistry & Storm asked her to make a mix they could give to Goldie. The duo wanted to bring in a new girl on Metalheadz. Despite Kemistry’s death, Goldie and Storm managed to give DJ Flight the opportunity to land on the legendary imprint. 

Unity is strength: the art of mentoring
As we know, 84% of women have been treated differently due to their gender in the music industry, yet women have always been there, building the backbone of our scene. We must stand up and act to change these statistics.

Luckily, many initiatives already champion female artists. Mantra and DJ Flight (Indra Khera and Natalie Wright) co-founded EQ50 in December 2018: “A CALL TO ACTION”, an equality network, working towards a fairer representation within the drum and bass scene. This movement aims to empower underrepresented artists, no matter what their gender, race, dis(ability), or sexual orientation is. They also host workshops, webinars, and mentoring programs in partnership with established record labels.

Let’s face it, the music industry is a very tough place. It’s hard for both women and men to breakthrough. In the end, it should be about how hard you try and how honest you are to your music. This is why supporting artists is crucial and collaboration is key. Underground music is different from the mainstream industry, as we have the chance to be more tolerant and more supportive of each other. Let’s carry this spirit and spread equality.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of female DJs, producers, and MCs you absolutely need to know :