Ayesha is one of the most exciting names operating out of NYC at the moment, with momentum growing further since the recent release of her debut album Rhythm is Memory on Kindergarten Records.

It follows a previous EP for the label, Natural Phenomena, in 2020, as well as the Potential Energy EP on Scuffed Recordings in 2021. Fittingly, her sound hits the sweet spot between accelerative percussive techno and whiplash UK rhythmics.

“The album is a fun experiment in branching out sonically in weirder, deeper, dubbed-out and tripped-out directions,” she reflects, adding, “It purely reflects this curiosity, and aims to do nothing more.”

Alongside production, she is a resident at the locally cherished and globally respected Queens nightclub Nowadays, so we thought it would be a good idea to get a personal guide around the local neighbourhood and beyond…

How long have you live in NYC?

I’ve lived in NYC for a little over 5 years now. I have lived in Queens for 2 years now. Prior to that, I lived in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.”

Tell us about the scene there? How tight-knit is the music community?

The music scene is very vast and it has its own pockets that can feel very insular and tight-knit. The techno scene has its sub-scenes for example - and I definitely inhabit the small cross-section of bass lovers out here!  This community has been super supportive and foundational to my growth as a DJ and producer out here.

Who are some locals we should know about?

Shameless plug, but of course, all of the Kindergarten Records crew out here! Ma Sha, Despina, Sobolik and Drummy. Good friends and great musicians.

What are your favourite clubs?

Nowadays and Mansions right now, both are actually located here in Ridgewood, Queens.

I became a resident DJ at Nowadays partially because I was a huge fan. It’s just a really memorable room with an incredible custom-built sound system. This is definitely a room for dancers. Mansions is a micro-club that serves impeccable wine and feels like an old Elk’s Lodge. DJs play there regularly and its dancefloor has strangely satisfying wall-to-wall green carpeting that makes the room sound really warm.

What are some of the local radio stations?

I routinely play on the Lot Radio and really love the vibe. It’s truly a community hub for DJs with folks from all over playing and passing through. The other day I tuned in and there were folks playing both the drums and saxophone, accompanying DJ Takuya Nakamura, a local resident with eclectic taste. It’s one of those special radio environments where the vibe can surprise you.

Despina, Ma Sha, Sobolik and Ayesha at The Lot Radio (photo credit Ma Sha)

Where’s the best place to dig for records?

Human Head is my go-to record store in Brooklyn. The diversity of the selection is awesome - some real odd gems. This is a magical place where you can find a vintage self-help record in a 2-dollar bin and then go to your studio and sample it (I am about to do this). I also really love that this shop has multiple listening stations with nobody breathing down your shoulders waiting for you to finish, you can truly listen in peace and actually buy records you’ve previewed.

Human Head Records (photo credit 2bitmonkey)
Human Head Records (photo credit 2bitmonkey)

What are the best food spots?

There’s way too many amazing spots for food in Queens! Rustico Taverna on Fresh Pond Road here in Ridgewood has amazing pizza and is run by a wonderfully friendly man named Sandro. Mum’s Mediterranean, also on Fresh Pond Road, is currently owned by an Egyptian family and it has a delicious ‘special’ falafel with french fries in it. Also there’s great Chinese options in Flushing, Greek food in Astoria, and South Asian food in Jackson Heights. Truly too much to choose from!

I used to also be a big fan of a Thai restaurant called Uncle Boon’s in Soho, Manhattan, unfortunately that shut down like many restaurants out here have. From the same owners, Thai Diner is a tasty replacement (also in Soho), but it’s super hard to get a table if it’s not midweek and raining!

What about for post-rave food?

While I avoid late night food excursions at this point in my life… I’d recommend taco trucks, they are the most satisfying and affordable way to go. There’s many outside the clubs here.

Queens Taco Truck (photo credit Melissa Hom)

Where’s the best spot on a summer day?

Fort Tilden at Rockaway Beach if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you want to stay local, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Best spot to hide from the rain?

Definitely a cosy bookstore. As someone who keeps it pretty local, Topos is a special place here in Ridgewood that I frequent - it’s a used book store with amazing occult and sci-fi selections that also serves coffee - best of both worlds when hiding from the rain.

Topos bookshop (photo credit onthegrid)

What’s changed the most about the city since you’ve lived there?

A lot! Most starkly, the cost of rent. I stayed here through COVID and was here for the rental market crashing, and then inflating on steroids. I moved to the neighbourhood Ridgewood, Queens because I got priced out of my Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.

Another thing that has changed in the last year is the neighbourhood of Ridgewood. Over the last 2 years living here I’ve seen a lot of new restaurants and bars open up. While I’m a patron at the ones that are somewhat affordable, I see this wave as paralleling the significant inflation (in the rental market and beyond), creating challenges for local residents and artists like myself.

On the bright side, a lot of residents and small business owners in this neighbourhood have lived here for many years (some: generations) and own their homes. Many of them don’t plan on letting them go anytime soon.

What’s your favourite thing about Queens?

Definitely diversity; this borough is home to communities from all over the world. Ridgewood alone is home to communities spanning Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Italy, China, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East and I’m sure more... Two neighbourhoods over into Rego Park and you will also find a sizable Central Asian community. Northern Queens has a mix of Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and South Asians.  This is of course just a broad snapshot but this diversity keeps Queens vibrant and exciting, especially if you like to eat.

What’s your least favourite thing about Queens?

There is definitely a lack of green space in my part of Queens, Ridgewood. People make do and really maximise on small local parks, fields and playgrounds, but at times I wish I had more options. There’s a beautiful natural park called the Ridgewood Reservoir that’s about a 25 minute walk from where I live - I do tend to make the trek there often to run and clear my head.

What’s the biggest misconception about the area?

I’ve noticed that many tend to centre NYC’s narrative on the Brooklyn or Manhattan experience and I certainly did that myself upon first moving to the city.

When I first moved to New York in 2018 there was no question I would live in Brooklyn, even though my job was in Manhattan (I guess by then everyone was aware it’s impossible to afford).

Naturally, I felt a lot of remorse leaving Brooklyn when I got priced out of my apartment in 2021. Queens felt pretty peripheral compared to the buzz of Brooklyn. The area I now live in felt even more removed as it’s on the quieter Northeastern fringe of Ridgewood. It was quite an adjustment period after the move.

After living here for two years I realise that my perception of Queens was partially shaped by this Brooklyn bias – looking back, a mindset inhabited by those who really don’t know NYC very deeply (like myself 5 years ago). The reality is home is where you make it – and we humans intrinsically make where we live the centre of our worlds (I sure did that in Brooklyn, and have now done so now in Queens).

Do you think Queens has affected your work?

Living in New York City has shaped my sound in many ways, and so has specifically living in the borough of Queens.

Moving to NYC from Washington DC in 2018 exposed me to a deep and diverse musical underground. Being suddenly in the midst of a sea of incredible DJs and producers inspired me to work harder with my own music and DJing. It really isn’t an understatement to say that NYC is on another level when it comes to the spirit of the hustle. People work hard and they inspire each other by doing so. Moreover, the general discomfort of living in a city like New York (e.g. its cost of living and general chaos) shapes peoples’ work ethics. Unless you’re super wealthy and have time to be idle, a lot of artists (including myself) are here to make things happen.

Queens specifically shaped my music by bringing me into closer community with my good friends who also live here in Ridgewood. A lot of them are DJs and producers and spending time with them regularly definitely leads to a similar kind of cross pollination of ideas - especially when it comes to musical taste. I am very fortunate to have most of the Kindergarten Records crew within a 15 minute walk from my house!

Rhythm of Memory is out now on Kindergarten Records