The best music of 2021, according to 50+ global DJs - 3 - Features - Mixmag



Romo Weeks ‘Other-Land

Released earlier this year to help fund their top surgery, 'Other-Land' is filled with ethereal grooves, exciting drums and experimental flips. It's a very poignant piece of work with minor chords throughout and the feeling of a Summer that once was. A track that really stands out is 'Already', a Beyonce rework that features drums that will run through your veins, while Romo beautifully highlights Beyonce's vocals.


Echo Juliet ‘Affirmation

A track about building self-confidence, it is inspired by her experience as a woman in the male-dominated music scene. There is an empowering vibe with the rolling percussion, the mix of moody synths and bright harp sounds.

Alinka ‘Sunday Morning

Alinka's love letter to Berlin's open-minded club culture, or in particular respected institution Panorama Bar, 'Sunday Morning' brilliantly captures the spirit of unrestrained revellers being let loose in a vibrant city. A song that is both vigorous and melodic in it's nature, this is a track that incorporates the great tempos of throbbing house from bygone eras, blistering electro-fuelled beats and thumping bleepy synth sounds.

Soichi Terada & Masalo ‘Diving Into Minds’ (Club Mix)

A tune that has been the soundtrack to many hedonistic weekends and a welcome return to dancefloors, this irresistible alliance between Japanese house connoisseur Soichi Terada and frequent Rush Hour collaborator Masalo always delivers by filling rooms with a sweeping euphoric energy, with it's intense piano laden build ups and pulsating electronic breakdowns that has sent many crowds into a joyous frenzy.


This year has been a stellar year for drum ‘n’bass! Like I always say, the best part about drum ‘n’ bass is that it keeps getting better and better and this year was no exception.

In terms of tracks, it's a very tough one but my top track of the year has got to be ‘Like The Sun’ by Disrupta — an instant classic that one is. Top album is a tie for me between Rizzle ‘Twilight Tones’ for its emotive exploration and Monty ‘Hit The Lights’ for its versatility and vibrance. I look forward to what 2022 brings for drum and bass.



Tom VR 'Please Keep Shimmering' (All My Thoughts)

My favourite album of the year has got to be Tom VR’s ‘Please Keep Shimmering’. It’s such a gorgeous piece of work filled with emotion and intricate textural layers. It’s sad, it’s playful, it’s dark, it’s reflective, it’s nostalgic, it’s future-facing - and easily transports you to wherever your mind might want to wander.



I might be biased in my next selection because I did curate it, but ‘SUCHI SELECTS’ on Boxout FM recordings is definitely a compilation worth mentioning. It features a line-up of 100% Indian artists, showcasing up and coming and prominent music producers based in India. Artists in India have been pretty badly affected by the pandemic with almost no gig opportunities in sight for almost two years, and this compilation came together as an outlet for those artists to be able to express themselves during a creatively limiting time. The compilation spans dream pop, breakbeat, electro and techno and is a pretty solid snapshot of the electronic sound bubbling within the continent at this moment.


Swoose ‘Bloom’ (Shall Not Fade)

Lastly I’d like to mention a track I have had on repeat since I first heard it, ‘Bloom’ by Swoose. In fact, the whole ‘Bloom’ EP is so good and worth checking out. It’s everything I love about dance music, emotive, melodic with a strong ‘90s nostalgia embedded in it. The build-up and the crescendo during the Happy Monday’s ‘Hallelujah’ sample without fail pumps me up and gets me in the perfect mood for a night out.


V/A ‘Hyper love’ (Tofistock)

This is probably my favourite EP of 2021. The one I’m going for is the opening track called ‘Space Bells’ by DJ Headshot & Matris. I have been caning this one! Huge rolling bassline with sweeping pads that seem to never want to end. A complete journey of a track perfect for peak-time dancefloor madness

Bliss Inc. ‘Pangaea’ (Radiant Love)

One of my favourite producers of recent times, Bliss inc. delivers the goods once again with this trancey eurphoric pumper. A slight nod to Future Sound of London with its sweeping gated pads and celestial vocals, this one sounds best in a dark sweaty club. Taps aff techno.

Jon Hopkins ‘Music For Psychedelic Therapy’ (Domino)

A bit of a late entry but this album has been on rotation since its release. I believe it consists of field recordings from a cave in Amazonian Ecuador. Jon delicately weaves the recordings with his signature beautiful layered synth lines to create a masterpiece. In an age where music seems to be getting harder and faster, this is a welcome reminder to take a step back, breathe and zone out.


My track of the year is Zakes Bantwini and Kasango’s ‘Osama’.

Zakes is a phenomenal DJ and understands his crowd every time I have seen a video online. He is so chill behind the decks but delivers a smooth and breathtaking performance. His discography is one I have been keen on ever since I heard him and it's no surprise he delivers this spiritual anthem assisted by Kasango. I loved this song the first day the project ‘GHETTO KING’ dropped.

I don't even know what the song means even though some research has made me understand it's a song about uncertainty and no disappointments. But it has served an integral part of my listening pleasure since it was released. There is this spiritual ritual I feel deep within when I play it and I have witnessed house lovers in Accra respond to it so well whenever I drop it in my sets. It just takes me there. ‘Osama’ is definitely my gospel.

Tomu DJ

Kanye West ‘Donda

Snarky Puppy live performance

Terre Thaemlitz -

These are the three artists whose work impacted me the most this year. Terre's website is a collection of amazing writings and links to her musical works that I highly recommend to anyone with any degree of familiarity with his works (DJ Sprinkles and K-S.H.E. are among Terre's many aliases).

Toya Delazy

This has been a powerful year for music, the struggle indeed does push the best out of us - South African amapiano popped off from shore to shore and different genres merged together to form epic combinations. Here are some of my fave tracks/albums/mixes that held me down as we walked through the valley of the shadow of COVID lockdowns and fight for liberty.

Vigro Deep ‘Some Attitude’. VD came through with a bass, log drum pattern combo that shook the scene. He has produced for the biggest artists, like Focalistic and Davido. His album is without a doubt one of the best releases of the year, collector for anyone who loves amapiano music - listen to everything Vigro, high vibrations all the way.

‘Afrotek’ by Scratcha DVA x Mxshimo is one of those blendz that caught me off guard but a total no brainer, here gqom via kwazulu natal producer Mxshi Mo meets Scratcha DVA's UK funky — they totally understood the assignment on this one, it slaps! Listen

Another producer taking the South African percussion to the world is Menzi Impazamo EP with his electronic blends of Zulu chants x gqom over a landscape of dreamy airy synths. I love that he was able to create a cinematic feel using gqom and tribal tones.

DBN Gogo ’Possible’. DBN Gogo ate this year up bruh! If you are a fan of amapiano you know her! Khuza Gogo was an anthem that marked a new era for amapiano internationally.

‘Afrorave Vol. 1’, my EP collaborating with some amazing producers to create an album celebrating indigenous language and stories in rave sounds like techno/leftfield bass/d’n’b/garage and jungle.

Karen Nyame EP ‘Sensei II’. It is so refreshing to see Black women in music production excel at their craft. Karen produces her own beats, with ‘Koko feat. Mist Silva’ pulsing over the airwaves through the year, sis really brought the summer early with the gift that is ‘Sensei II’.

‘Future bounce club series Vol. 1’ which saw epic collaborations from Jersey club queen UNIIQU3 to DJ WheelUP brukbeat meets jazzy chord signatures - it definitely gives one a sense of what the future of electronic dance music may look like.

Joy Anonymous ‘JOY (Meet You In My Dreams)’. This joyous electronic collective has the words, sounds and common touch to soothe using heartfelt lyricism and expressive stellar beats. One of my fave producers/artists out right now. Go on a long walk or road trip , in the park, whereever, press play, it's a vibe!

Unticipated Soundz from uMlazi Kwazulu natal, really got my ears perked when I first heard their tune ’uThayela’. The boys serve that honest raw gqom fruity production realness with boileroom bass, it simple and you can't help but vibe to it!

Discovering TSHA at All Points East festival in East London was amazing - we were all just snatched by her infectious energy and the bops she was spinning here is a mix of hers that I really like.


Indus Bonze ‘異法 GQOM’

One of my fav producers, this is his remake of some classics in the gqom style.

Tera Octe ‘+’

Tera Octe is in a fully fleshed out bizzare musical world of their own. Poppy, clubby, slow and stompy.

MM ‘Massive Music’

I’m a massive fan of MM’s beats. I been playing these tracks for a min and they totally tear the floor up in such a creative, original and direct way. It’s some of the hardest music to find. Direct in your face shit that isn’t trite.

Koreless ‘Agor’

Haunting melodies, this record was def on repeat this year.

Chrisman ‘Ku Mwezi’

I love this perfect combination of so many influences done really well. It does kind of remind me of "my sound” but def done from another angle and much better at rhythmic patterns.

Aaron Cartier ‘Smile Season’

So many of his tracks feel like someone about to lose their mind, which is, in a way, kind of comforting.

NKC ‘Beams’

I put this out on my label and I’m now that DJ plugging my own label but yeah. Another way to look at it is if it’s not ending up in your EOTY list you shouldn’t be putting it out? These are written for the club and they bang.

Async Figure ‘Figure I’

I also put this out on my label lol. But I probably listen to this record more than any music in the last few years. Two songs that make me feel, well, actually invincible? Another that makes me feel emotional and on the verge of tears. Some goddamn emotions.

[Photo: Car Haotian]


My favorite mix of this year is DJ Nobu's NTS Friday mix.

Other faves are Hodori for worm; Poisonfrog live at the cafe; Jaql for Secret Magazine.

Vazda Garant

Anja’s picks:

Ivy Lab ‘Everythingmustchange’ EP

I can’t decide which tune is my favourite, so I’m choosing the entire EP. Its progression from start to finish is sublime, and for me, Ivy Lab are always number one at what they do. I admire their production and music taste and am heavily influenced by them.

Commodo 'Guah

Commodo has made such big steps in production in the past couple of years and Guah is a main course type of track. It’s wild and hits so heavily, yet has the ability to soothe you at moments. He’s a producer I’ll never get tired of, and everything he releases always has a signature. There’s no Commodo tune you wouldn’t be able to recognise.

Ourman ‘Windy

From beginning to end, Windy has a signature sound you can’t hear anywhere else. Ourman is an amazing and super talented artist, and Windy has that sort of catchy sound that’s bound to replay in your head for a while. White Peach Records made a great decision to release Ourman’s work - it’s unforgettable.

Drumsik, Don Dada & Tishy Tish ‘Saudade

This is the only d’n’b track on the line-up, and it’s also from our home turf. The Serbian producer Drumsik released his EP on Bad Taste Recordings and worked on this beautiful, hypnotic and highly emotional track called Saudade with two other local producers, Don Dada and Tishy Tish. Easily my fave on the EP, and reminiscent of early Ivy Lab and Alix Perez.

Zicer Inc ‘PP

This is the second local act on the list, and while the entire album called ‘Dobar Deal’ (translating to a good deal) is pretty groundbreaking, ‘PP’ is the closest to the kind of music I love. Zicer Inc is a collective that loves to play around with genres and ‘PP’ is kind of the most hypnotic and emotional out of all. It’s also short, so you’re forced to replay it and have it loop in your brain for a while.

Sanja’s picks:

Little Simz ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

From the first time I heard Simbi back in about 2013, she quickly became one of my favourites. For me, she’s one of the UK’s finest. I love all of her songs, albums, but this one just hits different - somehow an introvert here has another meaning. You don’t always have to be strong or have all the answers, it’s time to be in a world of your own.

Joy Orbison ‘still slipping vol. 1

In the age of COVID where many people haven’t seen their families in months or more, O’Grady weaves his family into the album, he uses voice notes from his parents, sister, cousins... it’s so sentimental on all levels. My favourite ‘Better’ with Léa Sen has melodic bass tones and at the same time, it’s so warm and tender. His music is the kind of music where you can hear shades of everything.

Burial ‘Dolphinz

Burial, doesn’t write music, he just takes you to an emotional journey you didn’t even know you needed. After ‘Chemz’ released in 2020, you can hear its complete opposite to ‘Dolphinz’, beautifully haunting, spooky, slow and mesmerizing… it just makes me feel alive. Every time he releases something new, it’s like discovering him for the very first time.

The Bug ‘Hammer (feat. Flowdan)

Does Kevin Martin ever release anything bad? From the album ‘Fire’, this track is an absolute killer! An atmospheric mix of dub, dance and heavy, cheeky bass. It’s a sound that’s been stuck in my head ever since hearing Flowdan’s riding vocals which makes me want to teleport to a festival with an amazing soundsystem.

Overmono ‘Diamond Cut / Bby

Another two absolute beauties, a 2-step beat, a killer bassline and sweet Erika de Casier vocal sample released on XL Recordings. So fresh, unique and exciting every single time! I could listen to these tracks on a 24 hour loop.

Vintage Culture

RÜFÜS DU SOL ‘Surrender

A huge musical highlight of 2021 was the release of Rufus du Sol's brilliant album, ‘Surrender’. This album combines sweeping, beautiful melodies with emotionally charged lyrics. RÜFÜS DU SOL has created new classics which transcend dance music and will live on for decades to come. I had the privilege of remixing ‘Next to Me’ and I was honoured to contribute. My fans always react strongly and positively to my remix. It’s a highlight of my sets no matter where I'm performing in the world.

Shouse ‘Love Tonight

When I first heard ‘Love Tonight’ by Shouse, I knew this was a special track. The world is still recovering from the pandemic in 2021, but this track gave us a dose of optimism and hope. It’s a joyous track that brings the audience to their feet and gets the people singing. When I remixed ‘Love Tonight’ with Kiko Franco, I knew it had to be above and beyond to match the quality of the original version - this was a challenge, but I believe our remix is also very special.

Burns ‘Talamanca

I first heard ‘Talamanca’ in London and days later while on tour, the track was still in my head. It combines an exotic instrumental melody and sexy rhythm that is unshakeable. This track has become a regular part of my set and never fails to please. I'm looking forward to more great music from Burns in 2022.

Worldwide FM (chosen by curator Saw Fawcett)

2021 has been a strange and difficult year, and one that has been sadly bookended by the passing of two hugely influential figures for Worldwide in MF DOOM and Virgil Abloh. It was always going to be an uncertain time, navigating the impact and restrictions of the pandemic, but we’ve been driven as a team by the resolve and resourcefulness of our broadcasters and DJs, and inspired by the brilliant musical and cultural projects that continue to emanate from the UK and beyond.

Our most euphoric highlights as a team took place in muddy fields across a busy summer, with Worldwide at the likes of We Out Here Festival, GALA Festival and our huge Fifth Birthday event in Crystal Palace Park, a special and surreal couple of months after being starved of communal experiences like these for so long. Beyond domestic festivals and events we were also able to get to Amsterdam and Ibiza and really hope that 2022 allows for more international excursion and exchange. Recent programming developments as we approach the end of 2021 include a new morning show hosted by the incredible Coco Maria live from Amsterdam most weekdays and we are now transmitting from a studio on a boat on Regent’s Canal, after a long period without a proper broadcasting home. Although a lot of our programmes from around the world broadcast remotely, we’ve really missed that live studio dynamic and providing a hub and community for our Worldwide family living in - or passing through - London, so it's provided a new energy, as we sail into a hopeful new year.

Zak Cooper

My name is Zak Cooper; I'm one of the two owners behind Flux in Christchurch.

Since opening a venue space and having less time to DJ, the angle of what I listen to has opened up a lot more. I’m no longer trying to find tunes to DJ all the time. I’m more trying to find music to listen to while setting up before everyone else DJs for the night.

These are the tunes from 2021 that have and will feature when packing in for the night with the co-owner of Flux, Finn “Is that afrobeat?” McCall.



Alessandro is one of the few artists whose work I accept without almost any criticism. The Italian musician known to most of Nine Inch Nails has a sensitivity that gives me goosebumps every time. This man has never made a "bad" album. ’Scurio Chiaro’ is another piece of art. All songs sound like the soundtrack of the most beautiful, most sublime but also the scariest movie you will ever see in your life. And I'm not sure if NIN would be so perfect if they didn't have Alessandro…


Warsaw. Ephemera Festival - sister of the Unsound festival in Cracow. I finished my soundcheck and as I was getting ready to leave when the next person started rehearsing. There was a sound that stopped me in my place. I walked over to the organiser and asked: „who the fuck is that?” And it was aya. Some time later she made her debut right away on the Hyperdub label. Mature poetry, deep bass, mystery, extensive musical influences including footwork and extraordinary modesty. Aya is focused on the music, not the opinions, reviews or current fashion. It is a huge breath of fresh air in a world where everything starts to sound the same.


‘Deep England’ is a reconstruction of the previous brilliant ’Pastoral’ album. Elizabeth goes even deeper into the English people and the dark side of society. In ‘Pastoral’ she played the role of a court jester. The name ‘Deep England’ is a reference to the definition of Patrick Wright who spoke of a deeply hidden image of the British idyll without immigrants, without people with a skin color other than white and a country ruled by aristocrats. Gazelle Twin realizes this vision. And her performance shows the nightmare of humanity. Successive voices herald evil to come. This is an album that you will be listening to huddled in a corner but you won't even get the idea to turn it off. Good luck!


I love these guys and their huge middle finger they showed the conservatives of the guitar world. A large group of people believe that they have completely "betrayed" punk rock. I believe that those who say that have no idea what REAL punk rock is all about. This is their most mature and bold album. They are not afraid of experiments and connections that might not fit together at first glance. Hiring Kenny Beats as a producer hit the spot. If I had to name just one album of 2021 it would be ‘Crawler’. Without a second of thinking.


Les Filles de Illighadad (“daughters of Illighadad”) comes from the village of Illighadad in a remote region of central Niger. Most of Illighadad’s people live in the surrounding scrubland desert, in tiny patched roof houses or temporary nomadic tents. Les Filles’ music draws from two distinct styles of regional sound, ancient village choral chants and desert guitar. It is a huge feat to break out of a village without electricity and to perform on stages all over the world. Their music is a tribute to their community. There is incredible nostalgia on this album that makes you cry and smile at the same time.


I think Moor Mother is a total artist. I can't imagine talking to her without falling into delight just because she says something to me in her shocking voice. The brilliant poet and performer on the latest album shows her more "gentle" face but it still remains on the difficult topics of Afrofuturism, pain and freeing oneself from the stigma of dark skinned victims. This is an album that will definitely make the artist's fanbase grow, but also her regular fans will be surprised. A real hip hop ceremony and feast.


Alright. I was convinced that nothing would surprise me anymore but then Nyege Nyege Tapes and Hakuna Kulala always pull another ace up their sleeve. Japanese producer Shigeru Ishiha aka DJ Scotch Egg was invited to Uganda for a residency at the Nyege Nyege Villa in 2019. This is how his new music project called Scotch Rolex was born, named after Ugandan street food. The result was an amazing mixture of noise music and gabber that created a completely new palette of colors for these genres. And what wonderful guests! MC Yallah, Swordman Kitala, Don Zilla and a member of Duma - a death metal duo from Kenya - Lord Spikeheart. It couldn't go wrong. I am also convinced that artists from all over the world will soon start knocking on doors and windows to Nyege Nyege Tapes. I want to do it right now.


The duo - Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt - are full of imagination. They started their first steps in 2018 so I assumed that the debut which appeared in 2021 would be very thoughtful and accurate. I was not disappointed. Nothing really fits together on this album, everything is from a different fairy tale but I have an overwhelming impression that there is an improvisation planned in it which allows the listener to be fully inspired. It's one of those CDs that you have to listen to a hundred times to understand anything. It's nice in the world of fast food and fast music.


I will not lie. I didn't expect anything innovative on his new album. For a long time I have the impression that his music did not move and only the singers changed. How wrong I would be if I put this CD back on the shelf. The Bug has always been famous for its powerful sound but now he has surpassed himself. He is like King Kong, like Godzilla, like the expanding Hulk. It's still a riddim that you will know from afar that it's Kevin but this time he managed to put an amazing freshness and strength into it, still remaining the same Mr. The Bug. And this duo with Moor Mother? Man, this is fucking brilliant! And if you can hear me, Mr. The Bug, call the Gazelle Twin immediately.


Before playing this album, turn off the speakers and connect to good headphones. The most intimate album you will hear this year is in front of you. Perfect carelessness and beautiful ugliness. Audible "open microphone" and the artist's grunts. It feels like you lay down under the covers with Tirzah while listening to this album. As if you walked in where you know you shouldn't because it's bad to peek at someone. As if you were standing next to Tirzah while she was recording her vocals. You are afraid to move so as not to spoil anything. And those lengthy introductions that seem to make fun of you and make it clear that it's not up to you to decide anything. I prostrate with weights on my back.

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